Collection 013 - Montreal Mendelssohn Choir Collection

Summer is Nigh : Part-Song To All You Ladies Now on Land : Choral Song The Curfew Bell : A Four-Part Song Far Out of Sight Jack and Jill : A Four-Part-Song Break, Break, Break on Thy Cold Grey Stones, O Sea : A Four-Part Song Out on the Waters : Part-Song for Mixed Voices

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Montreal Mendelssohn Choir Collection

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  • approximately 1850 to 1894 (Creation)
    Montreal Mendelssohn Choir
    Montréal (Québec)

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50 cm of music scores bound into 11 volumes

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Administrative history

The Montreal Mendelssohn Choir was one of the longest-running musical institutions in Montreal in the nineteenth century. Formed in 1864 by eight choristers from Montreal’s Presbyterian community and directed by Joseph Gould (1833-1913), the Choir grew to include sixty-five members by 1880 and over one hundred in the early 1890s. It served as a musical club for the city’s prosperous English merchant and business classes, with an artistic mission that emphasized good singing of unaccompanied part-song repertoire. The Choir disbanded in 1894 and subsequently donated to McGill University the contents of its musical library in addition to 250 volumes of musical literature.

Custodial history

The first eight volumes were donated by the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir in 1895 to McGill University. Along with another 250 volumes of musical literature donated by the Choir to the University between 1895 and 1898, these materials formed the nucleus of a musical collection held at Redpath Library. In 1926 and 1927, the estate of D. Torrance Fraser donated another four volumes of sheet music from the Choir’s library. The volumes of sheet music from the Choir’s library were assigned Cutter classification. The volumes were likely transferred to the Music Library when it became an official branch library in 1965. In the 1980s, Kelly Rice, a music student, discovered the volumes in the Cutter section of the main stacks while working as a student shelver at the Music Library. Rice devoted his master’s thesis (1991) to the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir, reuniting the volumes donated by the Choir in 1895 with those donated by Fraser’s estate in the 1920s, and thereby created the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir Collection. Rice’s thesis contains a detailed inventory of the seven extant volumes donated by the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir (volume 6 was missing by this time), as well as the fourth volume (DTF2) donated by Fraser’s estate in 1927. The collection was subsequently moved to the storage section in the Music Library and eventually into the Rare Book room. In 2008, three of the volumes donated by the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir were catalogued (two completely, one partially) and integrated into the Music Library’s Rare Book collection. Eleven pieces from the volumes were digitized in 2012. In 2019, a decision was made to reunite all the volumes back into the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir Collection. The inventory published in Rice’s 1991 thesis has been used as the source for the item records in the present archival catalogue.

Scope and content

The Montreal Mendelssohn Choir Collection comprises several volumes of sheet music from the Choir’s library. The choral folios were compiled and bound into eight volumes at the time of their donation to McGill University in 1895. The estate of D. Torrance Fraser, a former Choir member, donated another four volumes of choral music in 1926 and 1927. Three volumes contain second copies of the pieces from the Choir’s library donated thirty years prior; the fourth volume donated in 1927 contains a number of pieces performed by the Choir but not found in the seven extant volumes from the Choir’s library.

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The collection is arranged according to the organization presented in Kelly Rice's master's thesis, which is an important source of information for the materials within the collection.

Rice, Kelly S. Joseph Gould and the Montreal Mendelssohn Choir. Master's thesis, McGill University, 1991. http://digitool.Library.McGill.CA:80/R/-?func=dbin-jump-full&object_id=61098&silo_library=GEN01

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This finding aid comprises item-level description, which also includes links to catalogue records and digitized scores.

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The Joseph Gould Collection, held at Library and Archives Canada, includes a bound volume of choral music with almost identical content to that in the volume donated in 1927 to McGill University (DTF2). The Joseph Gould Collection materials were donated to the National Library of Canada in 1976 by Mrs. Kevan Clarke, granddaughter of Joseph Gould.

The Marvin Duchow Music Library holds several scores previously owned by Joseph Gould and donated to the Library by his son, Charles Gould (1855-1919), a McGill University Librarian, and his daughter, Mary Clinton Gould (1857-1940). Several of the volumes of musical literature donated by the Choir between 1895 and 1898 are also found in the Music Library's Rare Book collection.

A recording of a selection of pieces from the collection was made in 2012 by VivaVoce (directed by Peter Schubert) on the ATMA label, with liner notes written by Kelly Rice. Description also available in the McGill Library catalogue

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