Torch - Spring 2017


The History of Music at Havergal By Trilby Kent, Class of 2001

Carol Service marking Havergal’s 90th anniversary at Roy Thomson Hall, 1984.

A sk any Old Girl about her memories of school and—more likely than not—music will figure in her reply. From mastering the melodically unorthodox Vitai Lampada Tradens in Prayers, to learning the jaunty Forty Years On for Candlelight, Havergal students mark their days (and years) to music. The school’s earliest musical highlights involved excursions to Massey Hall, where students heard Paderewski and Rachmaninoff play, and visits from such eminent performers as Ruby Gordon and the contralto Clara Butt. Old Girls would later recall impressive harpsichord recitals during the war years by Greta Kraus, a refugee from Vienna who came to teach at Havergal in 1941. And in 1950, a production of Iolanthe marked the first time a theatrical event was enhanced by the musical contributions of “excellent male talent” from brother schools. However, it was in the 1970s that music at Havergal truly came of age. When Elisabeth Muir arrived at the school in 1968, there was just one choir and a piano group. As impressive as the piano department was, Muir was determined to develop equally strong Choral and Orchestral programs. A new choir was established and the first choir trip took place in 1971.

“I organized seven choir tours to Britain, singing in such majestic places as Westminster Abbey and York Minster,” she recalls. “But, I was especially proud to resume connections with our sister school, Cheltenham Ladies’ College (CLC)—Havergal’s founding fathers had poached Ellen Knox from CLC to be the school’s first Principal in 1894. In total contrast, we gave concerts in remote Astley, the hometown of Frances Ridley Havergal.” Muir’s greatest pride was establishing Havergal’s annual Carol Service. This event, which usually took place at Havergal, was staged at Roy Thomson Hall in December 1984 to mark the school’s 90th anniversary; an event that was repeated in December 1993 for the centennial celebrations. At the turn of the new millennium, owing to a dramatic swelling in attendance, Carol Service was relocated from the Brenda Robson Hall to St. Paul’s Bloor Street church. In 2016, the event was live-streamed for the first time, making it possible for Old Girls around the world to share in this perennially popular tradition. “The response was excellent,” says Lynn Janes, Havergal’s current and retiring Head of Music. “So many Old Girls could watch from their dorm rooms as many were still writing and preparing

SPRING 2017 • TORCH 25

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