Miss Florence Taylor, piano , and Miss Hilda Boulton, violin, performed at the first WMCT concert Jan. 23, 1899. Leontyne Price entertained in 1957. And big hair and bare footed, Measha Bruggergosman, soprano, sang Jules Massenet’s Aria: Rêve infini! Divine extase (from “La Vierge”) at Walter Hall on Nov. 25, 2004.
All information available in the History section of the WMCT website. History of Concerts and Performers, began life as a book, moved into the digital age and now is available on the WMCT website as an indexed and searchable web-based file. Created by Hanna and Fred Feuerriegel it lists performers, repertoires and concerts – right up to the 115th grand concert in Koerner Hall last May 2. There’s an Index of Performers so you can find who played when, but there’s also an Index of Performed Works where Johann Sebastian Bach pretty much has two whole pages all to himself.
Want to know when Marian Anderson performed? That was 1937, the 39th season, when concerts were held in Eaton Auditorium (corner of Yonge and College). How about Sir Ernest MacMillan? That was 1930 when he joined Healey Willan and the Conservatory String Quartette and Willan’s Sonata No. 1 in E minor for violin and piano was on the programme.
The files are rich with names and music underlining once again the WMCT’s commitment to presenting Canadian and International talent to Toronto audiences.
The first book, History of Concerts was started in 1997 when planning began for the club’s 100th anniversary. U of T professor Robin Elliott was commissioned to write a history of the club. But it was also decided that the chronicle of performance dates and concerts should be recorded. Hanna Feuerriegel and two committee members Grace Kopec and Isabel Jackson took on the monumental task of gathering together 100 years of dates, concerts and performers. The Toronto reference library where the Club’s archives are stored was a starting point, but the search took them beyond that into archives at the University of Toronto, City of Toronto, and the Provincial Government and further.
“Isabel was a driving force,” explains Hanna. “She had a daughter in Ottawa so she’d visit her and visit the National Archives too. By 1997 we had enough material accumulated, consisting of concert dates and performers, to enter data into the computer for the first book.”
Hanna’s husband Fred had spent most of his professional life working with computers, so he had the background to put it all together. Using a word processing program, he entered all the information. At the end, copies were duplicated and bound at Kinko’s and the first book Concerts and Performers consisting of concert dates and performers appeared in September 1997. In time for the 100th Anniversary.
With just a touch of irony in his voice, Fred explains what happened next.
“We looked at it and said but that’s only half of the information, we’re missing the programmes.”
Back to the archives and libraries they went and this is where microfilm enters the story. The club archives had given them yearly summaries of concerts so they knew concert dates. From there it was just a long step cranking through microfilm, at the Toronto Reference Library. Programs were found in newspaper articles, critics remarks and social notes. “In many cases the hats were as important as the music,” quips Fred.
The founding of the club and very first concert was carried in The Mail and Empire Jan. 27 1899 column called “On Dit”. “Yesterday morning, by the courtesy of Miss Smart, a number of ladies met in her studio, in Yonge street arcade and organized the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto.” The article continues listing the names of the first executive and describes the concert. “The dainty musicale concluded with two well executed violin solos…”
The beginings were also noted in The Globe’s column “Chit Chat”.
“A very interesting little meeting of ladies was called….” it begins.
“The fee for active and associate members was fixed at $1, no charge for professionals.” The Globe Jan 20 1899.
Once again Fred was back at the computer inputting data. He had to establish a standard way of describing music and received help from the Faculty of Music. Luckily the word processing program used originally to enter the info also created indexes. Copy and paste was available. “But it was a huge job adding the concerts to the first book,” he says. Right! It took more than five years; there were 10,000 indexed entries.
Meanwhile Hanna was enjoying the research. “People were very accommodating, “ she says, “files came up from people’s basements.” It seems her background led Hanna into the project. She studied piano for 13 years and worked in the music department of Scarborough’s Music and Film Regional Library. She’s had a long history with the WMCT, joining in the 1970‘s. Hanna served on the executive committee for nine years, including a four-year term as concert convenor and was president from 1985-87. She was an integral part of the Artists Selection Committee until retiring last year and with her extensive linguistic and music knowledge continues to be a essential programme proof reader.
The research and data all came together with the publishing of History of Concerts and Performers. The third edition was published in December 2003. All the information made its way onto the WMCT website in 2012 and is updated at the end of each season.
The transition from print to digital was accomplished with ease as material was in digital format, and entries had been indexed. And Fred’s computer skills were no doubt in play. In his career at Imperial Oil, he starting working in computers in the 1960’s when punch cards helped produce reports. Later he moved into needs analysis and designing system architecture.
The most interesting concert of all?
For Hanna there’s no doubt, it was the Ten-Piano Ensemble conducted by Mona Bates on Dec. 4, 1941 when $1,500 was raised for the Red Cross British Bomb Victims’ Fund. There were 12 performers, four men and eight woman and Massey Hall was full.
Even beyond Canada the files have been used for research. A few years ago Hanna received an email from Germany. Frank Rauchenecker, the grandson of composer Georg Wilhelm Rauchenecker was writing a book about his grandfather and looking for material.
“Thanks to your InterNet issue of “History of Concerts and Performers of the WMCT” I could learn that the “Toronto String Quartette” performed a string quartet of an ancestor of mine , Georg Wilhelm Rauchenecker, on Feb 27th, 1908.”
Hanna was also able to meet his request for a copy of the programme from that concert one hundred and one years ago.