Tom Kines

Thomas Alvin Kines, tenor, folklorist, ballad historian, multi-instrumentalist, broadcaster, administrator (born 3 August 1922 in Roblin, MB; died 1 February 1994 in Ottawa, ON).

Thomas Alvin Kines, tenor, folklorist, ballad historian, multi-instrumentalist, broadcaster, administrator (born 3 August 1922 in Roblin, MB; died 1 February 1994 in Ottawa, ON). Tom Kines was a folk singer and folklorist. He performed internationally over a 40-year career and is perhaps best known for hosting the CBC Radio programs The Song Pedlar (1960–70) and Folk Fair (1977–79).

Kines began singing in public at age five and learned many folk tunes from his Irish grandfather, who had picked them up in logging camps. As a teenager, Kines played drums in local brass, pipe and dance bands. The Second World War interrupted his studies at the University of Manitoba, but his interest in performing and researching folk music was kindled while serving in the Royal Canadian Navy in Northern Ireland. After the war, he settled in Ottawa and worked as an administrator with the Royal Canadian Legion, but continued to build up a repertoire ranging from Elizabethan songs and lieder to songs of Vaughan Williams and folk ballads. He was a founding member of the Tudor Singers of Ottawa (1949–61), proponents of the Elizabethan repertoire, and appeared as a soloist with the Ottawa Choral Society, the Toronto Bach Society, the Montreal Bach Choir and the Orpheus Operatic Society of Ottawa (in Gilbert & Sullivan roles). He was also a church soloist for 30 years.

It was as a folksinger, however, that Kines became best known. The NFB composers Maurice Blackburn, Robert Fleming and Eldon Rathburn, and the organist-composer William France provided him with voice-and-piano settings of folk songs. Kines also sang Canadian folk songs for the NFB short films The Story of HMS Shannon (1958) and The Chesapeake and the Shannon (1959). He appeared in concert in Montréal and at Stratford, ON, on CBC Radio and several times at the Mariposa Folk Festival.

He appeared on the CBC TV children's series The Song Shop and Magic in Music, and in 1960 he released his debut album, Maids and Mistresses, which led to a record deal with Folkways Records. He researched and hosted the CBC Radio folk music programs Puttin’ On the Style (1959), The Song Pedlar (1960–70) and Folk Fair (1977–79), on which he interviewed such figures as Edith Fowke, Helen Creighton, O.J. Abbott and Kenneth Peacock. Kines guest starred on CBC's Chansons in 1967, and also appeared in Canada on CTV, in the US on NBC and in the UK on the BBC. He toured Canada, and in 1961 he toured Japan as a soloist with the Montreal Bach Choir. In 1962, he appeared at New York's Town Hall with Alan Mills, Hélène Baillargeon and others in a Folkways presentation of Canadian singers. For such occasions, Kines was noted for researching all available versions of a folk song before selecting one for performance.

In the 1960s, he gave 32 recitals for the Saskatchewan Junior Concert Society, and in the 1970s he gave 44 for the Eastern Ontario Library Association. On both tours he accompanied himself on the guitar, lute, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, recorder and other instruments. Kines wrote new lyrics for a selection of Canadian folk songs from which he fashioned the cantata Prairie Sailor, arranged for male chorus by Robert Fleming, commissioned by the CBC and premiered as part of the 1970 CBC Summer Festival at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Kines was soloist and Fleming conducted. Also for the CBC, Kines prepared programs on Ottawa Valley singers.

A Canada Council travel grant enabled him to engage in folk music research at Cecil Sharp House in London, England, and to intensify his search for the authentic tunes of the Robert Burns song collection Merry Muses. His anthology, Songs from Shakespeare's Plays and Popular Songs of Shakespeare's Time, was published in 1964 and reissued in 1982 by Oak Publications.

From 1966 to 1987, Kines was national director of the international humanitarian organization CARE Canada. While travelling in this capacity in such places as Uganda, Somalia and South America, he continued to perform folk songs and to collect folk instruments and song material. He retired in 1987, but continued to advocate hands-on study of folk songs, and edited recordings of traditional Canadian singers. He also prepared a history of CARE. Carleton University holds the Thomas Kines Collection of instruments, books, manuscripts and recordings.

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


Further Reading

  • Joan Meredith, “Tom Kines: A New Approach to Balladry and Folk Music,” Canadian Composer, no. 60 (May 1971).

    Paula Conlon, “Bridging the Gap between the Folk Musician and Academia: An Alternative Approach to CSMT as Discussed with Thomas Kines,” CFMJ, vol. 21 (1993).

    “Kines's Music United All Who Heard It,” Ottawa Citizen (3 February 1994).

    “Rare Instruments, Publications and Tapes Donated to Carleton by Tom Kines,” Carleton University Developments (Summer 1995).

    Elaine Keillor, Music in Canada: Capturing Landscape and Diversity (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006).