J. Churchill Arlidge

J. (Joseph) Churchill Arlidge. Flutist, organist, teacher, composer, b Stratford-on-Avon, Eng, 17 Mar 1849, d Toronto 22 Jan 1913.

Arlidge, J. (Joseph) Churchill

J. (Joseph) Churchill Arlidge. Flutist, organist, teacher, composer, b Stratford-on-Avon, Eng, 17 Mar 1849, d Toronto 22 Jan 1913. As a child in England, Arlidge studied flute with Benjamin Wells and Robert Sydney Pratten, and made his debut in 1859 at the Crystal Palace in a concert given by Sir Julius Benedict for Queen Victoria. He continued flute studies with George Rudall and piano and organ with James Coward, and performed frequently in London venues. From 1866 to 1868 he was enrolled at the Brussels Conservatory, where his teachers included Jacques-Nicholas Lemmens (piano, organ) and Oluf Svendsen (flute).

Arlidge visited the United States in 1873 or 1874, appearing as solo flutist in Gilmore's 22nd New York Regiment Band. In late 1874 he went to Toronto to be married and was immersed into the musical life of that city. He performed as solo flutist under F.H. Torrington and was listed in the city directory as a professor of music. He was also appointed as the first organist and choirmaster at Toronto's Carlton Street Methodist Church.

Offered a teaching position, Arlidge returned to England in late 1875, but after being invited, probably by Torrington, to participate in the First Toronto Musical Festival, he permanently settled his family in the Toronto area in 1885. He resumed his position at the Carlton Street Methodist Church and, until his death, served as organist and choirmaster at other Toronto churches including Christ Church Deer Park, Bonar Presbyterian and St John the Evangelist.

Arlidge continued his concert career in Canada well into the 1900s, performing as flute soloist, and as a member of the Toronto Philharmonic Society under Torrington. He played flute obbligato for singers such as Emma Calve, Marcella Sembrich, Lilli Lehmann and Emma Albani. During the late 1880s he established the Toronto Flute Quartet, in which he performed with his pupils Lubraico, J.B. Glionna and Herbert Lye (of the Lye Organ Company).

For many years, Arlidge taught flute at the Toronto College of Music and the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1899 he spoke out in support of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, thereby embroiling himself in a controversy in which he opposed colleagues such as Torrington and Edward Fisher, principals of the two TCMs, who were protesting against the Associated Board. In 1902 Arlidge established and was principal of his own school, the Toronto Academy of Music. Arlidge published a booklet, "The Arlidge Practice Record for Students of Music," in 1907.

A composer from childhood, Arlidge's earliest known composition was a set of variations for flute and piano, written for the Shakespearian Tercentenary Festival in 1864. Two songs, "Remembrances of Childhood" and "Farewell," were published in 1874 and 1875. Although he continued to compose and arrange concert works throughout his life, most of his output remains unpublished.

Arlidge further served the Toronto community with a variety of activities, not always musical. He conducted a youth orchestra and directed musical events at the YMCA. He was High Organist of the Independent Order of Foresters and a high-ranking member of the Masonic Lodge, Saint George's Society. He was also a member of the newly formed Canadian Guild of Organists. In 1907 he was on a Grand Jury appointed to investigate and make recommendations about public institutions and services in Toronto.

Although Arlidge was a relatively young man when he settled in Canada, he had already earned a significant reputation as a performer. Skilled also as an organist and teacher, he quickly established himself in the forefront of the Toronto musical community. In a preview of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Dickinson) concert of 30 Nov 1901, in which Arlidge was a soloist, the Toronto Star described him as "without a peer in America." In 1933, twenty years after his death, Etude Magazine presented Arlidge in its Historical Musical Portrait Series, "The World's Best Known Musicians."

Several of Arlidge's seven surviving children had careers in music. Joseph Augustine (Gus) was a tenor soloist and appeared in concert with his father during the early 1900s. He later became a choirmaster in Calgary. Victor Conybeare studied with Albert Ham, was a tenor soloist and sang with choirs and vocal ensembles including the Tudor Singers under Healey Willan and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. He also directed church choirs and taught voice at the Toronto Conservatory during the 1920s. Their siblings, Theophils, Walter, Henrietta and Theresa, were active as music teachers and church musicians.


Further Reading

  • 'Our portrait album,' The Canadian Musician, vol 1, Nov 1889

    Arlidge, Bob. 'Mr. J. Churchill Arlidge: Canada's popular flute virtuoso,' ICM Newsletter, vol 3, Jan 2005