Quenten Doolittle, composer, violinist, violist, teacher, conductor (born 21 May 1925 in Elmira, New York). Quenten Doolittle is an accomplished musician and composer who taught at the University of Calgary for nearly 30 years. He is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, a past president of their Prairie Region office, and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. He co-founded New Works Calgary with Allan Rae and others in 1984 to showcase concert music by Southern Alberta composers and musicians.
Quenten Doolittle grew up in a musical household, the fifth of seven children. He graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor of Science in 1950 and earned a master’s degree in Music from Indiana University in 1952. He studied violin privately in the early 1950s with Hugo Kortschak and Paul Stassevitch in the United States. After receiving a DMA from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester in 1964, he studied viola with Peter Schidlof in London, England (1967–68) and composition with John Weinzweig in Toronto (1974–75).
Doolittle taught at North Dakota State College from 1955 to 1958. He moved to Canada in 1960 and taught composition, music history and chamber music at the University of Calgary for nearly 30 years, retiring as professor emeritus in 1988. He also served as a frequent adjudicator in music competitions, and became a naturalized Canadian in 1969.
Career as Musician
From 1950 to 1974, Doolittle regularly played with orchestras, in particular as violist of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (1961–72, principal 1965–72), and in chamber groups, including the University of Calgary Trio (1962–64), University of Alberta String Quartet (1962–64) and University of Calgary Piano Quartet (mid-1960s). He conducted the University Chamber Players of Calgary (1961–74), the University of Calgary Symphony Orchestra (1969–74) and the youth orchestra Summer Chamber Players (1971–73), and gave prominent exposure to 20th-century music.
Doolittle began to compose in 1965, comparatively late in his career, but he has more than 40 acknowledged compositions and some 30 theatrical collaborations to his credit. His musical style encompasses a wide range of techniques, from extended tonality to serialism and improvisation. His incidental musicfor theatre is of special interest, and these works — including scores for Oedipus the King by Yeats, Sophocles for the Stratford Festival, Molière's Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Chekhov's The Three Sisters, Maeterlinck's The Bluebird and Wedekind's Lulu — often employ electronic music.
His “operatic entertainment” Charlie the Chicken (1975), based on Jonathan Levy's play and directed by Doolittle's wife, Joyce, was performed in Toronto in 1975 and again in Calgary in 1976. Charlie was revived twice in 1997, by Toronto's Opera Anonymous and by the McGill University Faculty of Music in Montréal. Doolittle's opera Boiler Room Suite (1988), with a libretto by Rex Deverell, was premiered at the Banff Centre for the Arts on 21 September 1989 and was performed at Festival Rendezvous, a Canadian music festival in London, before touring to Birmingham and Norfolk in the same year.
The Doolittles continued collaborating on many projects, including: Ruby's Heart Throbs (1995), premiered in Winnipeg and performed in Calgary and at the Hornby Island Festival in British Columbia; Bible Babes (2004), a provocative work on Eve, Delilah and Jezebel, premiered by Das Chicas at the Rozsa Centre in Calgary; and Calamity Jane (2006), which was taken on tour by Beverley Johnston and Diana McIntosh.
Quenten Doolittle also continued working on concert music and operas. The orchestral version of Vivaldiana was premiered by Hans Graf and the Calgary Philharmonic in January 1996, and the opera The Leviathan Hook, with libretto by Deverell, was workshopped by Opera Anonymous in Toronto in August 1998. Doolittle’s Fantasy on Sumer is icumen in (1971) for string orchestra was published by Waterloo (1972), and his piano work You Need Not Fail was recorded by Colleen Athparia on the 2006 release, Danse sauvage. His All and Sundre was premiered in concert on the occasion of his 75th birthday in November 2000.
Doolittle is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, a past president of their Prairie Region office, and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. He co-founded New Works Calgary with Allan Rae and others in 1984 to showcase concert music by Southern Alberta composers and musicians.
The University of Calgary designated a room in Craigie Hall as the Joyce and Quenten Doolittle Fine Arts Studio, and the university library houses the Quenten Doolittle Fonds.
“Towards a livelier live music,” Canada Music Book, 5 (Autumn/Winter 1972).
"Is opera a phantom?" SoundNotes (Fall/Winter 1994).