Fonds RG 10-2 - Music Department fonds

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Music Department fonds

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ON00421 RG 10-2

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0.5 m. of textual records
102 photographs, b&w, col. prints

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Administrative history

The exact date of the creation of the Canadian National Exhibition’s Music Department is unknown. The Manager of the Music Department was listed among the executive staff in the CNEA Annual Report beginning in 1958. At the same time, the 1953 CNEA Annual Report mentions the passing of Captain J.S. Atkinson, “manager of the Music Department since its inception”, having served for “many years”.

However, music has played an important role in the Canadian National Exhibition since its founding in 1879. In the early years, the CNE featured popular military bands that played from the Exhibition Bandstand. The Bandstand was replaced by the Bandshell in 1936 and the tradition continued.

Music competitions during the CNE began in 1921 with the introduction of Music Day, a day showcasing the growth of musical talent in Canada. The coordination of Music Day and the music competitions, in conjunction with such organizations as the Canadian Bureau for the Advancement of Music, appear to be the main responsibilities of the Music Department in the early 20th century.

Before approximately 1941, activities and performances at the Grandstand, Dance Pavilion, and other band performances fell under the administration of the Department of Attractions, rather than the Music Department.

After the end of the Second World War, the responsibilities of the Music Department expanded to include not just music competitions but competitions involving troubadour groups, dancers, and old time fiddlers. However, the performances at the Grandstand still appeared to be separate from the activities of the Music Department.

In 1946, the Grandstand was destroyed by a fire. A new Grandstand was built from 1947-1948 and opened before the 1948 CNE. This marked a change in the types of performance put on at the Grandstand. The 1948 CNEA Annual Report states, “The year 1948 witnessed a complete departure from its predecessors in the matter of the evening performances on the grandstand stage…The so-called pageant, which had been a fixture for many years, was abandoned for a more modern type of performance…” The shows, under the direction of producer Leon Leonidoff, featured more variety-type acts lead by headliners such as Olsen and Johnson rather than the single-themed, pageant productions of the past.

This transition continued into the 1950s, when the hiring of Jack Arthur as the Executive Producer of the 1952 Grandstand Show ushered in a new era of big-name and Canadian-focused talent onto the stage. Jack Arthur remained as the Executive Producer until 1967, with the help of Howard Cable as his Music Director during the same period. The Arthur and Cable shows featured such names as Tony Martin, Alan and Blanche Lund, Victor Borge, Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, and the Canadettes – a chorus line of show-girls trained by Jack Arthur’s wife, Midge.

At the same time, the Music Department continued to produce music and dance competitions and host recitals, under the direction of the new Manager of the Music Department, Richard Edmunds (1954-1967). These activities were carried out with the participation of organizations such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Bandmasters Association, and the Canadian Bureau for the Advancement of Music.

The late 1960s marked another transition for the Music Department and the Grandstand shows. In 1968, Cliff Hunt (Lt. Col. Clifford O. Hunt) became the new Manager of the Music Department, assisted by Catherine (Cathy) Gillies, Secretary to the Manager of the Music Department. Under Lt. Col. Hunt, the two facets of music at the CNE – competitions and Grandstand show – merged. The Grandstand of the 1960s and 1970s featured multiple shows with different headliners each night, including Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, The Jackson Five, Sonny & Cher, The Guess Who, Paul Anka, The Beach Boys, and Dolly Parton.

During the 1970s, the Music Department’s responsibilities expanded even further to include smaller musical acts such as cultural and international groups, the Scottish World Festival Tattoo, variety shows, tribute bands, the opening & closing ceremonies, and park entertainers.

In 1981, as a result of the restructuring of the CNE that followed upon the recommendations of a 1979 Management Review, the Music Department was replaced by the Entertainment Department. The Entertainment Department continued to carry out most of the same functions, headed by Lt. Col. Hunt as the Entertainment Manager with Cathy Gillies as the Entertainment Coordinator. For further information, please see RG10, Entertainment Department fonds.

Custodial history

The records in the Music Department fonds were created and collected by Jack Arthur and the CNE’s Music Department from 1952 to 1982. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Music Department’s inactive records were transferred to the Exhibition Place Record Centre for storage. It is unclear how or when the earlier records came to the Records Centre. In February 2006, the later inactive records were reviewed and some records destroyed as per the Exhibition Place records retention bylaw. In June-July 2018, all of the inactive records underwent a second review. Additional files were culled as per the Exhibition Place records retention bylaw and duplicate and transitory records were removed. The remaining records were appraised for their archival value, and arranged and described, following their original order as closely as possible, with some minor rearrangement and refiling into chronological order. It was decided to describe the Music Department fonds (RG 10-2) as a separate but connected record group to the Entertainment Department fonds (RG 10) because the two departments essentially performed the same functions, but the Music Department fonds was arranged and described later and therefore could not be easily integrated into the Entertainment Department fonds as it precedes it chronologically.

Scope and content

The Music Department fonds, RG 10-2, is arranged and described at the series level, with an accompanying file list. The fonds consists of two series: Jack Arthur files (RG 10-2-1) and Subject Files (RG 10-2-2).

Textual records in the fonds consist of correspondence, reports, schedules, minutes, and publicity material related to the Music Department and Grandstand show staff, musicians, performers and other entertainers, competition contestants, and CNE visitors. Graphic and printed materials include photographs of dancers, performer headshots, and other events coordinated by the Music Department, as well as sheet music from the 1953 Grandstand show.

Few documents exist for the years 1960, 1962, 1973, and 1981. No records exist for the years 1954 to 1956, 1959, and 1963 to 1972.

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  • English

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Restrictions on access

The Board of Governors of Exhibition Place is governed by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1989. Some records in RG 10-2 may contain personal information or other information that, as per the Act, must be treated as confidential. Files containing potentially restricted materials have been noted in the file listings and are identified with an (R). Please consult with the archivist regarding the accessibility and use of these materials.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Researchers are advised that citation of Exhibition Place Archives is required in publications and essays. Please consult with the archivist regarding reproduction requests.

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