Winifred Bambrick

Winifred (Estella) Bambrick. Harpist, novelist, b Ottawa 21 Feb 1892, d Montreal 11 Apr 1969. She grew up in Ottawa and Chelsea, Que, and made her debut as a harpist at the Aeolian Hall, New York, 22 Oct 1913. The New York Times reviewer praised her 'decided virtuosity' and 'vigor of style'.

Bambrick, Winifred

Winifred (Estella) Bambrick. Harpist, novelist, b Ottawa 21 Feb 1892, d Montreal 11 Apr 1969. She grew up in Ottawa and Chelsea, Que, and made her debut as a harpist at the Aeolian Hall, New York, 22 Oct 1913. The New York Times reviewer praised her 'decided virtuosity' and 'vigor of style'. The first harpist to make Edison Diamond Discs, she recorded several selections for Thomas Edison in 1914, three of which, ( A.F. Pinto's arrangement of Ambrose's One Sweetly Solemn Thought, subtitled 'Fantasia Religiosa,' Verdalle's Vision and A.F. Pinto's Tarantelle) were issued in 1915 as Edison disc record 50213.

In 1920 Bambrick became the harp soloist for the John Philip Sousa band, a position she held until 1930, at which point she embarked on a solo performance career. The 1924 Wurlitzer Harp Catalogue contains a photograph of her and her endorsement of the Wurlitzer harp. Unverified anecdotes suggest she spent the years ca 1930-4 performing mainly in the USA and Canada, part of that time in Hollywood, possibly playing music for films.

By 1934 she was in London, seeking BBC radio contracts; she played at the Alhambra Theatre, London, ca 1934-6. Bambrick then embarked on a new career, playing for the next three years in the orchestra of a circus revue that travelled throughout Europe. Almost trapped in Leipzig when World War II broke out in 1939, she fled to England (with her mother, née Catherine Corbett, who was probably her manager) on the last train west, and subsequently sailed to Canada. From these experiences she crafted a novel about circus life, the theatre of politics, the role-playing of women, and the onset of war. Called Continental Revue (the US edition was titled Keller's Continental Revue), the novel was published in 1946 and won that year's Governor General's Award for fiction. Reputedly, Bambrick had completed a second novel titled The Lasting Spring by December 1947, but this was not published, and no manuscript has been located.

Bambrick returned to England in the 1950s but, suffering from emphysema, gave up public performance about 1960. In the early 1960s she moved to Montreal and then to Sept-Îles, to live with relatives. She spent her last years in a rest home in Montreal. During her career she gave over 1,000 concerts in Europe, North America, India, and Cuba. A 1947 concert program from Montreal lists fifteen items from her repertoire, including works by Bach, Debussy, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rubinstein, Charles Schütze, and Marcel Tournier.