Harvey Robb

Harvey (Alexander) Robb. Pianist, organist, teacher, b Chesley, Ont, 18 Apr 1888, d London, Ont, 30 May 1957, DDS (Toronto) ca 1910. Robb practised dentistry briefly before devoting himself to music. He studied piano with W.O.

Robb, Harvey

Harvey (Alexander) Robb. Pianist, organist, teacher, b Chesley, Ont, 18 Apr 1888, d London, Ont, 30 May 1957, DDS (Toronto) ca 1910. Robb practised dentistry briefly before devoting himself to music. He studied piano with W.O. Forsyth in Toronto, with Alberto Jonás for two years in New York, and organ with J.W.F. Harrison and Healey Willan. He taught at the Metropolitan School of Music and was both a teacher and examiner at the TCM (RCMT) under A.S. Vogt. During this time he appeared as a piano and organ recitalist in Toronto and southern Ontario and also gave concerts of light classics and popular song of the day with his wife, the soprano Willa Helson. By reputation a sensitive accompanist and strong sight reader, he accompanied visiting soloists such as Yvonne Treville, Ricardo Martin, Lucy Gates, and Marie Sundelius. He gave popular weekly series of organ recitals on the 5-manual 108-stop Casavant organ at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, and he accompanied silent films on the pipe organs then being installed in some movie theatres in Toronto. He held positions as church organist at Bloor Street United Church (1907-?) and at Bond Street Congregational Church where his wife was a soloist. He was president of the ORMTA 1937-8.

Robb moved to London, Ont and in 1938 became principal of the WOCM, where he greatly expanded the syllabus. He continued as director when in 1942 the conservatory became an affiliated school of the University of Western Ontario. He brought to the university many fine teachers, including Canadian pianists Clifford Poole and Margaret Parsons, developed an opera workshop program, and conducted the Orpheus Society Glee Club. In 1950 Robb was appointed director of the Music Teachers' College, thus bringing the university and its two affiliates under one head, a post he held until his death.

Among his pupils were Gilbert Watson and Frank Harrison. In London, Ont Robb prepared and conducted performances of large scale works, including Messiah, Bach's St John Passion, and the requiems of Fauré and Verdi. He was organist at First St Andrew's Church 1938-57.


Further Reading

  • Hamilton, H.C. 'Harvey Robb,' Musical Canada, vol 10, Nov 1929