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522 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 as well as graceful performances and in part because they gain resonance from one another. (DAVID MINTER) Robin Elliott. Counterpoint to a City: The First One Hundred Years ofthe Women's Musical Club ofToronto ECW Press. 249ยท $22.95 Women have always had their own means of individual and group learning, whether or not they were admitted to more formal modes of education. But the social phenomenon we now call the 'clubwoman movement' meant an enormous shift in the cultural and educational lives of middle-class North American women in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The many study clubs which mushroomed in the United States in the post-bellum period also inspired Canadian women to undertake their own forms of 'mutual instruction.' North American newspapers soon featured jokes about burning ideals and burned dinners, and the club members were often mocked for their ambitious and eclectic curricula. Still, the practice took hold, although the tum of the century marked several developments and divergences from the original study club modeL In English Canada, where club members had typically combined the classics with civic improvement work, somenew organizations (such as the Women's Institutes) minimized the cultural mandate. Dedicated cultural clubs often developed a more restricted focus: Shakespeare, travel literature, or musical study, for example. A number of organizations moved out of the parlours and into the public sphere, acquiring clubhouses and endeavouring to bring 'culture' to the people with performances, public lectures, travelling exhibitions, and resources for schools. In this latter category, three organizations were fonnded in Toronto alone: the Women's Musical Club, the Women's Art Association, and the Heliconian Club. All remain in existence today. Despite the importance of this phenomenon - for cultural history, women's history, and the history of education -little attention has been given to such groups in Canada to date, although some clubs have compiled their own histories. By contrast, the last decade has witnessed a number of analyses of the study club movement in the United States. Recent works by Karen J. Blair, Anne Ruggles Gere, and Theodora Penny Martin are some of the more synoptic accounts. These authors are as interested in the groups' consciousness raising and proto-feminist function as in their cultural contributions. An associate editor for the second edition of the authoritative Encyclopedia ofMusic in Canada, Robin Elliott brings both a strong historical sense and a musical training to the task for which he was commissioned by the Women's Musical Club in anticipation of its 1999 centenary. Originally HUMANITIES 523 intended to provide study and performance opportunities for its members, the club soon began decades of more public cultural organization, arranging concerts for both Canadian and foreign musicians, and encouraging the careers of promising individuals and musical education more generally. The fact that almost nine hundred such performances have been arranged to date indicates the group's formative role in Toronto musical culture. 'To trace the history of the Women's Musical Club ... over the course of its one hundred years of activity is to reflect on the growth and development of Toronto as a musical centre, and also on the changing status of women, especially within the world of music/ Elliott writes in the opening pages. He has taken especial pains to reconstruct the earlier and more 'private' years of the club, as well as the identities of women whose given names were usually replaced by those of their husbands. Both the club archives and the newspapers and magazines of the day were consulted to reconstruct the concert programs and, as fully as is possible at this distance in time, the details of performance and of audience and critical reaction. More than a club history, this book provides valuable documentation of the evolution of musical tastes throughout the twentieth century. Perhaps because the author's orientation is as a historian of music, Counterpoint to a City is more satisfactory as a record of musical engagements than as a story of a women's organization and of its dynamics and decision-making processes. This does not, however, compromise the careful and immensely detailed reconstruction of the club's contributions to Canadian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 522-523
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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