Frederick Rennie Emerson

Frederick Rennie Emerson, KC. Lawyer, linguist, composer, singer, pianist, violinist, teacher, arts administrator, b St John's, Nfld, 2 April 1895, d Halifax, NS, 30 November 1972.

Emerson, Frederick

Frederick Rennie Emerson, KC. Lawyer, linguist, composer, singer, pianist, violinist, teacher, arts administrator, b St John's, Nfld, 2 April 1895, d Halifax, NS, 30 November 1972. Frederick Emerson studied at Bishop Field College in St John's, Nfld (1901-10), and later Framlingham College in Suffolk, England (1910-12), where he received prizes for piano and violin playing. A lawyer by profession, Emerson was an accomplished linguist who served as Royal Norwegian Consul (1945-59), Icelandic Consul (1947-58), and Vice-consul for the Netherlands in Newfoundland (1940-58). In 1929 and 1930 he assisted the English folksong collector Maud Karpeles during her expeditions in Newfoundland and, in 1937, contributed a widely read article entitled "Newfoundland Folk Music" to J.R. (Joey) Smallwood's encyclopedic Book of Newfoundland. From 1940 to 1947 Emerson lectured in music appreciation at Memorial University College (now Memorial University of Newfoundland) with a special emphasis on the folk music of Newfoundland. (Emerson served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors at the same institution from 1945 to 1957, during which time it was granted university status.)

Emerson was Newfoundland's representative on the first Canada Council (1957-59) and played an integral role in advancing the cause of Canadian music during the developmental years of the mid-twentieth century. (During Emerson's tenure on the council, a grant was awarded to the Canadian Music Council for the establishment of the Canadian Music Centre.) In this endeavour, he found a strong ally in eminent Toronto composer, conductor, and fellow Canada Council board member Sir Ernest MacMillan. In December 1957, Emerson accepted an invitation from Marius Barbeau to become a Vice-President of the Canadian Folk Music Society. His role in encouraging folksong research (particularly that pertaining to Newfoundland) was pivotal to the state of the profession in Canada. (Kenneth Peacock and Margaret Sargent were among those to receive assistance from Emerson to collect folk songs in Newfoundland.)

Self-taught as a composer, Emerson wrote music for solo voice and piano, chorus, solo harp, and orchestra, as well as a one-act drama, Proud Kate Sullivan (1940). His first composition, the Schubert-inspired song Mein Herz wie ein Hündlein (1915), was soon followed by In Flanders Fields (1919), for solo voice and piano, a moving setting of John McCrae's poem of wartime remembrance and a personal memorial to the composer's father. The evocative Newfoundland Scene for solo harp was composed in 1963 for Emerson's daughter Carla Emerson Furlong (a Juilliard graduate and former harpist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), while the folk-inspired Newfoundland Rhapsody (1964) was composed for the newly founded St John's Symphony Orchestra (later known as the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra). In May 1972, Emerson received an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding service and achievement.

Selected Works

Stage
The Triumphs of Spring, ballet. 1938. Choreography by Frieda Berry. Ms

The Slave Girl. 1938. Composed for dancer Frieda Berry. Ms

Proud Kate Sullivan, drama. 1940. St John's: Trade Printers and Publishers

Orchestra
Newfoundland Rhapsody. 1964. Composed for the St John's Symphony Orchestra. Critical edition by Glenn D. Colton. St John's: Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2005

Harp
Newfoundland Scene. 1963. Composed for Carla Emerson Furlong. Critical edition by Glenn D. Colton. St John's: Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004

Solo Voice and Piano
Mein Herz wie ein Hündlein. 1915. Ms

In Flanders Fields (John McCrae). 1919. Composed in memory of Charles Henry Emerson. Critical edition by Glenn D. Colton. St John's: Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004

Grey Thoughts for Grey Weather. 1920. Ms

Sacred Vocal Music
God of Our Fathers. 1968. SATB. Ms

Writing
'Newfoundland Folk Music,' The Book of Newfoundland, vol 1. J.R. Smallwood, ed. St John's: Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1937

Bibliography

'Former city lawyer dies in Halifax,' Evening Telegram, St John's, Newfoundland, 1 December 1972

Frecker, G.A. 'F.R. Emerson,' Memorial University of Newfoundland Gazette, 19 January 1973

Godfrey, Stuart R. "Lo, here is felawschippe," Eleanor Mews Jerrett and 'A Cappella' Choral Singing in St John's, Newfoundland, 1933-1954. Unpublished paper, 1992

Guigné, Anna Kearney. 'Kenneth Peacock's Songs of the Newfoundland Outports: the cultural politics of a Newfoundland song collection'. Ph.D. diss. (Folklore), Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2004

Hiscock, Philip. The Barrelman radio programme, 1937-1943: the mediation and use of folklore in Newfoundland. Ph.D. diss. (Folklore), Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1993

MacLeod, Malcolm. Crossroads Country: Memories of Pre-Confederation Newfoundland. St John's: Breakwater, 1999

Riggs, B.G. 'Frederick Rennie Emerson,' Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, vol 1. J.R. Smallwood, editor-in-chief, Robert D.W. Pitt, managing editor. St John's: Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1981

Story, George M. 'Frederick Rennie Emerson,' Memorial University of Newfoundland Gazette, 2 June 1972

Webb, Jeff A. The invention of radio broadcasting in Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces, 1922-1939. Ph.D. diss. (History), University of New Brunswick, 1994

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