Robert Watkin-Mills

Robert Watkin-Mills. Bass-baritone, teacher, b Painswick, Gloucestershire, England, 4 Mar 1849, d Toronto 10 Dec 1930.

Watkin-Mills, Robert

Robert Watkin-Mills. Bass-baritone, teacher, b Painswick, Gloucestershire, England, 4 Mar 1849, d Toronto 10 Dec 1930. After study with Samuel Sebastian Wesley in Gloucestershire, Edwin Holland in London, and Federico Blasco in Milan, he made his debut at London's Crystal Palace, 17 May 1884, in a concert with Sims Reeves. Thereafter he sang with great success throughout England, North America (almost annually, after 1894), and Australia 1904-5. In Canada he appeared with the Montreal Philharmonic Society and other groups. Eschewing opera, he pursued his career exclusively in concert and oratorio, becoming particularly identified with such works as Messiah and Judas Maccabaeus. In 1914 Watkin-Mills settled in Winnipeg, where he became choirmaster of Broadway Methodist Church and a founding member and president 1917-19 of the Men's Music Club. In 1919 he married Elsie Cantell, a singer and organist, and in 1922 the couple moved to Toronto, where they opened a vocal studio and took up positions as choirmaster and organist at Knox Church. The singer made his final public appearance at 77 in Messiah at St Paul's Church. At the time of his death the Musical Times wrote, 'Though his name does not ring in history and reminiscence as do those of a few of his contemporaries, he was a full member of that band of oratorio singers who were the pride of musical England in the Victorian age.' His pupils erected a monument for him in Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery. In England, Watkin-Mills made a few extremely rare records for Pathé (1903) and Odeon (1907-8), the latter listed in Roll Back the Years.


Further Reading

  • Rutherford, John E. "The sheet music of Robert Watkin Mills (1849-1930)," Antique Phonograph News, May-June 1993