Music in Regina

Capital city of Saskatchewan. Originally called 'Pile of Bones,' from the Cree word Wascana, it became the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1882 with the coming of the railway and was renamed Regina after Queen Victoria.

Regina, Sask

Capital city of Saskatchewan. Originally called 'Pile of Bones,' from the Cree word Wascana, it became the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1882 with the coming of the railway and was renamed Regina after Queen Victoria. It was incorporated as a town in 1883 and as a city in 1903, when its population was almost 6000. It was designated the provincial capital in 1905. Its population had risen to 35,000 by 1923 and ca 175, 000 by 1986.

During its first 10 years, Regina could claim a Musical Club, a Musical and Literary Society, a Glee Club, a Minstrel Club, a North West Mounted Police Band, and several church choirs. The community also supported a brass band, which in 1886 had 14 instruments. A Choral Society, formed in 1889, held weekly rehearsals and attempted to provide 'free instruction in vocal music and to assist at charitable entertainments.' Ten years later the Musical and Dramatic Society staged The Pirates of Penzance but ran into difficulties over the non-payment of performing rights. In 1899, also, a small troupe from the Metropolitan Opera brought The Chimes of Normandy to Regina. Emma Albani included Regina in her farewell tour of 1906.

Frank L. Laubach, a professional musician who arrived from Scotland in 1904, was the undisputed leader in the city's musical affairs until his retirement in 1922. He founded the Regina Philharmonic Society in 1904 and the Regina Orchestral Society, which first performed in 1908 and was succeeded by the Regina Choral and Orchestral Society, in 1919 (first concert 1920). In 1908, with F.W. Chisholm of Indian Head and other musicians, he founded the Saskatchewan Music Festival, the second such competition to be established in Canada. The first year (1909) it attracted 25 entries and more than 200 participants. Also in 1909, Laubach directed the Regina Operatic Society in performances to inaugurate the Regina Theatre. In 1913 Laubach and Charles Shrimpton wrote and produced a three-act musical comedy, The Mystic Light.

The Regina Male Chorus Club, formed under A.L. Wheatley in 1911, gave its first concert in 1912. Another choir, the Queen City Classics, was organized in 1920 by John Henry. The Regina Musical Club, founded in 1907 as the Regina Women's Morning Musical Club, and the Orpheus Club, founded in 1915 as the Eva Clare Studio Club, promoted the study as well as the performance of music. A.D. Sturrock was an active soloist and church choirmaster at the time, and conducted the mixed chorus Clef Club (Regina, Sask). Throughout the first half of the 20th century the needs of Regina's musicians were catered for by William George Franklin Scythes (b Thornton, Ont, 1876, d Regina 12 Dec 1961), who in 1907 established the W.G.F. Scythes Co music store.

When Laubach retired, in 1922, the Regina Choral and Orchestral Society split into three groups: the Regina Symphony Orchestra under W. Knight Wilson, the Regina Choral Society under George Coutts (b Aberdeen 6 Aug 1888, d Toronto 28 Apr 1962, active in Regina in the 1920s also as head of the piano department at the Regina Cons, conductor of the Regina Operatic Society and as a church musician.), and the Regina Male Voice Choir (formerly Male Chorus Club) under Dan A. Cameron. In 1924 these groups merged again as the Regina Philharmonic Association. In 1926 the Regina SO separated again from the Philharmonic Association. Wilson, its conductor 1923-41 and 1945-55, also conducted the orchestra which accompanied films at the Capitol Theatre (Regina), taught violin at the Regina Cons (Conservatory of Music, University of Regina), and formed a junior orchestra at the conservatory. In 1927 Wilson formed the Regina Orchestral Society and instituted its subscription concert series. Darke Hall was the orchestra's home 1929-70. In 1970 it moved into the newly opened Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts.

