The noted British composer Arthur Benjamin in a different role as conductor, leading an orchestra he was associated with during the years of World War 2, from 1941-1946.
This concert, a rarity that came by way of a program exchange between NBC Radio and The CBC in Canada called Canadian Music In Wartime features the CBC Vancouver symphony in works by two prominent Canadian composers; Robert Fleming and Claude Champagne.
Opening is Suite for Strings by Robert Fleming and concluding with a performance of Evocation by Claude Champagne.
About Arthur Benjamin (via the Boosey & Hawkes website):
Arthur Benjamin was born in Sydney, Australia, on 18 September 1893 and received his earliest education in Brisbane. Even as a boy, he was determined to pursue his musical training in London, and in 1911 he achieved his aim, studying composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and piano with Frederick Cliffe. At the outbreak of war in 1914 Benjamin joined the army, later transferring to the RAF. His wartime service was curtailed when his plane was shot down and he was captured. Demobilised on the return of peace, he travelled home to Australia, where he began to compose in earnest. But he soon found the atmosphere too restrictive, and in 1921 returned to England.
Although his First String Quartet (Pastorale Fantasia) was awarded a Carnegie Prize in 1924, Benjamin’s reputation was established initially through teaching: in 1926 he took up a professorship of piano at the Royal College of Music, where his students included the young Benjamin Britten. Benjamin’s compositions began to make an impact from the early 1930s onwards, particularly with his Violin Concerto (1932) and a comic opera, The Devil Take Her (1931), which enjoyed the championship of Sir Thomas Beecham.
In addition to his popular Overture to an Italian Opera (1938), Benjamin composed a number of light-music pieces, and it was one of these, the Jamaican Rumba, published in 1938, that brought him popular acclaim, making him something of a household name – so much so that the Jamaican government assigned him a free barrel of rum a year for his contribution to making the country known.
About Robert Fleming:
Robert James Berkeley Fleming (November 12, 1921 – November 28, 1976) was a Canadian composer, pianist, organist, choirmaster and teacher.
Robert was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. At a young age his family settled in Saskatoon where he first studied with his mother. Between 1937 and 1939 he studied under Arthur Benjamin, and Herbert Howells in England at the RCM.
When he returned to Saskatoon he taught piano before making his formal debut in 1940 at Darke Hall in Regina and later toured Saskatchewan as a recitalist. While studying piano with Lyell Gustin in 1941-2 he became the assistant organist at the Church of St Alban the Martyr in Saskatoon. In 1941 and 1945 he attended The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), to which in later years he contributed music.
While at RCM he studied under Healey Willan for composition, Norman Wilks for piano, Ettore Mazzoleni for conducting, and John Weatherseed and Frederick Silvester for Organ. Between 1945 and 1946 he taught at Upper Canada College before joining the National Film Board, where he worked in Ottawa and Montreal as a staff composer between 1946 and 1958 before becoming music director between 1958 and 1970.
Between those years he was music director for the Ottawa Ballet Festival in 1953 and organist-choirmaster at Glebe United Church in 1954 and at St George’s Anglican Church in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec.
In 1970 he and his family moved back to Ottawa, where he taught 20th-century music and Canadian composers at Carleton University. In 1972 he became the organist-choirmaster at St Matthias’ Anglican Church in Ottawa (Westboro). He died November 28, 1976, and is survived by his wife Margaret Fleming, his children Berkeley, Michael, Richard and Margot, and nine grandchildren.
And about Claude Champagne:
Claude Champagne (27 May 1891 – 21 December 1965) was a Canadian composer, teacher, pianist, and violinist. He played an instrumental role in establishing the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec in 1942. In 1943 he was appointed the first assistant director of the Montreal Conservatoire. In the 1950s, with Boris Berlin, he published a series of sight reading exercise books for students. In 1950 his post-romantic work Concerto was recorded by BMI Canada, and in about 1955 his First String Quartet was performed by the Montreal String Quartet, and recorded by the CBC Transcription Service.
He was attached to the Montreal Catholic School Commission as co-ordinator of solfége in elementary schools, and he was at the same time professor at the McGill Conservatory. After that, he taught many Canadian composers including Jean Vallerand and François Morel.
Enjoy this broadcast performance from October 1944.