Tag Archives: Choir

Is there a Stradivari in St. John’s?

Archival Moment

MARCH 19, 1892

ViolinThere was much discussion in the music community in St. John’s on March 19, 1892, conversation driven by a news item in the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, about the possibility of an authentic Cremona violin, dated 1681 in the city.  This was no ordinary violin this was reputed to have been created by the master genius of violin-makers, the maestro of Cremona, Antonius Stradivari.

Antonio Stradivari (1644 -1737) set up his shop in Cremona, Italy, where he painstakingly handmade made violins and other stringed instruments. He took a basic concept for the violin and refined its geometry and design to produce an instrument which is now the standard. Stradivari’s violins have been judged by history to be the best.

The owner of the alleged ‘strad’ in St. John’s was “Mr. P. Roche, a storekeeper of this city”. Roche was according to the St. John’s Business Directory for 1890; a storekeeper working for the business; J and W Pitts located on at 24 South West (Water) Street. He had done some preliminary work on investigating the provenance of his violin. The Telegram reported:

“The word (the name of the maker) and the figures (year)  are inscribed on the inside of the back (of the violin) and may be seen by looking through the scroll worked holes in the front of the instrument.”

The article went on to read:

“There are five known famous violins by a celebrated maker from that city, (Cremona) each of them worth hundreds of guineas. One has been in New York, one in Munich, and one in London; three are still missing.  There are very many less famous Cremona violin, whether Mr. Roche’s belongs to the most celebrated class, he is taking steps to find out. It was purchased many years ago by his brother in Halifax.”

What happened to the violin?  We really do not know – perhaps it remains with the descendants of Mr. Roche who may not be aware of the fine instrument that they have!!

Today, a conservative estimate on the value of the violin, if it were authentic, would range from $1 to $5 million.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 591 Kiwanis Music Festival programmes, 1951-1976; Music Festival Association of Newfoundland booklets re: regulations, schedule etc., 1966-1976.

Recommended Reading: Antonio Stradivari, His Life and Work (1644-1737) W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill & Alfred E. Hill  Originally Published in 1902

Support the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra:  Read More:  http://www.nso-music.com/

The sound of an Irish organist

Archival Moment

March 24, 1878

porganOn March 24, 1878, Thomas Mullock, brother of Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s, Newfoundland died at Clonmel, Ireland. Thomas’s claim to fame was that he was the first organist at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.

Thomas an accomplished organist in Limerick, Ireland came to St. John’s at the invitation of his brother (the bishop). He stayed in St. John’s and remained as organist for about fifteen years. The organ that he played was constructed by Messrs. Robsons of London, England.

For much of his life, Thomas remained in the shadow of his brother. He lived quietly supplementing his income by teaching music and raising his young family. In December 1854 he was devastated when his only child Charlotte Mary died at the age of 2 years, 10 months.

Upon returning to Ireland he was employed as the organist at St. Mary’s, Irish Town, Main Street, Clonmell. He knew the town well as he was married to Charlotte Frances O’Brien daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Clonmel.

Due to deterioration this “Grand Organ” in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. John’s, it was dismantled in 1938 under the direction of (Sir) Charles Hutton and was replaced by a Hammond electronic organ.

This, in turn, was replaced in 1954-55 by the organ that is presently used in the Cathedral Basilica. The new organ has 66 stops and a total of 4050 pipes.

The installation actually comprises two organs; the main organ of 51 stops located in the organ gallery, and the sanctuary organ of 15 stops arranged behind the main altar. Each organ may be played from the main organ gallery either separately, or, if desired, simultaneously with the main organ. The organ was built and installed by Casavant Freres Limited of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec.

The sound of an organ was first heard in North America, in a Québec church in 1660-61. Records show that 2 organs were in use in Québec Cathedral by 1663-64.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Take some time to explore MG 590 at The Rooms Provincial Archives; MG590 is the Charles Hutton and Sons fonds. It consists of textual records relating to the business interests of Charles Hutton & Sons in St. John’s 1930-1938.  The collection consists of correspondence between the company and patrons in Newfoundland and Canada, requesting songs, musical instruments and other enquiries.

Recommended Reading: An introduction to the Pipe Organs in Newfoundland and Labrador by Dr. David Peter’s, 2012 (unpublished)



July 14, 2012

Newman Sound, Best Male Chamber in the World

Newman Sound Men’s Choir of St. John’s, NL have been named the best male chamber choir in the world.  The choir was awarded the title at the World Choir Games held in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The World Choir Games (formerly named the Choir Olympics) is the largest choir competition in the world.Organized for amateur choirs from all over the world, regardless of their country of origin, race, genre of music or artistic ambitions, its motto is “Singing together brings nations together”.  The idea of the World Choir Games originated from the effort to bring people together through singing in peaceful competition, showing that unity of nations through the arts can be effectively and illustratively demonstrated and challenged. The Games aim to inspire people to “experience the strength of interaction, challenging personality and community equally by singing together”.

The Newfoundland choir formed in 2005 is now under the direction the Artistic Directors Kellie Walsh, David Chafe and Associate Director Jennifer Hart.

The men’s chamber choir category is considered one of the most prestigious and technically challenging of all in the completion. Newman Sound competed against five other choirs with established international reputations including the Peking University Male Chamber Choir China, Prime Note Ensemble USA USA , Gema Sangkakala Male ChoirIndonesia,Vox Viri, Philippines  and the  Shanghai Yangjing High School Men’s Choir, China

The World Choir Games, July 4 -14 featured 15,000 participants from more than 60 countries.

Listen to Newman Sound:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1LonOdwOXw&feature=related

Recommended Web Site: http://www.newmansound.ca/ (Official website of Newman Sound)

Recommended Web Site: History of Music inNewfoundland:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/music.html