William Littler

William (Richard Arthur) Littler. Critic, teacher, b Vancouver 12 Jul 1940; BA (British Columbia) 1963. He began piano lessons at 11 with Dorothea Limpus, a pupil of J.D.A. Tripp, and studied theory with Limpus, A.B. Hendrickson, and Desmond Burdon-Murphy. Though a general arts student at the University of British Columbia, he attended Harry Adaskin's classes in the repertoire of music and Leonard Wilson's in criticism. He wrote his first music reviews for the university paper Ubyssey and in 1962 began freelancing for the Vancouver Sun. He joined that daily as music and dance critic in 1963 and remained there until 1966, when he was appointed music critic of the Toronto Daily Star, a position he continued to hold in 1991. In 1971 he added regular dance criticism to his duties at the Star, and in that connection took summer courses in dance music, technique, composition, and criticism at Connecticut College in 1971 and 1972.

Littler's concurrent career as a broadcaster began in 1964 in Vancouver and continued in Toronto. His reviews have been heard frequently on many different CBC radio series. While in Vancouver he was writer and host for the 1965 nine-week CBC TV series 'Summer Concert'. In Toronto he was writer-host for CBC TV specials on the NACO and the TS.

Littler began giving courses in music and the theatre, and in dance criticism, at York University in 1974, and he directed a workshop in interdisciplinary criticism there in 1978. He has given courses at McMaster University, the University of Waterloo, and the RCMT, and has been a guest lecturer at other universities in Canada and the USA. He has served on numerous performance and composition juries, both in Canada and the USA.

Littler was vice-president 1969-77 of the Music Critics' Association, and in 1973 he participated in the first Canada-US exchange organized by that association, trading positions for the summer with the music critic of the Houston Post. In 1974 he became the founding chairman of the Dance Critics' Association of North America. He directed the first Critics' Institute in Canadian Music, held in 1975 in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Littler was a founding vice-president in 1986 of the Paris-based International Music Critics' Association and continued as a board member in 1990.

Littler's own occasionally equivocating reviews have become known for their graceful and amusing prose style and balanced argument. As well as regularly in the Toronto Star, they have appeared occasionally in the Edmonton Journal, the New York Times, Opera News, Opera Canada, The Canadian, Today, and several dance publications. He has written for Encyclopedia Americana and prepared liner notes for CBC, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Golden Crest, Moss Music Group, and Sefel recordings. He was the first music critic to receive the National Newspaper Award for critical writing in 1980. In 1990 he was the recipient of the Roy Thomson Hall Award.


'Music and the newspapers of Canada,' CMB, 7, Fall-Winter 1973

'The changing critic in a changing press,' CMB, 11-12, Fall-Winter 1975, Spring-Summer 1976

'The critic, the community and their orchestra,' OCan, vol 4, Jul 1977

'The quest for solitude,' Glenn Gould Variations: By Himself and His Friends, John McGreevy ed (Toronto 1983)

'Developing opera and musical theatre,' Canadian Contemporary Theatre: New World Visions, Anton Wagner ed (Toronto 1985)

'Music criticism,' Careers in Music, Thomas Green et al, eds (Oakville 1986)