Malvern Band on parade in 1974
Malvern Band on parade in 1974

Musings Spring 2016

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Music at Malvern

President’s Message

by Vandra Masemann

We open this issue with a special Happy Birthday greeting to two retired Malvern teachers who both have 90th birthdays in May: George McRae and Gordon Jocelyn. On behalf all Malvern alumni, we send birthday greetings to both of them who are remembered as great teachers and who are still respected and admired by so many former students.

We are also using this issue of the Musings to focus on Music at Malvern and to ask for your help in restoring and renewing the Malvern Band uniforms. Dianne Chadwick, who is on our MRBS Executive,  interviewed George McRae’s son Craig and also visited with George last fall at his house in Picton. Our Archives Committee researched the history of music at Malvern starting from the 1920s. Bill Mighton also  provided extra details. We also asked Mike Falla, the current instrumental music teacher, and Laura Norris, the teacher of vocal music, to give us an account of the present state of music at Malvern. So we cover nearly 100 years of music in this issue.

We need to turn our thoughts to the Sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian confederation in 2017. When Malvern was founded, Canada was only 36 years old. So we have been part of Canadian history for more than two thirds of its existence.  Please send us your thoughts and ideas for articles or ways for Malvern to celebrate.

We have two requests for you today. First, we earnestly solicit your donations to keep the Malvern Band well turned out and a credit to the school and its traditions. Please send cheques made out to the Onward Malvern Foundation with Band Uniforms on the memo line and send to the MRBS c/o Malvern C.I., 55 Malvern Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4E 3E4.

Our other request is an urgent one: for more volunteers to help keep the MRBS and the Onward Malvern Foundation functioning. We are running out of Malvernites to handle the many tasks which we have been doing. Please consider volunteering only a few hours a month and contact us at Volunteering to be a member of the OMF Board or standing for MRBS executive office at our November Annual General Meeting are among the possibilities. Only with your help will these organisations be able to continue. All Malvernites will thank you.

George McRae’s 90th Birthday

by Dianne Chadwick

Interview with Craig McRae, former music director George McRae’s son, and recollections of comments from George when my sister Julie and I visited him in his home in October 2015

According to Craig, George was born 18 May 1926 in Toronto in the Yonge and Lawrence area.  An only child, his parents were both from Toronto and his father’s father was from Scotland. I asked George last fall how had he first become involved in music and when had he learned to play piano.  George began piano lessons when he was three years of age. His Aunt Kathleen Collins, who was a teacher with the Royal Conservatory of Music, taught him.   George attended Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute. The music teacher was Harvey Perrin, and George learned to play trombone.  George’s mother was a strong believer in music education and assisted Harvey Perrin in every way she could to advance music programmes in the school system.

In 1944 at age 18, George joined the army to serve in World War II.  He toured Europe with the Canadian Army Show playing trombone, writing and conducting music.  He went to England on the Queen Elizabeth after it was refurbished for troop transport for Canadian soldiers.  He has three medals from World War II: the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, the 39-45 Star and the Canadian Forces Decoration. He toured England, Holland and Germany with the Canadian Army Show with a cast of 30.

After the war, George went to the University of Toronto to study math and science. He studied music at the Royal Conservatory of Music. After graduating from the Ontario College of Education, he was hired by the Toronto Board of Education and assigned to Malvern Collegiate in 1949.  He started the Marching Band in 1949.

As a music educator, he taught music at Malvern for 37 years and was head of the music department from 1958-1985. Under his direction the Malvern Band was well known in the city. Some of the band’s special performances would include Malvern football games, the city final games of football and soccer, the Toronto Santa Claus parade, the Beaches Easter parade, the Daffodil parade, countless functions at Nathan Phillips Square, Grey Cup games and Remembrance Day services. The Malvern Band also played at the opening of the Education Centre, the Toronto City Hall, and Roy Thomson Hall. They also led the Blue Jays on their first appearance up Bay Street in Toronto.

Other special occasions would include performances for the Empire Club, Prime Minister Trudeau, The Governor General, and her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As well, he taught the summer music courses for teachers at the Department of Education. He also taught the trombone privately to many students.

In his career as a trombonist, he performed many kinds of music. These would include shows, symphonies, dance bands, jazz, ethnic and military bands, radio and studio jingles, TV and movies. He also worked as an adjudicator with the Toronto and York Boards of Education, and in various band festivals.

He was also active in the Canadian Army Militia and performed with many military bands.  He retired from the Army in 1977 with the rank of Captain. Captain McRae (retired), joined the 8 Wing Command Concert Band Trenton in 1990 and continued playing trombone, acting as Assistant Conductor and Announcer of Band on the Canadian Forces Base, Trenton until September of 2013.

