Winnipeg Oratorio Society

Winnipeg Oratorio Society. Founded in 1908 by John J. Moncrieff and others, to provide Winnipeg with a major choir drawn from the city's many church choirs and capable of undertaking large-scale choral works.

Winnipeg Oratorio Society

Winnipeg Oratorio Society. Founded in 1908 by John J. Moncrieff and others, to provide Winnipeg with a major choir drawn from the city's many church choirs and capable of undertaking large-scale choral works. It was conducted 1908-9 by Fred Warrington, 1909-12 by Ralph Horner, and 1913-24 by Moncrieff. Fred M. Gee was the accompanist during the lifetime of the organization. Concerts were given 1908-18 in Grace United Church and the Walker Theatre and 1918-24 in the Board of Trade Auditorium.

The society's spring festival (Western Canada Musical Festival) was inaugurated in 1908 and recurred annually until the society disbanded after 1924. Each festival (except those of 1915, 1916, and 1917) consisted of six concerts by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (under Emil Oberhoffer until 1923), the oratorio society itself, visiting and resident soloists, and public school choirs. Among the works presented were Handel's Judas Maccabaeus and Samson, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Hymn of Praise, and St Paul, Verdi's Requiem, Coleridge-Taylor's Hiawatha's Wedding Feast and The Death of Minnehaha, Bruch's Fair Ellen, Sullivan's The Golden Legend and On Shore, On Sea, Hamilton Harty's The Mystic Trumpeter, and, in concert performances, Gounod's Faust and Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. The society also performed Messiah each December using resident soloists, among them Nina Dempsey (ca 1922). In 1924 Gertrude Newton sang in the festival performance of Elijah. In addition to its regular season, the society gave concerts during World War I at Tuxedo Hospital, sang in the Armistice Day celebrations, and participated in other special events.

The society also functioned as an impresario, introducing to Winnipeg audiences soloists from elsewhere in Canada and from abroad, among them Paul Althouse, Alfred Cortot, Percy Grainger, Louis Graveure, Boris Hambourg, Florence Macbeth, Kathleen Parlow, Louis Persinger, Maggie Teyte, Cornelius van Vliet, and Clarence Whitehill.


Further Reading

  • Wheeler, Charles H. 'Music in Manitoba,' The Year Book of Canadian Art 1913, compiled by the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto (London, Toronto 1913)