Music in Moncton | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Music in Moncton

New Brunswick city originally known as LeCoude and first settled in 1750 by Acadians. The Acadians were dispersed in 1758 but returned in sufficient numbers to constitute a fundamental segment of the Moncton community.

Moncton, NB

Moncton, NB. New Brunswick city originally known as LeCoude and first settled in 1750 by Acadians. The Acadians were dispersed in 1758 but returned in sufficient numbers to constitute a fundamental segment of the Moncton community. Yorkshiremen, Loyalists, Highland Scots, Irishmen, and 'Pennsylvania Dutch' also contributed to the settlement's early population. The settlement was known as The Bend until 1855, when it was incorporated as a town and named 'Monckton.' The later spelling, 'Moncton,' was adopted in 1860. Moncton was incorporated as a city in 1890, when its inhabitants numbered 8700. By 1990 the population of Moncton proper (not including Dieppe and Riverview), was approximately 59,000, about two-thirds English-speaking and one-third French-speaking.

Little is known about the first hundred years of musical life in Moncton. Toward the end of that period the congregation of the Methodist Church (opened 1848) sang its hymns to an accompaniment of violin, flute, and bass viol. Performing groups outside the church appear not to have developed until later in the century. It was after 1875, for example, that Moses White led the Moncton Citizens' Concert Band. Operettas, vaudevilles, plays, and lectures were presented from time to time in the Opera House, an auditorium forming the top floor of the Town Hall, which was completed in 1885. An indication that music had begun to flourish is provided by an 1889 advertisement by Miller Brothers, a music store located at Church and Main streets: 'Pianos and organs from the most popular makers, violins, guitars, piccolos, band instruments, accordions, sheet music, music publications, instruction books, in fact, every article used by the musical profession can be obtained through this firm.'

In 1895 John Philip Sousa and his band gave a matinee concert at the Victoria Rink. Sousa's visit roused great enthusiasm for band music. When the Governor General, Lord Aberdeen, visited in 1897, he was greeted by no fewer than three bands - the Citizens', the Orange (Loyal Protestant after 1907), and the 74th Battalion. After World War I Ferdinand Malenfant revamped the Band of the 165th (Acadian) Battalion to form L'Assomption Band, an organization which continued to play in the 1950s. Fred Cosman and Arthur Burbank organized an Odd Fellows' Band, one of many such civic organizations. The Sousa band, visiting again in 1926, gave two sold-out concerts at the Sunny Brae Rink. In the 1930s a Salvation Army Band flourished under Arthur Deadman.

String players, however, were in short supply, so orchestras were slower to emerge. The Goulet MSO accompanied the Festival Chorus trained by George H. Brown for the 1903 Cycle of Musical Festivals. During the 1920s small orchestras accompanied silent movies. Among the players were Maude and Arthur Burbank, two US vaudeville artists who settled in Moncton in 1920. When the talkies obviated live accompaniment for movies, the Burbanks and others busied themselves with bands, amateur orchestras (eg, the St Bernard's Orchestra, conducted by Mrs Burbank), and the instruction of young musicians.

In 1932, with the support of the Women's Musical Club, a Moncton Symphony Orchestra was formed under Percy Belyea, head of the music department of the T. Eaton store. When the orchestra disbanded for financial reasons, some of its musicians formed the Central United Church Orchestra, conducted by Len Barnes and later by Ernest W. Freeborn. Orchestral music received new impetus in the 1960s with the formation of the New Brunswick SO and visits by the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, performing in the auditorium of the Moncton High School.

Until the 1930s local musical entertainments were supplied by the T. Eaton Co Glee Club, the Moncton Massed Choir, Gilbert & Sullivan groups, and performers in the Sunday Night Capitol Theatre Concerts (Moncton). The Women's Musical Club presented recitals and lectures 1930-50 by artists from farther afield and in 1934 organized the Moncton Community Concerts.

