Edwin Collins

Edwin (Alec) Collins. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Debenham, Suffolk, England, 25 Apr 1893; FRCO 1911, B MUS (Cambridge) 1923, MA (Cambridge) 1923. In 1911 he became assistant organist-choirmaster of Ely Cathedral.

Collins, Edwin

Edwin (Alec) Collins. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Debenham, Suffolk, England, 25 Apr 1893; FRCO 1911, B MUS (Cambridge) 1923, MA (Cambridge) 1923. In 1911 he became assistant organist-choirmaster of Ely Cathedral. After World War I he conducted army bands in Italy, Austria, and Egypt and lectured at the Imperial School in Cairo. He attended Cambridge U 1921-3, studying with C.V. Stanford, Charles Wood, and Cyril Rootham. He then became organist at the Kidbroke Church in London. He emigrated in 1926 to Canada, living a year in Saint John, NB, and then moving to Wolfville, NS, as dean of Acadia University's newly established School of Music. He remained there 36 years. Watson Kirkconnell wrote: 'He was known to asseverate that early training in an organ factory and the management of army mules in World War I had not been wholly irrelevant to his tasks at Acadia'. Among Collins' pupils are Dorothy Wilson, Elsa Stramberg Noble, and Phyllis MacLennan, instructors of piano and theory at Acadia, and Vernon Ellis, appointed dean of music there in 1974. Collins' son Paul, violinist and teacher, is a graduate of the school.

In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, Collins trained the University Chorus, which gave two concerts each year, accompanied by the University Orchestra. Typical programs included Mendelssohn's Elijah and The Hymn of Praise and Haydn's The Creation. Collins made Acadia a musical centre for the towns of the Annapolis Valley. Music lessons were available to children and concerts to the public. While president of the NSRMTA he persuaded the Department of Education to accept music credits for matriculation.

Collins' compositions include such large pieces for choir and orchestra as Song of the Indian Maid, Memorial Ode, Psalm 90, and Graduation Anthem (1949), as well as other vocal, chamber, and orchestral music. A Night Rhapsody and A Dance Fantasy, both for violin and piano, won CAPAC awards in 1947. His light opera The Mod at Grand Pré (words by Watson Kirkconnell) was performed in 1956 by the Acadia Light Opera Society. In 1963 Acadia University conferred upon Collins an honorary MUS D and he retired to England.


Further Reading

  • Acadia Bulletin, vol 49, Jun 1963

    Kirkconnell, Watson. The Fifth Quarter-Century: Acadia University, 1938-1963 (Wolfville 1968)

    Silver, B.C. 'Music in Acadia University,' unpublished manuscript, Acadia University 1972