Elaine Keillor
[Note: this article appears on page 13 of the print edition of vol. 1, no. 3 (September 2003) of this newsletter]

Survey of Canadian Music Courses
Number Two in a series

Canadian Music at Carleton University
by Elaine Keillor

As early as the mid-1940s music courses were offered at the fledgling institution that became Carleton University. In 1966 an announcement of a forthcoming department of music was made; the 1968-69 Calendar listed the approved courses. John Churchill from England had been hired to create this new department; he had already been to Canada numerous times as an examiner or adjudicator. His vision was that this Department of Music in Canada’s national capital must have a distinctively Canadian accent and reflect the realities of the northern half of North America. A course description of Music 30.210, Canadian Music, offered: ‘A study of the history of Canadian music from its earliest manifestations to the present. The social environment of each period will be considered and various influences, both musical and extra-musical, will be discussed.’ Music 30.250, ‘Music since 1900,’ offered ‘contemporary Canadian and American composers’ as well as ‘significant European figures.’ This emphasis on Canadian music was not found in the calendar of any other Anglophone university in Canada.

Willy Amtmann taught the first Canadian music courses given in English at a Canadian university. By 1971 he was assisted in the now third-year undergraduate course by Robert Fleming and the area of music had been added to programmes of study at the graduate level through the Institute of Canadian Studies (established in 1957 and renamed the School of Canadian Studies in 1992). The first master’s thesis to be done through this graduate programme in music was by Marie Paule Vachon in 1975.

In 1977 I was hired as a Baroque, Classical and Canadian music specialist. One of my first tasks was to examine Canadian music courses at the undergraduate and graduate level and suggest changes. With the assistance of Dr. Helmut Kallmann (then the Chief of the Music Division at the National Library of Canada) and Dr. Roxanne Carlisle, two one-term courses were being given at the graduate level. One concentrated on aspects of Canadian music from 1600 to 1900, while the other was on ‘problems in the music of Canadian ethnic minorities, especially Inuit and Indian traditions.’ I proposed that notated Canadian music needed a full credit (two terms) course due to the wealth of material. Likewise I felt that the ethnomusicological richness of Canada needed to be more adequately reflected in the course offerings. My proposal for a one-term course focusing on Aboriginal and possibly some other ethnic musical expressions, with another seminar to examine aspects of Anglo- and Franco-Canadian folk music, was accepted.

I left the undergraduate course description more or less as it was, but I am sure that the content changed. At that point there was no Canadian music textbook in print and course-pack technology had not arrived. For a first-hand experience of finding out what was going on, I organized music documentation assignments based on the available newspapers of Bytown/Ottawa. Again this was before the invention of personal computers and databases, so information was put on file cards. Over the next few years students completed the newspapers from the 1830s through to 1900 and even some chunks beyond. The exercise was an eye-opener for them, as they saw first hand the contemporary reports of what had been to them dry historical facts. Meanwhile, more students wished to study Canadian music at an advanced level and entered the graduate programme. Topics and areas of study were selected according to the students’ interests: theoretical introductions to hymn books, solfege systems, repertoire in a particular genre or for a particular instrument, versions of one Canadian folksong, etc.

Carleton students have benefited from the proximity of the National Library of Canada and the Museum of Man (now called the Canadian Museum of Civilization). Also the Canadian Musical Heritage Society (CMHS) was founded in 1982 with its office in Ottawa. Students before and after graduation became involved with its activities to search out, select, edit, and publish earlier Canadian music for its 25-volume anthology. For the last project carried out by the CMHS in 2002-03, students were involved in preparing scores, performing, and providing background material for the Digital Collections website Performing Our Musical Heritage.

With regard to the actual Canadian courses given at Carleton in the 1980s and 1990s, the content broadened considerably, not only through the greater availability of scores from the CMHS, but also by incorporating much more popular music content to complement the directions that Music at Carleton was taking. By 1985 courses devoted to the blues and to commercial music were offered at the undergraduate level, and students entering the B.Mus. programme auditioned in jazz, rock, country, and various ethnic traditions. Although nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century popular/functional music had been included in Canadian music offerings since 1977, I decided to split the undergraduate full year course into two. One course dealt with Aboriginal music, the expressions brought by the two colonial settler groups (French and British), and the notated music traditions created by residents of Canada up to the present day. The other course concentrated on folksong traditions created in Canada with roots in French and British folk music, functional dance music traditions, and the establishment of a song publishing industry, followed by the Canadian versions and contributions to what is commonly called twentieth century popular music.

Many students have written on Canadian music for their fourth year honours essay, with topics such as regimental marches, the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra, the Montreal Women’s Symphony, and compositions by Leo Smith, Hector Gratton, and Bruce Mather. By June 2003, there were thirty MA graduates from the School of Canadian Studies with a concentration in Canadian music, and a doctoral student had begun his dissertation. The range of topics chosen for theses and research essays reflected the areas of Canadian music studies incorporated at Carleton as well as directions in the ‘new musicology.’ Studies of women in Canadian music were pursued by Glen Carruthers (1981), Cheryl Gillard (1988), and by Sarah Ripley (2003) in a study of the Saskatchewan composer Marjorie Kisbey Hicks (1905-1986). David Parsons wrestled with what Richard Middleton recently called ‘the Holy Grail of postmodernist polemic, cultural difference’ in 1987, and Canadian content and identity in educational materials have been the subject of studies by Nancy Klein (1984), Eleanor Newman (1988), and Liliane Lalonde-McKennirey (2003). Others have documented the musical activities of particular places (Elisabeth Crysler 1981, Ann Schau 1983) or organizations (Debra Begg 1980, Valerie Verity King 1983, John P.L. Roberts 1987). Norma McSween traced the history of the guitar in Canada (1990), Emily-Jane Orford looked at iconographical evidence of music-making and instruments in Canadian art (1996) and Mickey Vallee examined the piano-making industry (2002). Aspects of Amerindian music have been explored by Susan Baskin (1980), M.S. Cronk (1981), Paula Conlon (1983), Connie Heimbecker (1984), Robin Grabell (1990), Mike Patterson (1996), and Cindy Allen (1998). Fiddling traditions of Lanark County and two outports of Newfoundland were examined by David Ennis (1986) and Evelyn Osborne (2003) respectively. Chinese-Canadian folksongs, Jewish songs in Saskatchewan, and Hungarian-Canadian songs are the topics of theses by Mai Yu Chan (1982), Anna Feldman (1983), and George Demmer (1988) respectively. Two studies have pursued contemporary popular music areas, Wayne Eagles (1995) and Sarah Moore (2002). Taken as a whole, it is evident that Carleton students have taken on a respectable cross-section of musical activity in Canada for their scholarly investigations.

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