Ida Halpern | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Ida Halpern

Ida Halpern (b Ruhdörfer). Musicologist, b Vienna 17 Jul 1910, naturalized Canadian 1944, d Vancouver 7 Feb 1987; PH D musicology (Vienna) 1938, honorary LL D (Simon Fraser) 1978, honorary D MUS (Victoria) 1986.

Halpern, Ida

Ida Halpern (b Ruhdörfer). Musicologist, b Vienna 17 Jul 1910, naturalized Canadian 1944, d Vancouver 7 Feb 1987; PH D musicology (Vienna) 1938, honorary LL D (Simon Fraser) 1978, honorary D MUS (Victoria) 1986. On completion of her university studies she lectured on music 1938-9 at the University of Shanghai and in 1939 moved to Vancouver. She gave the first courses in music appreciation at the University of British Columbia 1940-61. She also gave radio talks, participated in TV panel discussions, and was music critic 1952-61 for the Vancouver Province. She was a co-founder, the first president (1948-52, thereafter honorary president), and the program chairman 1951-8 of The Friends of Chamber Music; she was honorary life president of the Women's Auxiliary of the New Artists Association; and she served 1960-2 as president of the Vancouver Woman's Musical Club. In 1958 she became the director of Metropolitan Opera auditions for western Canada. In this connection she assisted in furthering the careers of several young singers, notably Judith Forst, Ermanno Mauro, and Perry Price. She was vice-chairman 1968-72 of the Community Music School of Greater Vancouver (Vancouver Academy) and chairman 1968-72 of the research committee of the CFMS. Several of her protégés have achieved distinction either as scholars or as performers (eg, H. Colin Slim, a musicologist at the University of California, Irvine; Marion Barnum, formerly head of piano studies at Iowa State U; and Robert Creech).

Halpern's most important work, however, was in documenting and preserving the music of the Kwakiutl, Nootka, Haida, Bella Coola, and Coast Salish Indians of northern coastal British Columbia. She recorded and catalogued some 500 of their songs. Eight LPs drawn from this collection, together with booklets containing Halpern's notes and analyses, were released in sets of two (1967, 1974, 1981, and 1986) by the Folkways Ethnic Library (2-Folk FE 4523, 4524, 4122, 4119). Some of the songs were arranged and prepared by Halpern for Lister Sinclair's World of the Wonderful Dark, produced at the 1957 Vancouver International Festival. Halpern's 1964-5 course in ethnomusicology was the first of its kind offered by the University of British Columbia. She was the Canadian delegate to the International Folk Music Council in Ghana in 1966, and she was a guest lecturer at universities in Canada and the USA. She received research grants from the province of British Columbia in 1977 and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada in 1979.

As honorary associate of the Centre for Communication and the Arts at Simon Fraser University Halpern conceived and helped organize the Centennial Workshop on Ethnomusicology in June 1967 at the University of British Columbia. She was a consultant in 1976 to the United Nations' Habitat Conference, and was a contributor to EMC. Native music collected by Halpern has been used by the Canadian composers David Duke, Theo Goldberg, Alex Pauk, and Imant Raminsh. In 1978 Halpern was named a Member of the Order of Canada.

Halpern's professional papers, including her ethnomusicological materials and tapes, are on deposit in the British Columbia Archives and Records Services in Victoria; other papers are held by Simon Fraser University.


'Franz Schubert in der zeitgenössischen Kritik,' PH D thesis, U of Vienna 1938

'What is modern music?' Pacific Northwest Library Association Q, vol 2, 1947

'Kwa-Kiutl Indian music,' J of the International Folk Music Council, vol 14, 1962

'Music of the BC Northwest Coast Indians,' Proceedings of the Centennial Workshop on Ethnomusicology, ed Peter Crossley-Holland (Victoria, BC 1968)

'On the interpretation of ''meaningless-nonsensical syllables'' in the music of the Pacific Northwest Indians,' Ethnomusicology, vol 20, May 1976

Further Reading