Women's Musical Club of Toronto

Women's Musical Club of Toronto. Founded in Toronto ca 1898. It was initiated by Mrs George Dickson, principal of St Margaret's College for Ladies (and the club's first president), Mrs Sanford Evans, a pianist, and Mary Smart, a singer who later organized the club's first choral society.

Women's Musical Club of Toronto

Women's Musical Club of Toronto. Founded in Toronto ca 1898. It was initiated by Mrs George Dickson, principal of St Margaret's College for Ladies (and the club's first president), Mrs Sanford Evans, a pianist, and Mary Smart, a singer who later organized the club's first choral society. It began its concerts in 1899 and presented over 20 each season during the early years. Performers were drawn from among the club's 'active' members - some 60 women who were teachers and musicians. Such concerts also were open to approximately 300 'associate' members and to out-of-town guests at a 25-cent admission fee. In addition, there were a few open concerts (with a 25-cent charge for non-members) and one or two special evening recitals by out-of-town artists such as the US pianist Olga Samaroff, who appeared in 1908, and Switzerland's Flonzaley String Quartette, which performed in 1911. By the 1920s the number of concerts had decreased to six or eight a year and, apart from the last years of World War II, when activities ceased altogether, remained at that level until 1977 when the number of concerts in its annual series was set at five.

Besides choirs, chamber ensembles, and solo performers, the club also has sponsored the occasional program of dance. During the first 30 years, concerts were given in various locations including the concert hall of the TCM, the Masonic Hall, and the Uptown Theatre. Later performances were held 1929-42 at Hart House Theatre, 1946-77 at Eaton Auditorium, 1977-79 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 1979-85 at Christ Church Deer Park, and beginning in 1985 at Walter Hall, University of Toronto.

The club has maintained a particular interest in young performers; its Junior Organization (fl 1920s) and Rehearsal Club (1931-47) offered them encouragement and opportunities to perform. In addition, a scholarship fund was established in 1930, and in 1951 the first scholarship was presented to Betty-Jean Hagen. In 1955 it was named the Mary Osler Boyd Award in memory of a former club president. The club also established an annual scholarship at the RCMT in 1975 and the Joan B. Wilch Scholarship for voice at the University of Toronto in 1984. The Ottilie M. Gunning Piano Scholarship was established in 1992, and in 1993 the Osler Boyd and Wilch awards were combined to create the Women's Musical Club of Toronto Admissions Scholarship for students entering the Performance Program at the University of Toronto. In 2002 the WMCT created the Women's Musical Club of Toronto and Women's Musical Club of Toronto Centennial Foundation Fellowship, awarded to graduates in Performance at the University of Toronto.

During its 90th anniversary season (1987-8), the club presented concerts by five former scholarship winners: Robert Aitken (Aitken-Goodman duo), John Dodington (with Catherine Robbin), Edmond Agopian-Lascu, Bonnie Silver (with Norbert Kraft), and Jane Coop. Proceeds from a special concert at Massey Hall, 4 Dec 1987, featuring the King's Singers, helped establish the club's Career Development Award (cash prize and performance opportunities). Offered biennially in various performance categories, it was awarded first in 1989 to pianist Francine Kay. Other winners include James Ehnes, Karina Gauvin, Yegor Dyachkov and Sonia Chan.

Among other Canadian performers who have been presented by the club are the Hart House String Quartet (1925), Paul de Marky (1926), Eva Gauthier (1926), Jeanne Dusseau (1927), Harry Adaskin (1927, 1933), Ellen Ballon (1928), Ida Krehm (1939), the Little Symphony of Montreal conducted by Bernard Naylor (1947), Zara Nelsova (1947, 1951), the Parlow String Quartet and Sir Ernest MacMillan (1948), the St Mary Magdalene Singers (1949), Donna Grescoe (1950), Glenn Gould (1953), Betty-Jean Hagen (1953), Maureen Forrester (1956), Ray Dudley (1957), Donald Bell (1958, 1959, 1967), the McGill Chamber Orchestra (1960), John Boyden (1961, 1963), Anton Kuerti (1963, 1965, 1969), the Festival Singers (1964), Bouchard and Morisset (1966), Ronald Turini (1967), the Orford String Quartet (1968), Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi (1971), Louis Quilico (1973), William Douglas (1977), Mireille Lagacé (1984), Jane MacKenzie (1984), Angela Hewitt (1985), Chantal Juillet (1986), Alain Lefèvre (1989), Michael Schade (1992), Russell Braun (1992), Michael Injae Kim (1995), Measha Brüggergosman (2000), David Jalbert (2004).

Foreign artists, many making their Toronto debuts, have included Myra Hess (1923), Wanda Landowska (1926), Joseph Szigeti (1926, 1927), Gregor Piatigorsky (1930), Nathan Milstein (1934). Andrés Segovia (1936, 1949), Marian Anderson (1936, 1937), Rosalyn Tureck (1948, 1949, 1958, 1960), Francis Poulenc and Pierre Bernac (1950), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1955, 1956), the Hungarian String Quartet (1956, 1969), I Solisti di Zagreb (1957, 1977), Leontyne Price (1957, 1959), the Juilliard String Quartet (1965, 1967, 1972), the Guarneri String Quartet (1969), Elly Ameling (1970), the King's Singers (1974), the Deller Consort (1977), Mitsuko Uchida (1980), Shmuel Ashkenasi (1981), Sylvia McNair (1985), Michala Petri (1988), and the King's Consort (1991), London Winds (1993), Amati Quartet (1999), Daedalus String Quartet (2002), Camerata Köln Baroque Ensemble (2003), Lark Quartet (2005).

The Women's Musical Club of Toronto has commissioned works from Canadian composers Jacques Hétu (Fantasy for Piano, 1997), Donald Coakley (Fanfare for a Festive Anniversary, 1998) and Chan Ka Nin (Rhythm of Life, 2005). The Club's archival material is held by the Toronto Reference Library.


Further Reading

  • Goudge, Helen. Look Back in Pride: A History of the Women's Musical Club of Toronto (Toronto 1972)

    Kraglund, John. 'Women's Musical Club continues its tradition with top-notch talents,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 20 Apr 1987

    Withrow, John B. 'Celebrating 90 years,' Bravo, Sep-Oct 1987

    Elliott, Robin. Counterpoint to a city: the first one hundred years of the Women's Musical Club of Toronto (Toronto 1997)

    Feuerriegel, Hanna and Fred. History of concerts and performers of the Women's Musical Club of Toronto, third edition (Toronto 2003).