Ivan Romanoff (b Pezhuk). Conductor, violinist, arranger, composer, b Toronto, of Ukrainian parents, 8 Mar 1914, d Toronto, 14 Mar 1997. He played in a mandolin orchestra as a boy and studied violin at the TCM with Alexander Chuhaldin, Chris Dafeff, Broadus Farmer, and Kathleen Parlow. In the early 1930s he was a violinist in Chuhaldin's radio orchestras and in Stanley St John's dance band. He played also in the Promenade Symphony Concerts and in CBC orchestras, and was heard in such CBC programs as 'Sixteen Men and a Harp,' 'Gypsy Crossroads,' and 'Russian Ensemble,' before serving in the RCN as conductor, arranger, and performer 1943-6 of the 'Scena Russka' segment of Meet the Navy.
Romanoff subsequently studied 1947-9 at the Academy of Musical Arts in Prague with Jindrich Feld (violin), Václav Talich (conducting), and Milo Dolenzil (composition), and in 1947 conducted the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert of works by Pentland, Somers, and Weinzweig at the Prague Spring Festival. Returning to Canada in 1949, he led a string ensemble on CBC radio's 'Continental Moods' in 1950, played viola briefly with the Solway String Quartet in 1951, and directed CBC radio productions of Hulak-Artemowsky's The Cossack beyond the Danube (21 Nov 1951, Canadian premiere) and Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night (21 May 1952).
Romanoff formed the Ivan Romanoff Orchestra and (male) Chorus in 1953 for the debut of his CBC radio show 'Songs of My People.' The program continued weekly until 1963 and was followed by 'Continental Holiday' in 1964 and again 1970-2, 'Continental Rhapsody' 1965-70, 'The Music of Ivan Romanoff' 1972-3, and 'Music of Our People' 1973-6. His 'Rhapsody,' a CBC series in 1958 and 1959, was the first multilingual folksong-and-dance TV presentation seen nationally. Several TV specials followed, including two programs on the Centennial International TV series in 1967. Romanoff's ensemble, whose repertoire included songs from some 40 countries, was active for more than 30 years, appearing in New York, Winnipeg, and several Ontario cities, and averaging eight concerts each summer 1971-83 at the Ontario Place Forum. Its recordings included three 78s for the Hallmark affiliate label Songs of My People in 1954 (with soloists Leopoldine Pichler and Jan Rubes) and the LPs Rhapsody with Romanoff (1958, Col FS-501), Ballads of the Cossack (1960, CBS GL-10048), Continental Rhapsody (1968, CBC LM-55/Cap SN-6281), Ukrainian Rhapsody (1969, Cap ST-6299), two for RCI (LPs 258 and 343), Ukrainian Christmas (1969, CBC LM-67/Cap ST-6333), To Life, To Love, To Music (1977, Boot BOS-7183), Good News (1980, Arts Records SR-1004); and two for RCI (LPs 258 and 343). Ukrainian Rhapsody and Ukrainian Christmas feature Romanoff's third wife, the soprano Lesia Zubrack.
Romanoff himself composed songs in several national styles, jingles, and incidental music for CBC TV movies. In some quarters, Romanoff's interpretations were criticized for lack of authenticity, or romanticization of ethnic musical styles. He was described as 'a mixture of Mantovani, Werner Müller and Sampson Galperine of Moiseyev fame rolled into one versatile, talented, but temperamental violinist, composer, arranger and bandleader' (Walter Kanitz, Toronto Daily Star, 24 Sep 1960). Romanoff retired in 1983.