Danish Music in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Danish Music in Canada

The earliest settlement in Canada from this southernmost Scandinavian country was that founded at New Denmark, NB, in 1872. Danes also settled in Ontario, near London in 1893, and at Pass Lake, north of Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) in 1924.

The earliest settlement in Canada from this southernmost Scandinavian country was that founded at New Denmark, NB, in 1872. Danes also settled in Ontario, near London in 1893, and at Pass Lake, north of Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) in 1924. Danish settlements on the Prairies include Dickson, Standard, and Dalum in Alberta, Alida and Redvers in Saskatchewan, and Ostenfeld in Manitoba. By 1986 there were 119, 060 people of Danish origin in Canada. Natives of Denmark who have lived in Canada and contributed to the musical life include St John Hyttenrauch (arrived 1857; see London), Viggo Kihl (1913), Poul Bai (1927), John Kraglund (1927), and Ulla Colgrass (1974).

Bai, a baritone, taught at the TCM (RCMT) 1927-32 and privately until about 1960, appeared in 1929 at the CPR's Great West Canadian Folksong-Folkdance and Handicraft Festival and its Vancouver Sea Music Festival (in Willan's Order of Good Cheer), sang Scandinavian folksongs at Massey Hall in a concert by the Five Piano Ensemble, and conducted a 20-member Scandinavian Male Voice Choir for several years.

Other Canadian residents of Danish origin or birth are the pianist Mikael Eliasen, a graduate of McGill University and an accompanist of the singers John Boyden, Joan Patenaude, and others; Julius 'Duke' Nielsen, the bassist with Don Messer; the clarinetist Erick Nelson, who played with the Montreal City Jazz Band and Toronto's Metro Stompers during the 1960s; the Vancouver bassist Torben Oxbol; and the pop singer Valdy (Valdemar Horsdal). Ronald Turini's mother is of Danish origin. Following an outstanding European career, the accordionist Ernst Borgstrøm (1900-81) settled in St Catharines, Ont after World War II and established a private conservatory there to teach accordion, piano, guitar, and music theory. The Danish singer Aksel Schiøtz (1906-75) taught 1955-61 at the RCMT and at the University of British Columbia.

Visitors from Denmark have included the illustrious Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior, the pianist John Damgaard Madsen for the JMC (YMC) 1975-6, the Copenhagen String Quartet for the JMC 1964-5, the Copenhagen University Choir, the Danish Quartet, and the Eriksson Trio. The last-named made JMC tours in 1966-7 and 1967-8. In 1960 Vagn Holmboe represented Denmark at the International Conference of Composers at Stratford, Ont, and in 1987 he visited Hamilton, Ont for performances of his music by the Hamilton Philharmonic and at McMaster University. The soprano Roma Engman toured Canada on several occasions in the late 1980s. Victor Borge, the pianist-comedian, has made many appearances in Canada.

Canadians who have performed in Denmark include Emma Albani, who sang in Copenhagen in 1888 and received the order of merit from King Frederick VIII; Éviola Gauthier, who toured in 1910 and was decorated by Queen Marie; Ida Krehm; Gertrude Newton; the Hart House String Quartet (1937); the Hart House Orchestra (1966), whose conductor, Boyd Neel, was of Danish ancestry; Nexus (1984); and the conductors Arthur Davison, who appeared with the Royal, Tivoli, and Royal Danish Ballet orchestras, and Simon Streatfeild and John Warren, both of whom have conducted Danish radio orchestras.

Canadian musicians have exhibited a strong interest in the works of the composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). The TSO gave the Canadian premiere of his Symphony No. 5 in February 1951 under Erik Tuxen, then conductor of the Danish State Opera. In October 1953 the CBC Symphony Orchestra under Heinz Unger gave the first Canadian performance of Nielsen's Symphony No. 4. Nielsen was the subject of a documentary film written by Peter Haworth in 1976 and based on the composer's autobiography My Childhood. In 1977 the Canadian Carl Nielsen Society was founded in Toronto, with Svend Roewade as executive secretary. Roewade prepared the script for 1978 CBC radio documentary on Nielsen. By 1991 20 Danish folksongs had been recorded in Canada by the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

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