Gerald Bales

(Albert) Gerald Bales. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Toronto 12 May 1919, d London, Ont, 4 Jul 2002; ATCM 1936, honorary FRCCO 1974. Taught first by his mother, he gave a piano recital at seven and an organ recital at 13.

Bales, Gerald

(Albert) Gerald Bales. Organist, choirmaster, composer, teacher, b Toronto 12 May 1919, d London, Ont, 4 Jul 2002; ATCM 1936, honorary FRCCO 1974. Taught first by his mother, he gave a piano recital at seven and an organ recital at 13. He studied 1936-40 at the TCM - piano and organ with Albert Procter, theory with Leo Smith and Healey Willan, and conducting with Herbert A. Fricker. Bales' formal piano and organ debut, in 1937, at Eaton Auditorium, included some of his own works. He was organist-choirmaster 1937-41 at St Anne's Anglican Church and 1941-3 at Rosedale United Church. After service in the RCAF during World War II he spent 1945 as organist-choirmaster at Brant Avenue United Church, Brantford, Ont, then returned to Toronto, where he was organist-choirmaster 1946-56 at St Andrew's Presbyterian. In 1948 he played his Fantasy for piano and orchestra with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. During the 1950s on CBC radio he conducted his St Andrew's Singers (formed in 1953) in Handel oratorios and performed many of Handel's organ works. He was organist-choirmaster 1956-9 at the Anglican Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Calgary, where he also founded the Calgary Orchestra and Chorus Association. He was the RCCO delegate to the first International Congress of Organists, held in London in 1957, and gave a recital at Westminster Cathedral during his visit.

He was organist-choirmaster 1959-71 at the Cathedral Church of St Mark in Minneapolis and established there a concert series which gave the US premieres of a number of Canadian works, including Godfrey Ridout'sAscension, Keith Bissell'sAdvent Cantata, Eugene Hill'sConcertino for organ and orchestra, and Bales' own Song of Creation (1974, a commission from St Mark's). Bales was injured during a robbery at the church and curtailed further performances. He taught organ, choral conducting, and orchestration at the University of Ottawa and was organist-choirmaster at Trinity Anglican Church from 1971 until 1984, when he moved to London, Ont. He was RCCO president 1980-82, and later honorary vice-president.

Bales was an associate of the CMCentre. His works, of which there are over 150, were initially influenced by Willan but later became more dissonant in idiom. Many have been conducted on CBC by Sir Ernest MacMillan, Victor Feldbrill, Elmer Iseler, and others, on such programs as Choral Concert (which broadcast Bales' Jubilate Deo 1998) and Mostly Music. He continued to compose in his later years, during which several works were published in the Egan and the Leslie choral series.

Bales was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1996. Tribute concerts were performed by the Gerald Fagan Singers in London, Ont, and at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa. Gerald Fagan described Bales as being 'on the cutting edge of tonality ... He is an avant-garde composer, a traditional composer who has stretched chord structure.' (London Free Press, 26 Oct 1996). The National Library of Canada holds the Gerald Bales fonds.

Selected Compositions

Prelude in E Minor. 1936. Org. BMIC 1947.

Toccata. 1946. Pf. BMIC 1947

Essay for Strings. 1947. Str orch. Ber (rental). RCI 6 (J.-M. Beaudet conductor)

Te Deum laudamus. 1962. SATB, organ, 3 trumpet, timpani. Wat 1968. Mastertone Recordings and Wat WR-8024. Record also includes Bales Festival Fanfare (1952, Summa 1971); Jubilate Deo (1965, Wat 1966); and Fanfare for Easter Day (1963, Ber 1966). See Discography

Petite Suite. 1963. Org. BMIC 1965. Sears SR-101568 /Wat WR-8024. See Discography. 1980? Saint Paul's Cathedral WRC-1-1328 (D.M. Games)

Psalm Cantata. 1965. SATB, organ, 3 trumpet, timpani, string orch. Ms

Song of Creation. 1974. SATB, orch. Ms

Toccata. 1975. Pf. Randall M. Eagan 1988

Sonatina 1978. Org. McKee 1980. 1983 Savvy Records S1001 (D.M. Games)

Pastorale on 'Capetown.' 1980. Org. GVT 1981

Two Pieces for Organ. 1986. Randall M. Eagan 1986

Several choral works published by Jay, Wat, Summa and Randall M. Eagan

Also a number of film and radio scores, other works for orch, piano, organ, and songs


Further Reading

  • Thistle, Lauretta. 'Organ virtuoso now concentrates on composing and teaching,' MSc, 275, Jan-Feb 1974

    Phillips, Edward. 'Neo-tonality or neo-atonality?: I Waited Patiently for the Lord by Gerald Bales,' CUMR, 4, 1983

    - 'Gerald Bales: the organ works,' American Organist, vol 19, May 1985

    Sims, Jane. 'Gerald Fagan Singers to salute London composer,' London Free Press, 26 Oct 1996

    'Order of Canada composer laments work of a lifetime never given life,' Canadian Press Newswire, 6 July 1996

    Dawes, Christopher. 'Pipevision: a few words with Gerald Bales,' Organ Alternatives, 16, Sep-Nov 1996

    Crabtree, Alan R. 'Gerald Bales named Member of the Order of Canada,' Pipelines, Sep 1996