Cameron conducted the Regina Male Voice Choir 1923-46 and was head of the voice department at the Regina Cons 1923-39. In addition, he conducted the Regina Bach Ladies' Choir and Regina Ladies' Choir. Lionel Allen succeeded him 1946-59 as conductor of the Male Voice Choir. In 1991 the 100-voice Regina Philharmonic Chorus was conducted by Kathryn Laurin.

During the 1920s and 1930s the CPR sponsored music programs in the Hotel Saskatchewan. The Great West Canadian Folksong-Folkdance and Handicraft Festival of 1929 also was sponsored by the CPR. (See CPR Festivals.) In these years and later, the Celebrity Concert Series (see Fred M. Gee) sponsored by the Rotary Club brought to Regina Marian Anderson, Clara Butt, Richard Crooks, Jascha Heifetz, Jeanette MacDonald, Tertius Noble, Jan Peerce, Lily Pons, Leontyne Price, Risë Stevens, Lawrence Tibbett, and others. The Kinsmen Club, the Regina Registered Teachers' Association (founded 1925; see SRMTA), and the University Women's Club also supported musical activities. The Rotary Club began sponsorship of a Regina Festival of Christmas Carols ca 1940 at Knox-Metropolitan United Church.

The Regina Queen City Band, founded in 1943 by Mrs A.B. Mossing, was taken over by the Lions Club in 1946 and renamed the Regina Lions' Junior Band. By 1976 it encompassed six bands with some 500 participants. The Mossing family continued its support and also subsidized other bands. D'Arcy Mossing, the founding music director of the Regina Separate School Band (formed in 1950), also was director 1955-7 of the Lions Band. Another Mossing - Robert L. - became director of the latter in 1970.

Regina's most important music school has been the Conservatory of Music, University of Regina (Regina Cons). Staff members such as W. Knight Wilson and Dan A. Cameron made important contributions to every aspect of the city's musical life. Richard Watson, director in the early 1950s, also founded the Regina Conservatory Opera in 1951. Howard Leyton-Brown, appointed director of the conservatory in 1955, had begun conducting the Conservatory Chamber Orchestra (later the University of Regina Chamber Orchestra) in 1953 and also conducted the Regina SO 1960-71. Barbara Cass-Beggs, who taught 1955-64 at the conservatory, formed the Saskatchewan Junior Concert Society (originally named the Regina Junior Concert Society), which toured with a series of concerts for children. In 1962 an Inter-collegiate Chorus and an Inter-collegiate Orchestra were formed under Lloyd Blackman. The 1965 CFMTA Conference, organized by Dorothy Bee, was held in Regina. The Regina SO Chamber Music Series, the Regina SO series, and the concerts presented by the Dept of Church music of the Canadian Bible College, provided another dimension of concert life in the 1990s.

The multicultural Mosaic Festival and a German Oktoberfest were established as annual festivals - the former in 1964, the latter in 1975. The Regina Folk Arts Festival began in 1969; the Saskatchewan Highland Festival, a piping and dancing competition, in 1970 at Fort Qu'Appelle.

Among Regina-area natives active in music have been Gordie Brandt, the composer Peter Clements, Helen Dahlstrom, Nina Dempsey, the bass-baritone Norman Farrow, Edith Fowke, Barbara Franklin, Gaelyne Gabora, Colin James, Audrey Johannesen, Muriel Kerr, the pianist Gary Kosloski, June Kowalchuk, and Owen Underhill. In 1991 composers Thomas Schudel, Elizabeth Raum, and David McIntyre were based in Regina.


Further Reading

  • Miles. Kate Haws. ' A voice from the Prairies,' Canadian Courier, vol 12, 12 Oct 1912

    'Banner of music rides high in fortunes fair or foul,' Regina Leader-Post, 31 Aug 1940

    Cameron, Dan A. 'Twenty-one years of music,' Regina Leader-Post, 25 Nov 1950

    'Music and drama in Regina,' 50 Years of Progress 1903-1953 [Regina 1953]

    Sherick, Dorothy. 'News... views in music,' Regina Leader-Post, 12 Dec 1975