Ladies' Morning Musical Club

Montreal musical institution, one of the oldest in Canada, founded in 1892 by Mary Bell, who brought together her friends for serious study and appreciation of the classics of the vocal and instrumental repertoire.

Montreal musical institution, one of the oldest in Canada, founded in 1892 by Mary Bell, who brought together her friends for serious study and appreciation of the classics of the vocal and instrumental repertoire. She was assisted by Adèle Sise and intended the membership to be both French- and English-speaking. The first administrative committee, of which she was president, decided to hold weekly meetings each Thursday at 11 am, hence the name adopted by the club. The modest fees - $1 for active members, who participated in the early concerts, and $2 for associate members - contributed to the immediate success of the enterprise.

During the 1892-3 season about 20 concerts were organized, with works by Bach, Chopin, Dvořák, Gounod, Grieg, Liszt, Massenet, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, and Wagner, among others, and the occasional participation of a vocal ensemble. Among the first guest artists were Guillaume Couture, Dominique Ducharme, J.-J. Goulet, and R.-O. Pelletier. Lectures were added to the concerts shortly afterwards to foster appreciation of composers then considered difficult to understand, such as Bach and Wagner.

The club's first concert by an internationally known performer took place at the Monument National in 1895. The violinist Eugène Ysaÿe made his Canadian debut on this occasion, and the general public was invited to attend. Always at the forefront of musical exploration, the club presented excerpts from Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande in 1917, 23 years before its Canadian premiere. The concerts accorded a special place to contemporary composers, such as Bloch, Hindemith, Medtner, and Reger.

Numerous Canadian and foreign artists who later acquired international reputations were introduced to Montreal or even to Canada by the club, often through the efforts of Mme Cécile Léger (née Hone), an original and active member of the club who informed herself about outstanding new talents through visits to New York and elsewhere. Percy Grainger (1912), Pauline Donalda (1915), Yvonne Hubert (1922), Walter Gieseking (1928), Vladimir Horowitz (1930), and, later, Glenn Gould and Maureen Forrester performed for the club. Chamber music groups such as the Kneisel String Quartet (1896), the London String Quartet (1921), the Paris Instrumental Quintet (1934), and the Amadeus, Juilliard, and Pro Arte Quartets have appeared on numerous occasions.

While presenting in recital a large number of Canadian professional musicians, the Ladies' Morning Musical Club also has contributed each year, through the Mary Bell Scholarship Fund, established in 1907, to the development of Canadian student musicians. The Cécile-Léger Scholarship, established for student members of the club, was granted until 1967. The annual Kerry-Lindsay award of $100, begun in 1928, was created to assist student members of the club.

In 1940, concert time was changed to Thursday afternoon, in 1981 to Sunday; in 1969, males for the first time were invited to attend. The concerts were held successively at the YMCA Hall (Dominion Square), at the Windsor and Ritz-Carlton hotels, at the Comédie-Canadienne, at the Mount Royal Hotel, at the Théâtre Maisonneuve in PDA, and beginning in 1983, at McGill University's Pollack Hall. In 1990 the club had nearly 600 members, who, for a modest subscription fee, enjoyed 10 concerts annually.


Further Reading

  • Léger, Cécile. Fifty Years of Musical Recollections 1892-1942 (Montreal 1942)

    Brosseau, Cécile. 'Le Ladies Morning a déjà accordé pour plus de $40,000 en bourses,' Montreal La Presse, 19 Sep 1973

    Rowan, Renée. 'Le bénévolat des femmes dans le secteur culturel,' Montreal Le Devoir, 4 Oct 1976

    Charest, Nicole. '85 ans de problèmes, de travail et de succès,' Perspectives, 23 Jul 1977

    Ladies' Morning Musical Club. Annual reports 1892-3-