Maxwell, Joan

Joan Maxwell (m Rempel). Mezzo-soprano, b Winnipeg 17 Nov 1930, d Toronto 17 Dec 2000. A pupil of Mrs P.J. Fowler in Winnipeg, she continued studies on scholarship at the British Columbia Institute of Music and Drama in 1948 and the Senior School, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto in 1950. Her teachers included Glyndwr Jones and Phyllis Schuldt in Vancouver and Emmy Heim, Greta Kraus, and Ernesto Vinci in Toronto. In 1961 and 1967 she studied with Otakar Kraus in London on Canada Council and British Council awards respectively. She won an award in 'Opportunity Knocks' (winter 1954), and was grand award winner in 'Nos Futures Étoiles' in the same season. As a result of the latter award, Maxwell made a JMC (YMC) tour in 1954, and again in 1959. She was first runner-up in the 1955-6 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' and won the 1957 Metropolitan Opera regional auditions in Minneapolis. Also in 1957 she sang with the Opera Festival Company (COC). While based 1956-68 in Winnipeg, Maxwell was often a soloist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir. Of her performance in Verdi's Requiem, Kenneth Winters wrote 'a voice of ravishing beauty, ideally suited to its role both in range and kind' (Winnipeg Free Press, 26 Mar 1957). She was the star (1958-9) of CBC TV's 'Moods in Music' and other CBC-TV Winnipeg productions. During this period she sang frequently on CBC radio. She also appeared as Siebel in Gounod's Faust with the Vancouver Opera, with the CBC Opera in leading roles in productions of Eugene Onegin , Il Matrimonio Segreto, and Benjamin's Prima Donna, and with the COC in Rigoletto (1969). As an oratorio soloist and recitalist she performed in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, and Halifax. She performed with such conductors as Sir Ernest MacMillan, Seiji Ozawa, Walter Susskind, Otto-Werner Mueller, Mario Bernardi, and Victor Feldbrill. In 1969 she also toured as a soloist with the Festival Singers.

Her career was curtailed after 1969 by a serious back injury. She taught 1973-8 at Seneca College, Toronto, and privately thereafter. In 1984 she moved to Ottawa, where she gave recitals at the NAC and the University of Ottawa. In 1985 she began teaching at Canterbury High School for the Performing Arts in Ottawa; in 1988 she joined the faculty of the University of Ottawa; and she taught privately as well at Carleton University. Maxwell organized the Studio Opera Guild to give young Ottawa singers performance opportunities, and she was associated with the National Capital Opera Society. Students of hers have gone on to careers in musical theatre and in opera. In 1994 Maxwell and her husband, Harvey Rempel, moved to Kingston.

Works written for Maxwell include Murray Adaskin'sOf Man and the Universe (premiered 13 Aug 1967 at Expo 67) and Bernard Naylor'sThe Nymph Complaining of the Death of Her Faun. She can be heard in recordings of The Widow and a recital (1969, CBC SM-103) of songs by Samuel Barber, Michel Perrault (arr), Richard Strauss, and Brahms, accompanied by Chester Duncan.