Rex Battle

Rex Battle. Pianist, conductor, composer, b London 4 Jan 1892 (1895?), d Toronto 27 Jan 1967. A child prodigy, he had his first piano lessons with Vlahol Budmani, who presented him at Buckingham Palace. Battle later studied organ with E.H. Thorne.

Battle, Rex

Rex Battle. Pianist, conductor, composer, b London 4 Jan 1892 (1895?), d Toronto 27 Jan 1967. A child prodigy, he had his first piano lessons with Vlahol Budmani, who presented him at Buckingham Palace. Battle later studied organ with E.H. Thorne. After several tours in Australia he settled in New York, where he assisted Sigmund Romberg in the production of operettas. He resumed his career as a pianist with a series of broadcasts in 1921 on WWJ, Detroit, then played 1922-9 at the Mount Royal Hotel, Montreal. He was conductor 1929-38 of the Royal York Hotel Concert Orchestra, Toronto, which was heard in the USA on the NBC network for several years, and he also conducted an orchestra, chorus, and soloists for broadcast 1930-1 on the CPR network. He formed in 1934 one of Canada's first (jazz) big bands; with Trump Davidson and Cliff McKay among its members, it performed in the summer of 1935 at Bob-Lo Island near Detroit.

After three years in New York, where he studied piano with Moriz Rosenthal and Hedwig Kanner-Rosenthal, performed and conducted, Battle appeared in 1941 as pianist with the Promenade Symphony Concerts in Toronto. Soon after he returned to live in Toronto, where he served 1943-56 as music director and conductor of CBC radio's 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow'. In 1962 he began performing with young operatic singers of his choice at Toronto's Gaslight Restaurant. Battle composed a short orchestral piece, Simon Says 'Thumbs Up ' (Thompson), as well as morceaux for piano, violin, and voice. His few 78s for Apex as a pianist (in Chopin and Liszt) and accompanist (to Ernest-Gill Plamondon and Leon Kofman) are listed in Roll Back The Years, as is an Apex 78 whose attribution to 'Rex Battle and His Mount Royal Hotel Orchestra' has been disputed by Battle.


Further Reading

  • Sinclair, Gordon. Column, Toronto Daily Star, 15 Jan 1955

    'Still king of the keys, Rex boosts young talent,' Toronto Telegram, 6 Apr 1964