Alexander T. Cringan

Alexander T. (Thom) Cringan. Teacher, administrator, conductor, ethnomusicologist, b Carluke, near Glasgow, 13 Oct 1860, d Toronto 1 Feb 1931; B MUS (Toronto) 1899.

Cringan, Alexander T.

Alexander T. (Thom) Cringan. Teacher, administrator, conductor, ethnomusicologist, b Carluke, near Glasgow, 13 Oct 1860, d Toronto 1 Feb 1931; B MUS (Toronto) 1899. After early training in Carluke he attended John Spencer Curwen's Tonic Sol-Fa College in London (licentiate 1886) and studied voice with Emil Behnke. He visited Toronto about 1885 and settled there in 1886, teaching school music and becoming music director for city schools. He was music director 1901-31 at the Toronto Normal School and in 1919 was appointed inspector of the teaching of music for Ontario. He also taught tonic sol-fa at the Toronto College of Music and voice at the TCM ca 1900-20. He was the first president of the music section of the Ontario Educational Association (OMEA) 1919-22. He was choirmaster at Central Presbyterian Church 1887-95 and Cooke's Presbyterian Church 1897-1900, a member 1900-11 of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and often the organizer of massed choirs of school children for such public events as the opening in 1894 of Massey Music Hall (Massey Hall). His manual The Canadian Music Course (Toronto 1888) was the official music text of the Toronto Board of Education. Other books by Cringan include Teacher's Handbook of the Tonic Sol-Fa System (Toronto 1889), The New Educational Music Course (Toronto 1898-1907), The Conservatory Sight-Singing Method (Toronto 1901), and, in collaboration with P.George Marshall, The Canadian Song Series (Toronto 1931-4).

Cringan also recorded ca 1897-1902 and transcribed about 100 Iroquois songs, analysing them mainly in terms of 'gapped' major and minor scales, usually pentatonic. The songs were published in a series of archaeological papers appended to the report of the minister of education of Ontario. These represented some of the earliest Canadian ethnomusicological research and pioneered the use in Canada of the phonograph for this purpose. Wax cylinders and tape recordings of the songs (about 50 minutes of music) are held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and some of his papers are at the National Library of Canada. His daughter, Janet Thom Cringan (b Toronto 1889, d there 1972), was a singing teacher in Toronto. A grandson, Robert Cringan, taught music 1950-80 at Earl Haig Collegiate in North York, Ont; the school auditorium was named in his honour.

See also Ethnomusicology; School music.


Further Reading

  • Alexander Thom Cringan, 'Iroquois music,' Report of the Minister of Education of Ontario: Appendix (Toronto 1898)

    'Pagan dance songs of the Iroquois,' ibid (Toronto 1899)

    'Iroquois folk songs,' ibid (Toronto 1902)

    'Indian music,' ibid (Toronto 1905)

    'Aboriginal Indian songs,' in 'A review of music in Canada,' Modern Music and Musicians (New York 1913)

    'Mr. A.T. Cringan,' MJ, 19, Jul-Aug 1888

    'In memoriam,' MCan, vol 12, Feb 1931

    Brault, Diana. 'Alexander Thom Cringan, 1860-1931,' Recorder, vol 19, Jun 1977

    Report of the reading of Cringan's paper 'Traditional songs of the Iroquois Indians' at the Imperial Institute in London, MT, vol 41, Feb 1900

    Uhryniw, Donaldson 'Cringan and tonic sol-fa; morality through music,' MA research essay. Carleton 1981