He has worked with the Toronto Santa Claus Parade and as Band Co-ordinator of the parade for 60 years. After George retired, his daughter Pam, son Craig, daughter-in-law Megan, and grandson Bradley took over for him, continuing his enormous task to this day.

After years of countless events and performances, his most cherished memories are of the hundreds of students who acquired a love of music under his direction.

George met Penny, his wife of 53 years, at Malvern.  She played clarinet as one of his students.  They were married in 1963 a few years after Penny graduated. They have two children, Pam and Craig, and grandchildren, who live in North York and Picton.

Dianne’s experience of music at Malvern and beyond…

George always went above and beyond encouraging his students in music both at and beyond Malvern. He helped some of them buy their own instruments and find private lessons. I personally played flute in the Junior and Senior bands and played keyboard for the Dance Band for two years.  In grade 13, I bought my own instrument through George at a great discount, and he helped me find private lessons. I also took two years of music at Queen’s University, which had a music program for non-music majors, and I taught flute to a local high school student.  Several of George’s students also went to Europe in the summer with the Ontario Youth Concert Band with George’s colleague George Hauslander.  We went to England, Germany, and Lichtenstein.  Families hosted us, so the cost was mostly the airfare.  I was fluent in German having been involved in an exchange during high school and was asked to be the announcer.  Both my brothers and my younger sister Julie played in the Malvern band, and Julie was the singer for the Dance Band.  She fondly remembers George accompanying her on piano when practising after school. She went on to the University of Western Ontario as a music major, performed in university productions including Grease and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and at Canada’s Wonderland during the summer.  She is currently a music teacher in the Durham School Board and sings with a band in Port Perry called Plan B.  Our family’s memories were not unique, but were rather the rule at Malvern. We know many other students who developed a love of music from George.

Julie has kept in touch with George since Malvern and, last fall, offered to bring her two musical daughters to Picton to perform for George and Penny in their home. Our father and I joined them, and Pam, Craig and his sons were there as well.  What an amazing afternoon of music.  After Julie’s girls performed, George sat down on his gorgeous grand piano and started to play.  He had binders full of big band and show tunes for us to choose from. He accompanied my sister magnificently, hardly looking at the sheet music.  It was that day that Craig mentioned that George was turning 90 this spring, and gave us the idea to honour him in the MRBS Spring 2016 newsletter.

Current Music at Malvern

by Mike Falla, Music Director

When I think of the Malvern Music program one word that comes to mind is tradition.  For the last six years, I believe tradition has been up held and will continue to be as long as people that believe that traditions are important for longevity of a program.  Some of the experiences that have continued on are the Marching Band; every year it can be seen in four or more Santa Claus parades including the Toronto Santa Claus Parade and, of course, the Beaches Santa Claus Parade and Beaches Easter Parade.  The senior Concert Band proudly wears the kilt and tunic that was introduced in 1962 by George McRae.  We have replaced and repaired some of them, but there are also a few original ones left.  The bands at Malvern perform many events over the course of the year including school concerts, community events, and festivals.  This year, we achieved two silvers and one gold rating, and we are taking our jazz combo and senior dance band to Ottawa to perform at Musicfest.

We currently have three choirs, seven bands, one drumline, and one string ensemble, which is led by retired teacher Bill Mighton.  Some of groups are directed by student leaders.  Every year the program puts on two concerts.  The winter and spring concert are two nights each and are separated into a junior concert and a senior concert.  At each of these concerts, the classes as well as the extra-curricular ensembles perform. Our 2016 ones are on 4 May, the junior concert and 5 May, the senior concert.  We take a music trip every year.  The past few trips have included New York City, New Orleans/Memphis, Chicago, and Florida/Bahamas.  These trips have broadened the students’ awareness about different styles of music in other parts of the world as well as displayed some of the great talents that we have at Malvern.

Vocal Music at Malvern

by Laura Norris

The vocal music program at Malvern is thriving and continues to bring joy to the students involved and to those who are fortunate to hear the students perform.  There are approximately 130 students that participate in vocal in some capacity: in the three vocal class sections, Jazz Choir, Concert Choir or Girls’ Choir.  This year the vocal students have participated in the Malvern Winter and Spring Concerts, the annual Winter Blues Malvern fundraiser, the Sounds of Toronto Concert at Massey Hall and the music trip to New York City.  As a music teacher, I am constantly challenged with trying to find repertoire that keeps the students interested, as well as exposing them to new music.  I believe that vocal music is a wonderful way to express emotion, work as a team, feel important, and take a needed break from the academic stresses that are so common in the high school environment. I am looking forward to many more years of coaching Malvern students to perform beyond even their own expectations.

