Music in Corner Brook

Situated on Newfoundland's west coast, Corner Brook - the centre for business, government, transportation, and education for western Newfoundland and Labrador - is 681 km by road from the capital city, St John's.

Corner Brook

Corner Brook. Situated on Newfoundland's west coast, Corner Brook - the centre for business, government, transportation, and education for western Newfoundland and Labrador - is 681 km by road from the capital city, St John's. Substantial growth was not achieved until after the introduction of the railway in 1898 and the foundation of the Newfoundland Power and Paper Company Ltd (later the Bowater Paper Mill) in 1923. The population by the early 1920s was 10,000; by 1986 it stood at 22,719, with approximately two-thirds of the residents of Anglo-Saxon ancestry and the remaining one-third of Irish, Scottish, or French descent.

Prior to World War II the practice of music in Corner Brook was largely confined to folksinging and fiddle playing in the home, although, as the community grew, amateur musicians took to the stage for school, church, and community concerts. Corner Brook has been recognized for its fine school choirs and concert bands. School choirs made their appearance with the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in 1917, and then the Presentation Sisters in 1927; beginning in 1957, concert bands have been active in local schools. String programs, established at Holy Cross School earlier in the century and at Regina High School during the 1960s, were later discontinued.

World War II brought the American Air Force Band to nearby Stephenville in 1941, and.its presence did much to raise public awareness of music in nearby communities, including Corner Brook. A local radio station went on the air in 1943, and CBC radio and television came to the community in 1960.

The Community Concert Association came to Corner Brook in 1946 and has presented the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the COC, Maureen Forrester, and Lois Marshall among many others. The Arts and Culture Centre, opened in 1968, became the venue for these concerts. A Rotary Music Festival, inaugurated in 1963, continued in 1990 to serve as a potent force for music in the community.

A community choral club established about 1948 enjoyed success in the 1950s, and was gradually taken over during the next decade by the Memorial U Extension Service, while an Extension Orchestra was active 1964-70. The Memorial U Summer Music Camp was moved to the Corner Brook campus in 1979. Other ensembles and organizations supporting music in the area have included local church choirs, the Church Lads' Brigade, the Salvation Army, the Corner Brook Chamber Players (1979-83), and the Stephenville Festival of the Arts.

The Corner Brook Regional College, Memorial University of Newfoundland - later renamed the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College - was opened in 1975 with Ignatius Rumboldt as music director and conductor of the college choir until 1977. In 1990 the college continued to maintain a high public profile for music under his successor, B. Wayne Rogers, while several college faculty, notably composer and classicist Michael Parker and trombonist and physicist Ian Mennie, have contributed to the musical life of the community.


Further Reading

  • Greenland, Gail et al. Survey of Recreation, City of Corner Brook (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador 1968).

    Hogan, Sister M. (Williamina Hogan). Pathways to Mercy, A History of the Foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland, 1824-1984 (St John's 1986)

    Horwood, Harold. Corner Brook, A Social History of a Paper Town (St John's 1986)

    Woodford, Paul. 'We Love the Place, O Lord,' A History of the Written Musical Tradition of Newfoundland and Labrador to 1949 (St John's 1988)