George Strathy

George (William) Strathy. Teacher, pianist, conductor, composer, b Scotland 19 Aug 1818, d Toronto 4 Dec 1890; B MUS (Trinity College, Toronto) 1853, D MUS (Trinity College, Toronto) 1858. He probably came to Canada in 1835.

Strathy, George

George (William) Strathy. Teacher, pianist, conductor, composer, b Scotland 19 Aug 1818, d Toronto 4 Dec 1890; B MUS (Trinity College, Toronto) 1853, D MUS (Trinity College, Toronto) 1858. He probably came to Canada in 1835. He studied music in Germany with Friedrich Schneider (Kapellmeister in Dessau) and, according to an ad in the Globe (6 Oct 1849), with Mendelssohn. No confirmation of this has come to light, nor has it for another claim that he studied with Liszt. By late 1847 he had settled in Toronto as a piano, organ, and theory teacher. He was accompanist for the Toronto Philharmonic Society and briefly (1849-50) its conductor. The B MUS he received from University of Trinity College was only the second granted in Canada, and Strathy was appointed that same year (1853) to teach at the college; he was the first person in Canada to hold the academic title 'Professor of Music'. He was also the first person in Canada known to have received a D MUS.

Strathy continued to teach piano, organ and theory privately and, ca 1862-9, at the Toronto Musical Institute (which may simply have been his own studio). Of his many concert appearances in Toronto, one, 11 Sep 1862, offered Beethoven's 'Grand' (probably the 'Archduke') Trio and another, 25 Sep 1862, presented vocal and instrumental music under the patronage of the governor of the Province of Canada, Lord Monck. In 1867 Strathy attempted to form an orchestra, and in 1879 he founded the Pianoforte Players Association (later Classical Club), which presented, among other music, piano transcriptions of symphonies and paraphrases of other major works. He continued to hold his university position, but a student paper, Rouge et Noir (vol 2, no. 2) reported in 1881 that the music program had a professor, 'but we have seen nothing of him - no graduates - no lecture - no examinations - it is time for a change'. (In fact, Strathy taught a course in 1879-80 but it was cancelled in the next season due to insufficient enrolment. Strathy pointed this out in his reply, addressed to the editor of Arion.) The Calendar of 1882-3 was the last to list Strathy, but his nominal association may have continued, for the Trinity University Review (January 1891) noted Edwin Matthew Lott's recent appointment as a successor to the 'professorship in music vacated by the death of Prof. George Strathy.'

Strathy was one of three editors of A Selection of Chants and Tunes (Toronto 1861). In 1852 Nordheimer published his Recreation Polka and Magic Bell Polka and later the Musical Journal (1887-90), I. Suckling & Sons, and Claxton printed some 10 piano pieces and songs. The Magic Bell Polka was recorded in an arrangement for chamber ensemble by John Beckwith on Music at Sharon (Melbourne SMLP-4041); it and six other piano pieces by Strathy are reprinted in CMH, vol.1. One piece, the Modulation Sketch, was in the repertoire of the popular touring pianist Blind Tom. One of Strathy's songs is reprinted in CMH, vol 3.