Romanian Music in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Romanian Music in Canada

Immigration to Canada began in 1898 with an influx of Romanian Jews, followed by three distinct waves: 1900–13, 1920–9, and post–1945.

Immigration to Canada began in 1898 with an influx of Romanian Jews, followed by three distinct waves: 1900–13, 1920–9, and post–1945. Immigrants during the first two periods settled in the Prairies, Montreal and several Ontario centres. Nearly 100 Romanian singers and dancers took part in the Great West Folk Festival (see CPR Festivals) in Regina in 1929. In 1986, there were more than 51,000 Romanian-Canadians. Cultural organizations have been maintained in Montréal, Windsor and Hamilton, and in communities in Saskatchewan, usually with the church (Orthodox or Greek-Catholic) as the centre.

Romanians brought to Canada a rich, ancient, original and orally-maintained musical culture which, in the new social context, has been modified in content and form, function, degree of vitality, and manner of circulation and interpretation. The church music belongs to the Romanized Byzantine tradition, the priests having the liberty to modify it. The folk music is characterized by strophic forms and by strong and varied rhythmic structures, analysed first by Béla Bartók ca. 1920 in terms of parlando rubato (rhythmic leeways based on the rhythms of speech).

Though epic song is perpetuated only by the elders, lyric song has survived, its original themes now mixed with others invented in Canada. Of the repertoire which, in the old country, accompanied rites of passage, some wedding songs have survived but funeral songs have not. A repertoire of dances has been maintained in reduced form, but the accompanying calls, lyrical or satirical, have been lost. Traditional instruments (pipe, bagpipe, Jew's harp, ocarina, drum) have been supplanted to some extent by clarinet (taragot), accordion and piano. A study of Rumanian-Canadian music in Toronto and Montréal was undertaken in 1974 by the ethnomusicologist Emilia Comisel with sponsorship from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Romaniam musicians visiting Canada have included the violinist, conductor and composer Georges Enesco (the teacher of Ida Haendel in London and of Sydney Humphreys and Arthur LeBlanc in Paris), the soprano Marina Krilovici (Canadian Opera Company 1968, 1969), and the violinists Silvia Marcovici and Stefan Ruha. Romanian-born musicians resident in Canada have included the guitarist and composer Robert Feuerstein and his wife, the pianist Sarah Feuerstein, Laszlo Gati, Eugene Gmeiner, Uri Mayer, Luciano and Edith Della Pergola, Eli Rubinstein, Aura (Rully), Rémus Tzincoca, Karl Wilhelm, the pan flute virtuoso Zamfir and the soprano Eve Zseller. The Canadian bass Joseph Rouleau sang the leading roles in Boris Godunov and Don Carlos in 1968 productions in Bucharest. Charles Reiner and Robert Weisz studied in Geneva with the Romanian pianist Dinu Lipatti.

In 1981, composer Michael Pepa assembled a group of Canadian dancers and musicians called Soundstage Canada '81 and toured Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary. The Soundstage performers included Robert Aitken, Joseph Macerollo, Erica Goodman and Mary Morrison, and performed music by R. Murray Schafer, Barbara Pentland, Gilles Tremblay and Marjan Mozetich.

A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.