Leslie Bell | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Leslie Bell

Leslie (Richard) Bell. Choir conductor, educator, writer, arranger, composer, b Toronto 5 May 1906, d there 19 Jan 1962; BA (Toronto) 1930, MA (Toronto) 1931, D MUS (Montreal) 1946.

Bell, Leslie

Leslie (Richard) Bell. Choir conductor, educator, writer, arranger, composer, b Toronto 5 May 1906, d there 19 Jan 1962; BA (Toronto) 1930, MA (Toronto) 1931, D MUS (Montreal) 1946. While studying 1917-25 with Frederick Horwood at the TCM (RCMT) and with Louis Waizman, he played clarinet and saxophone in the orchestras of Luigi Romanelli and Joe DeCourcy and later led his own dance band. He taught English, history, and music 1935-9 at Parkdale Collegiate Institute (where his pupils included Howard Cable, later an associate at the CBC) and founded a girls choir there, the Alumnae Singers - later the Leslie Bell Singers. He was president of the music section of the Ontario Education Association (OMEA) 1938-41, chairman of the music department at the Ontario College of Education 1939-48 and also taught summers 1940-6 at Queens U and 1946-52 at the University of Toronto.

Later in the 1950s Bell divided his time between conducting (he also formed the short-lived Leslie Bell Gleemen in 1957), writing, and broadcasting. His broad musical interests were reflected in his work as music columnist 1946-62 for the Toronto Daily Star, associate editor in charge of music education 1958-62 for the Canadian Music Journal, contributor to many other publications, and radio commentator for CBC and CFRB, Toronto. He was the co-founder in 1959 and first executive director of the CMEA and editor 1959-62 of its journal, the Canadian Music Educator. In the Canadian Music Journal (Spring 1962), Geoffrey Payzant wrote: 'It was his driving ambition to close the gap between the art of music and the minds of the many. He took the view that there is popular music good and bad and art music good and bad, and that the best of each had more in common than is generally thought to be the case'.

Bell wrote Variations on a French Noël for string quartet, several choral works for female and mixed groups published by Canadian Music Sales and Mills, and many folk song arrangements published by Canadian Music Sales, G.V. Thompson, Shawnee Press, and Summy. After Bell's death, the CBC and the CMEA sponsored the Leslie Bell Memorial Choir Competition in 1963-4 and 1965 (won by the Tudor Singers of Montreal and the Acadia Chapel Choir of Wolfville, NS, respectively). The Leslie Bell Prize was established in 1973 to assist a choir conductor in post-graduate training. Administered by the Ontario Choral Federation, it has been awarded to Edward F. Moroney (1973), Robert Cooper (1974), David Christiani (1975), Carole Boyle (1976), Jean Ashworth-Gam. See Ashworth Bartle, Jean (1977), Gerald Neufeld (1978), Brainerd Blyden-Taylor (1981), Richard Dacey (1983), Daniel Hansen (1984), David Fallis (1985), Karen Price-Wallace (1986), Laurence Ewashko (1988), and Andrew Slonetsky (1990).


Leslie Bell, The Chorister: Theory and Sight Reading for Vocalists, 2 vols (Toronto 1947-50)

'The failure of music appreciation,' CMJ, vol 2, Spring 1958

'An experiment in national broadcasting,' CMJ, vol 5, Winter 1961

'Popular music,' Music in Canada

Further Reading