Charles Peaker

Charles Peaker. Organist, choirmaster, teacher, writer, b Derby, England, 6 Dec 1899, d Toronto 11 Aug 1978; ATCM 1919, FRCO 1929, B MUS (Toronto) 1925, D MUS (Toronto) 1936, honorary FRCCO 1973.

Peaker, Charles

Charles Peaker. Organist, choirmaster, teacher, writer, b Derby, England, 6 Dec 1899, d Toronto 11 Aug 1978; ATCM 1919, FRCO 1929, B MUS (Toronto) 1925, D MUS (Toronto) 1936, honorary FRCCO 1973. At 13 he moved to Saskatoon, and in 1919 on a Heintzman scholarship he studied in Toronto with Willan, MacMillan, and Ernest Seitz. He was a theatre musician in Regina and Saskatoon, but after 1926 was associated continually with churches. He was a church organist-choirmaster 1926-8 at St Paul Street United in St Catharines, Ont, and (after a year of organ studies in England) 1930-6 at Rosedale United in Toronto, briefly at Walmer Road Baptist, 1937-44 at Deer Park United, and 1944-75 at St Paul's Anglican. At St Paul's he began annual Advent and Lenten twilight recitals and Good Friday performances of major passions and requiems. He was the conductor 1934-50 of the Hart House Glee Club and also 1940-2 of the 2000-voice Coliseum Chorus (see CNE Chorus).

One of Canada's foremost concert organists, Peaker performed in 1935 in the USA and in 1954 in England, where his tour included a recital at Westminster Abbey. He continued to perform outside Canada until the late 1960s and was described as 'a flamboyant, dramatic organist with a brilliant technique, a prodigious memory and a keen sense of humour... Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of his organ work is his ingenuity in registration and his ability to exploit fully the tonal resources of any organ' (Testimonial program 6 Oct 1975).

Peaker taught 1930-70 at the TCM (RCMT) and served 1944-5 as its director. He also lectured on choral technique 1952-65 at the University of Toronto. In 1964 he became university organist. His pupils included Fred Graham, John Hodgins, David Low, Roma Page Lynde, Stanley Osborne, Godfrey Ridout, and Charles Wilson.

Peaker edited Organ Music of Canada (two vols, Berandol 1969). He was president of the ORMTA 1948-9 and president of the RCCO 1941-3. He became honorary president of the latter in 1974. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1974.

Writings

'Music today,' CRMA, vol 3, Oct-Nov 1944

'Choral music in Canada,' CRMA, vol 4, Oct-Nov 1945

'Help wanted, male or female,' CMJ, vol 3, Spring 1959

'Plain words about organists,' Music Across Canada, vol 1, Feb 1963

'MacMillan as organist,' ibid, Jul-Aug 1963

'Wind merchants,' Fugue, May 1978

'Church music II,' Music in Canada

'Church music, other than Roman Catholic,' Encyclopedia Canadiana


Further Reading

  • 'Obituaries,' Mcan, 37, Nov 1978