Robert Chesterman | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Robert Chesterman

Robert Paul Chesterman, radio producer, film director (born 17 December 1931 in Purley, Surrey, England; died 1 June 2007).

Robert Paul Chesterman, radio producer, film director (born 17 December 1931 in Purley, Surrey, England; died 1 June 2007). Robert Chesterman was a long-time features and drama producer with CBC Radio in Vancouver. He was a facilitator and catalyst in his early years there before emerging as a creative initiator of artistic projects in various media. His supervision of and contributions to CBC Radio's Sunday Night, Saturday Evening, Monday Evening and Audience series were especially noteworthy. He also brought an international musical culture, especially in terms of Commonwealth countries, to the Canadian audience.

Career Highlights

Chesterman studied piano in England with Percy Taylor and George Oldroyd. He moved to Vancouver in 1957, and in 1959 he joined the CBC there as a producer. He was the host for Music Diary (1960–74) and the producer of Dave Robbins’s broadcasts on Jazz Workshop (1961–66). His feature program on the Benedictine Monastery in Mission, BC, The Church at Work, and his 26-episode series Masters of the Keyboard won Ohio State Awards in 1960 and 1961.

Although Chesterman began working in radio drama in 1963, between 1964 and 1972 he also produced radio profiles of eminent conductors (e.g., Ansermet, Bernstein, Boult, Klemperer, Ormandy, von Karajan and Walter). From his interviews for this series, he prepared the book Conversations with Conductors (London, 1976). Further work with conductors led to his second book, Conductors in Conversation (London, 1990).

His dual interest in music and theatre led him to produce radio dramatizations of the lives of Mahler, Bruckner, Haydn (the London period), Mozart (the last years) and Beethoven (an eight-part series, 1970). His features on the Chicago and Philadelphia orchestras (1978 and 1985 respectively) were models of their kind. His documentary on the history of the choir at King's College, Cambridge, was a highlight of CBC Tuesday Night in 1976 (the year he became a naturalized Canadian citizen). He explored the same subject in his 1981 film The Boast of Kings (for which he was producer and director), which won a New York Film Festival award. He directed Which Way to Carnegie Hall? (1986), a study of gifted musical children, and produced and directed Summer Song (1988), a feature film about the British Columbia Boys' Choir on tour in the Netherlands.

Chesterman retired from the CBC in 1987 but continued to work as an independent producer and director of films and radio programs (e.g., “Vienna's Golden Autumn” for the Ideas series in 1989).

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