Music at University of Trinity College

University of Trinity College. Church of England university founded in Toronto in 1851 (it received its royal charter in 1852) by the first bishop of Toronto, John Strachan, after King's College, precursor of the University of Toronto, became secular in 1850.

Music at University of Trinity College

University of Trinity College. Church of England university founded in Toronto in 1851 (it received its royal charter in 1852) by the first bishop of Toronto, John Strachan, after King's College, precursor of the University of Toronto, became secular in 1850. In 1904 'Trinity' was federated with the University of Toronto. While maintaining Anglican ties, Trinity does not restrict enrolment or employment to Anglicans.

On 28 Apr 1853 Trinity appointed George William Strathy Professor of Music. On 1 Jun 1853 it awarded him the second B MUS granted in Canada (see University of Toronto). In 1858 it awarded him a D MUS. Although Strathy was listed in the university's calendars, in fact his contributions seem to have been limited to occasional lectures. By 1878-9 he had formed a class in theory.

In April 1881 Rouge et Noir, the student magazine, complained about the neglect of music at Trinity. Later that year, after a candidate (apparently Davenport Kerrison) applied to be examined, Trinity formally created a Faculty of Music to administer examinations but still offered no course of studies. B MUS candidates had to provide evidence of five years of musical study, to compose 'a song or anthem in four parts, and perform the same publicly,' and to pass an examination in theory. The doctorate required evidence of eight years of study along with the composition and performance of a partsong or anthem in six or eight parts with orchestral accompaniment. Upon refusing to examine the first candidate, Strathy was replaced as examiner in 1882 by the Rev R.F. Dale. In 1883 Frédéric Louis Ritter of Vassar College, New York, was named examiner.

Requirements were changed in 1883 so that B MUS candidates had to pass three annual examinations, in harmony, counterpoint, history of music, form in composition, and instrumentation, and had to compose an exercise in at least four parts with accompaniment. No arts subjects were required. Three years after obtaining a B MUS a student could achieve a D MUS. Women were allowed to take the B MUS examination and received a certificate of passing, but only in 1885 were they offered degrees. Emma Stanton Mellish, later a theory teacher at the TCM, and Helen Emma Gregory, later a judge, were the first female graduates of Trinity: each received a B MUS in 1886.

In 1885 London's Musical Standard, with information gleaned from a US journal, published Trinity's curriculum and examination papers. Practising musicians, deterred from pursuing music degrees in British universities because of their arts prerequisites, requested that Trinity hold music examinations in England. Since Trinity's royal charter allowed it 'all such and like privileges as are enjoyed by the Universities of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,' it felt entitled legally to decide, in 1885, in favour of simultaneous London and Toronto examinations. In the same year it rejected an application for affiliation from London's Trinity College, a music school. It appointed a former Trinity professor of mathematics, Edward K. Kendall, to serve as acting registrar in England and subsequently named as examiners for England and Canada Edward John Hopkins, William Henry Longhurst, and Edwin Matthew Lott, all prominent English church organists on whom Trinity conferred honorary doctorates in 1886.

In order to meet British standards, Trinity stiffened its matriculation requirements in 1886. Students had to produce certificates of character, 'satisfactory evidence of attainments' in general education, and certificates showing five years of musical study and practice.

The Faculty of Music's affiliation with the TCM in 1889 exempted conservatory students from some of the faculty's examinations. In 1890 Trinity also held examinations in New York. By the end of the year the faculty had granted five honorary and nine in-course doctorates as well as one honorary and 86 in-course bachelor degrees, the majority to English candidates. Benjamin Agutter received an honorary doctorate in 1889 or 1890 when he replaced John Hopkins as examiner.

The intrusion of a Canadian university into Britain occasioned the publication of increasingly numerous complaints in British music journals. In 1890 35 prominent musicians, including Sir John Stainer of Oxford, submitted to Lord Knutsford, the colonial secretary, 'memorials' condemning Trinity's practice of granting in-absentia degrees in England. Their main argument was that Trinity was lowering standards by not requiring literary tests. It was felt that Trinity had overstepped its powers and could open the door to bogus degrees. Thomas Lea Southgate and Stainer headed a committee which organized criticism, in British journals and newspapers, of Trinity's London 'agency' and graduates. Trinity Provost C.W.E. Body's hurried trip to England failed to counter the criticism, and early in 1891 the university decided to discontinue the examinations in London and New York.

Longhurst and Lott continued as examiners, the latter becoming Professor of Music in 1891, replacing Strathy, with the responsibility of visiting Toronto annually to conduct examinations and give lectures. Other examiners were J. Humfrey Anger, TCM lecturer (by 1893), and Frederick J. Karn (1894). In 1898 Edward Fisher of the TCM was granted a doctorate and Albert Ham, also of the TCM, was added to the examiner's roster. Trinity established a board of musical studies in 1900 to oversee the affairs of the faculty and to name examiners. In 1901 Ham and C.W. Pearce of Cambridge were examiners, and Ham taught voice culture in the Faculty of Arts. In 1902 Samuel Prowse Warren replaced Pearce as examiner.

When Trinity became a federated college of the University of Toronto on 1 Oct 1904, thereby surrendering its degree-granting powers in all faculties except Divinity, its Faculty of Music came to an end after having granted 161 B MUS degrees (including one honorary) and 34 D MUS degrees (including six honorary). Affiliation with the TCM was also terminated at this time.

After 1904 music at Trinity consisted of a periodically revivified Glee Club, music for church services, and student musicals such as What, No Crumpets? and Saints Alive! (1948, 1949), both composed by Keith MacMillan.


Further Reading

  • University of Trinity College. Calendars 1853-1903

    University of Trinity College, Faculty of Music, Memorials Presented to Lord Knutsford, H.M. Secretary of State for the Colonies, with Appendices, &c (London 1890).

    Reed, T.A., ed. A History of the University of Trinity College, Toronto, 1852-1952 (Toronto 1952)

    Watson, Andrew, ed. Trinity 1852-1952 (Toronto 1952)

    Harris, Robin S. A History of Higher Education in Canada, 1663-1960 (Toronto 1976)

    Jones, Gaynor G. 'The Fisher years: the Toronto Conservatory of Music, 1886-1913,' Three Studies, CanMus Documents 4 (Toronto 1989)

    Trinity College Archives. Corporation Minutes 1853-1904; Faculty of Music records (including scrapbooks); Provost Body papers

    Kallmann History of Music in Canada