In 1949 the Moncton Chapter of the RCCO began sponsoring an annual carol festival featuring participation by local church choirs. Organist and choir director Elsie Steeves has played an important role in this and many other musical endeavours in the city.

The vitality of singing in the Acadian community was due in part to Father Léandre Brault, who conducted the Chorale de l'Université St-Joseph and was succeeded by Roland Soucie and then Neil J. Michaud. The latter was Brault's successor in the mid-1950s as choral director at the U de St-Joseph (later University of Moncton). Michaud conducted the Chanteurs du Mascaret and the Chorale mixte de l'U de Moncton.

In the 1950s the Chorale Notre-Dame d'Acadie, under Sister Marie-Lucienne, won the City of Lincoln and George S. Mathieson trophies awarded by the FCMF. Other groups which performed during the 1960s and 1970s include the (revived in 1991) Chorale Beauséjour (the forerunner of the Jeunes Chanteurs d'Acadie), the Chorale Alouette, the Chorale La Mi (no longer existing in 1990), the Chorale Champlain (a high school group), and Les Alinos. All were members of the Alliance chorale de Nouveau-Brunswick (which became À Coeur Joie NB in the early 1980s), and which had established headquarters, under the direction of Aline O'Brien, in the Centre culturel de Moncton. This centre was a focus of musical activity in the area 1974-83, at which time cultural events came under the auspices of the Société Culturelle Régionale de Dieppe-Moncton.

The city and region are rich in folk music, and Father Arthur Anselme (Father Anselme Chiasson) has collected Acadian song. Another collector, Charlotte Cormier, became the ethnomusicologist at the University of Moncton, where the Centre for Acadian Studies was established in 1968.

The Aberdeen School, which opened in 1898, had an orchestra. However, the first regular public music teacher in New Brunswick was Mary McCarthy, who worked 1905-15 for the Moncton School Board. Among private music teachers prominent in the city after World War I was the aforementioned Maude Burbank (b Island Pond, Vt, 1881, d Moncton 1967), who formed a number of bands with her pupils. In 1970 the city established the annual Maritime Band Festival, first named in her honour. Burbank's long and significant contribution to music was recognized in 1958 when the U de St-Joseph conferred an honorary doctorate upon her.

Another recipient of an honorary degree (Mount Allison University, 1954) was Alice May Harrison (b 1878, d 1980), who supervised music 1924-46 in Moncton schools. In 1926 she presented a radio program in Moncton featuring 600 schoolchildren singing in both English and French. She also taught until 1936 at Moncton High School and organized a glee club there, worked with the Women's Musical Club to organize the Junior Piano Festival (1935-7) and the Moncton Music Festival (begun in 1937), and in 1950 was co-founder of the New Brunswick Music Teachers' Association (later the NBRMTA).

Harrison's successor 1936-48 at Moncton High School, George Ross (b Scotland 9 Apr 1875, d USA 1 Oct 1967), formed an orchestra at the school and was organist-choirmaster at St John's United Church. Robert C. Bayley succeeded Harrison as supervisor of school music, serving until 1963. Ernest W. Freeborn served 1946-71 as Ross' successor at Moncton High School. Bannon O'Hearn, a teacher, directed students in local popular and well-attended musicals at Harrison Trimble High School 1962-85.

Moncton has hosted a summer festival, Jazz New Brunswick, beginning in 1987, and Encore Moncton, an entertainment extravaganza held 3-5 May 1990 to celebrate the city's centennial, which featured Roch Voisine, Edith Butler, local television hosts, community groups, dancers, gymnasts, and schoolchildren.

Among musicians born in or near Moncton have been Robert C. Bayley, Félix-R. Bertrand, Jamie Colpitts, Charlotte Cormier, Mrs Walter Coulthard, June Eikhard, Sister Lorette Gallant, Boogie (Paul) Gaudet, Arthur LeBlanc, Anna Malenfant, Margaret Osburne (see Don Messer), Gloria Richard, and Nancy and Wayne Vogan.

See also Bands.

Further Reading