If you’ve ever wondered who might be the most performed Canadian composer outside the country, wonder no more.
It’s Morley Calvert.
According to McMaster University professor of music emeritus, Keith Kinder, in his book “And Harmony Abound: The Musical Life of Morley Calvert,” recently published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Now if you’re wondering if this is the same Morley Calvert who was born in Brantford, studied and taught at McGill, taught at Barrie Central Collegiate, moved to Hamilton towards the end of his life with his third wife , Florence, conducted the former Hamilton Civic Choral Society Choir, conducted the former Hamilton Symphony, briefly taught harmony and analysis at Mohawk College, was organist and choir director at St. Stephen-on- the-Mount Anglican and attended Dundas Valley School of Art, before passing away at the age of 63 in 1991, you are quite right.
“He wrote some 90 works in his lifetime and drew many more,” Kinder writes in his extensive study of Calvert. “In fact, he is perhaps the most performed Canadian composer outside the country. His extraordinarily popular brass quintet, “Suite from the Monteregian Hills”, is performed hundreds of times each year in the Americas, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. »
But is it possible to accurately validate the figures above?
“I don’t know how one would collect these statistics,” Kinder admitted to The Spectator, adding that he arrived at his conjecture through what he says were his “own completely unscientific investigations,” including research into Internet for “Montérégian” performances and a survey of brass playing delegates attending his presentation at the 2009 World Association of Symphony Orchestras and Ensembles in Cincinnati.
In case you were wondering, the Canadian Music Centre, which has over 1,000 composers and over 20,000 works in its catalog, does not track performances outside of Canada unless it is is rental works for 10 or more performers, and has no sales information from other Canadian publishers. SOCAN did not respond to The Spectator’s question about this.
“I doubt that any other Canadian composition is so widely known or so often performed,” Kinder said of “Monteregian.”
Kinder first got a taste of Calvert while playing “Montérégien” as a trombonist in a student brass band during his undergraduate years in the late 1960s at the University of Western Ontario. Later he performed and/or conducted a number of other compositions by Calvert, including ‘Romantic Variations’ and the ‘Suite on Canadian Folk Songs’ for wind band.
Kinder tentatively began work on the project shortly after meeting Calvert’s son Eric in 2004. After a long delay due to Kinder’s other book projects, the manuscript was submitted to the publisher in 2016 , then went through peer review followed by a two-year rewrite.
Kinder’s 331-page tome traces Calvert’s life from cradle to grave, explores his career as a much-loved music teacher and conductor, offers analyzes of his compositions often with notated excerpts, and includes pages of footnotes, many of which are mini treasure troves of information, as well as a catalog of works.
The book makes it abundantly clear that Calvert was no one-hit wonder whose international fame rested solely on a 1962 brass quintet firmly entrenched in the repertoire. Many other works like ‘My All Is on the Altar’ (1951) and ‘For Our Transgressions’ (1955) for Salvation Army bands as well as ‘Introduction, Elegy and Caprice’ (1978) also continue to carry The Calvert name beyond the borders of Canada.
In his defense of Calvert, Kinder was also instrumental in the posthumous publication of some of his compositions by David Marlatt’s Eighth Note publications, as well as the establishment of the Morley Calvert Fund at McMaster University, a collection of published scores and autographs accessible to the public.
Library and Archives Canada also holds a large collection of works by Calvert and a small fonds. Various performances of Calvert’s works have been uploaded to YouTube, and free live audio streams can be accessed at cmccanada.org.
“I was surprised to learn how much choral music Calvert composed,” Kinder said. “I was also amazed at how involved he was in the communities he lived in outside of his main job. I finished the project with an increased respect for him and a greater appreciation for the music.