Herbert A. Fricker

Herbert A. (Austin) Fricker. Choir conductor, organist, teacher, composer, b Canterbury, England, 12 Feb 1868, d Toronto 11 Nov 1943; FRCO 1888, B MUS (Durham) 1893, honorary MA (Leeds) 1917, honorary D MUS (Toronto) 1923. He had lessons with the Canterbury Cathedral organist William H.

Fricker, Herbert A.

Herbert A. (Austin) Fricker. Choir conductor, organist, teacher, composer, b Canterbury, England, 12 Feb 1868, d Toronto 11 Nov 1943; FRCO 1888, B MUS (Durham) 1893, honorary MA (Leeds) 1917, honorary D MUS (Toronto) 1923. He had lessons with the Canterbury Cathedral organist William H. Longhurst and was a chorister 1877-83 and assistant organist 1884-90 at the cathedral. He studied further in London with Frederick Bridge and Edwin Henry Lemare. After a time 1891-8 at Trinity Church, Folkstone, he moved to Leeds as city organist. There he founded and was the conductor 1900-17 of the Leeds Philharmonic and 1902-17 of the Leeds SO, was chorusmaster 1904-13 for the Leeds Festivals, and was organist at a succession of churches and schools. He also conducted choral societies in Bradford, Halifax, Dewsbury, and Morley.

Chosen by A.S. Vogt to be his successor as conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Fricker emigrated to Canada in August 1917. His first appearance with the choir, 18 Feb 1918 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, initiated an association, 1918-25, which took both organizations across the US-Canadian border many times. Under Fricker's leadership the choir gave the Canadian premieres of Beethoven's Missa solemnis in 1927, Walton's Belshazzar's Feast in 1936, and Berlioz' Requiem in 1938. Besides his Mendelssohn Choir duties, Fricker was organist-choirmaster 1917-43 at Metropolitan United Church, teacher of organ 1918-32 at the TCM, on staff at the University of Toronto, conductor 1922-34 of the Canadian National Exhibition Chorus, an active organ recitalist, an adjudicator at many competition festivals, and president 1925-6 of the CCO. He retired from the Mendelssohn Choir in 1942, conducting his favourite choral work, Bach's Mass in B Minor, at his farewell concert (23 February).

Contemporary comparisons of Vogt and Fricker as choir conductors are discreet and reveal little about either. The manner of Fricker's succession shows that the two men respected one another, and both seem to have been thought extraordinary leaders. Vogt's results perhaps had the edge in precision and clarity, Fricker's in breadth and warmth. This may reflect their repertoires as much as their dispositions, Vogt having founded the choir to perform the unaccompanied music of Mendelssohn and others and Fricker concerning himself from the outset with large choral-orchestral works. Fricker composed several organ works (Concert Overture, Fantasie Overture, Scherzo Symphonique, Cantilène Nuptiale, etc), edited others, and made many arrangements for organ. Publishers of these were Novello, Beal, Stuttard, Broadbent, Chester, and Houghton, all of London. His choral music, though mainly for church, included secular pieces and arrangements for the Mendelssohn Choir and the Exhibition Chorus. His choral publishers were Anglo-Canadian, Novello, and Whaley Royce. His Song of Thanksgiving, published by the Mendelssohn Choir, was performed by Albert Ham'sNational Chorus. His anthem 'Sleep, Holy Babe' and the Concert Overture for organ have been reprinted in CMH vols 9 and 4a. Fricker's extensive library of books and music (including manuscripts of his own works) was given, after his death, to the Toronto Public Library and became part of the holdings of the Metropolitan Toronto Music Library.

Writings

Herbert Austin Fricker, 'Some recollections,' Mendelssohnian, 13 instalments, Oct-Nov 1937 to Aug-Sep 1939


Further Reading

  • 'Exhibition chorus gives musical inaugural at fair,' Toronto Daily Star, 31 Aug 1925

    Campion-Smith, C. 'Dr. Herbert Austin Fricker,' MCan, vol 9, Sep 1928

    Young, Scott. 'Conducted by Fricker,' Maclean's, 15 Jun 1942

    Smith, Ocean G., compiler. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir: A History, 1894-1948 (Toronto 1948)

    [McLean, Maud]. A Responsive Chord: The Story of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir 1894-1969 (Toronto 1969)