Lorne Betts

Lorne (Matheson) Betts. Composer, critic, organist-choirmaster, b Winnipeg 2 Aug 1918, d Hamilton, Ont, 5 Aug 1985; ACCO 1940, LRSM 1941, honorary FRHCM 1968. After piano, organ, voice, and theory tuition in Winnipeg with Filmer Hubble, W.H.

Betts, Lorne

Lorne (Matheson) Betts. Composer, critic, organist-choirmaster, b Winnipeg 2 Aug 1918, d Hamilton, Ont, 5 Aug 1985; ACCO 1940, LRSM 1941, honorary FRHCM 1968. After piano, organ, voice, and theory tuition in Winnipeg with Filmer Hubble, W.H. Anderson, and Hunter Johnston he attended the RCMT, studying composition 1947-53 with John Weinzweig and, during successive summers 1950-3, with Ernst Krenek, Alan Rawsthorne, and Roy Harris. He was music director 1950-64 at St Paul's Presbyterian Church in Hamilton and became organist-choirmaster at Melrose United Church in 1964. He served 1953-9 as principal of the Hamilton Cons (RHCM) and 1965-79 as music critic for the Hamilton Spectator.

Betts' compositions up to 1973, listed in Contemporary Canadian Composers/Compositeurs canadiens contemporains, include the operas Riders to the Sea (1955) and The Woodcarver's Wife (1960), two symphonies (1954, 1961), two piano concertos (1955, 1957), three string quartets (1950, 1951, 1970), and such other large works as Joe Harris, 1913-42 (1951), Music for Orchestra (1963,) commissioned by the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra), Kanadario: 'Music for a Festival Occasion' (1966), and a Mass of St Thomas (1973). His later orchestral works include Three Saudades (1974) for strings, Suite in Three Movements (1975) and Five Etudes for Orchestra (1977). He wrote many songs and choral pieces, including Elegy (1977) for small chorus, string quintet and harp, Autumn's Orchestra (1982) for voices and chamber ensemble, A Hymn of Praise (1983) for orchestra and chorus, and the cantata The Walk to Emmaus (1984). Some of his keyboard works have been published, eg, 8 Recital Pieces for Young Pianists (1959, MCA 1963) and Suite Brève (1967 MCA).

Betts' fastidious use of chromatic tonality, his sparse textures, and his resourceful rhythms lend his music personality and life. Although his Music for Orchestra, uses a 12-tone series, Betts otherwise showed little interest in dodecaphony and its heirs and successors He made three LPs as an accompanist to his wife, the contralto Jean Macleod. Betts was a member of the CLComp. His status as an associate composer is maintained at the Canadian Music Centre. His papers, deposited at the National Library of Canada, include scores and articles written for the Hamilton Spectator.


Further Reading

  • 'Lorne Betts - a portrait,' Mcan, 28, Apr 1970