Music
Helmut Kallmann

courtesy Library and Archives Canada/nlc009197-v6)

Helmut Kallmann was the chief pioneer of musical historiography and music librarianship in Canada. We were good friends from our student days, sixty-plus years ago.

When I was music editor for the University of Toronto student newspaper, Helmut said I gave him his first writing assignment. His later writings, as author of the still-much-quoted A History of Music In Canada, 1535-1914 (1960) and many seminal and provocative articles, and as senior editor of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (1981, second edition 1992), he influenced many, perhaps most, areas of musical life in this country, in his quiet and precise fashion. He told the University of Toronto student yearbook at the start of his career that his ambition was “to be useful” – a modest aim that in my view he more than realized.

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Encyclopedia of Music in Canada
Encyclopedia of Music in Canada

L’Encyclopédie de la musique au Canada , 1982.

Quand Helmut Kallmann fit paraître A History of Music in Canada 1534-1914 en 1960, aucun ouvrage aussi complet ni aussi minutieusement documenté n’avait jamais été publié sur ce sujet, que ce soit en anglais ou en français. Quand je lui demandai ce qu’il comptait faire pour se surpasser, Helmut Kallmann me répondit que ses réflexions avaient abouti à deux possibilités : soit un dictionnaire qui respecterait l’ordre alphabétique et qui porterait sur la musique et la vie musicale au Canada, soit un ouvrage d’érudition, en plusieurs volumes fort probablement, qui préserverait la musique publiée la plus marquante dans l’histoire du Canada. Cette prédiction ne faisait que jeter un aperçu sur le travail qu’il allait consacrer à ce qui serait bientôt : L’Encyclopédie de la musique au Canada.

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Encyclopedia of Music in Canada 30
Encyclopedia of Music in Canada

The cover of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, first edition, third printing, 1982.

[Editor's Note: the following is an abridged excerpt from Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer by John Beckwith. (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012.)]

When Helmut Kallmann’s A History of Music in Canada 1534-1914 appeared in 1960, nothing half as thorough or as finely documented had ever been produced, either in English or in French, on this topic. When I asked what he planned to do for an encore, he thought his findings suggested two directions – an alphabetically organized dictionary about music and musical life in Canada, or a scholarly edition, probably in several volumes, preserving the most significant published music of the country’s past. This prediction amounted to an outline of his work on the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

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