Malvern CI:  A Musical History

By Bob Watson (’59) and Volker Masemann (’62), based on resources in the MRBS Archives, with additions from Bill Mighton

M.C.I. has a long history of music-making, both instrumental and choral, dating back to 1923. In the early years, music was not a subject of instruction, nor were instruments provided by the school. Music was made by true”amateurs,” with students providing their own instruments and practising on their own time after school. Teachers helped and conducted because they loved music and loved seeing the students’ progress. The orchestra, consisting of various combinations of woodwinds, brasses and strings, depending on what the students owned, typically performed at functions like Home and School meetings, Commencement, meetings of the Literary Society (incidental music to plays), and Christmas assemblies. It was not until 1945 that a teacher of music was hired and formal instruction as a subject began, under Mr. Roy Wood. The following timeline summarizes our music-making history:

1923               The first orchestra was formed, led by Mr. W. L. Keeling
1923-1928      Mr. W.L.Keeling served as conductor and history teacher; Mr. Mackenzie was also involved
1929-1934      Mr. William Brown served as conductor with weekly practices
1934-1939      There was no regular conducting or playing; The Depression meant              that many students were unable to afford instruments or lessons
1939-46          Mr. Ed Jones served as conductor; he was a math teacher. The school              did not have its own instruments, whereas many other high schools                  are said to own complete ensembles of instruments, as noted in the                              1946 Muse.
1945                Mr. Roy Wood was hired as a teacher of music; he led the choir
1949                The Marching Band was created under Mr. George McRae
1951-1960       The music directors were Messrs Ed Jones, George McRae, and Roy              Wood
1952                The Malvern Choir represented Toronto high schools in a CBC                        cross-Canada broadcast of Christmas carols
1953-58           Mr. Roy Wood was head of music
1958                Mr. George McRae became head of music
1960                The Marching Band received new scarlet tunics with Cunningham                   tartan kilts
1962-1975       Mr. Mati Sulev, former student, returned as music teacher and                         developed a string programme; by 1966, the Band had a sizable                             string component
1964                The Marching Band was first in its class at the annual Kiwanis Music                       Festival
1969-1980s      The Concert Band members took part in Ontario Youth Concert                       Band touring Europe
1971                 The Malvern Band played at the Kingston Women’s Prison
1976                 Mr. Steve Irwin joined Malvern C.I. as music teacher
1988                 Mr. Bill Mighton joined Malvern C.I. as band/vocal music teacher                  and was asked to re-start the vocal music programme
1988                 Formation of the Concert Choir, Jazz Choir and Rhythm Section,                    Senior Brass Ensemble and Junior Dance Band
1989-91           Formation of the Chamber Choir, Junior Brass Ensemble and Jazz                   Combo
1990s               Senior Brass Ensemble, Jazz Trio, and Rhythm Section were formed
2000s               Formation of the Girls’ Choir, String Ensemble
2004                 Re-starting of the marching band, and beginning of the                                    refurbishment of the band uniforms
2004                 Ms Laura Norris joined Malvern C.I. as vocal music teacher
2010                 Mr. Mike Falla joined Malvern C.I. as a band teacher and founded                              the Drum Line

Malvernites Volunteer to Fight in First World War

by David Fuller

MRBS executive member, David Fuller, (Decade Representative 1903-1939) spoke about recruiting drives for the First World War and Malvern volunteers at a meeting of the Beach and East Toronto Historical Society on 10 November 2015. The presentation described the early excitement around finding men to enlist and included stories about a few of the Malvernites who did.

The youngest volunteer was Pte. Arthur Alexander Bourne, who was 17-and-a-half. He was the son of Rev. N.A.F. Bourne, a prominent clergyman in Ontario. Arthur attended Malvern in 1910 and was one of 11 Malvernites born in 1897 who volunteered. He died in 1969 at age 71.

Flt. Sub/Lt. Gordon Ezra Duke, another of the 11, was the youngest to be killed. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 but was killed in a training accident on 10 January 1916, in his first week at a flying school in England. He was only 19.

The oldest volunteer was Capt. Frank Herbert Wood, a Malvern math teacher, who was 35 years old.

Malvernite Berta E. Carveth joined a nursing unit in England at age 24. She was the sister of Walter Carveth, who rose to prominence in Canada for his pioneering camera business.

The last of the volunteers of 1915 to die was Gunner William Hird. He contracted TB at the front and was sent to a soldiers’ sanitarium in Calgary, where he died in 1921. He is named on the Cenotaph in front of the school.

In Memoriam 2015-2016

Ronald Neil Bassett – 8 Sept. 2015
Margaret Ford (Class of 1948) – 5 Nov. 2015
Donald Getty – 26 Feb. 2016
Gail (Krafchic) Hasler – 23 Oct. 2015
Wayne Jasper –1 Oct. 2010
Marlene (Cowley) Ronson – 19 Feb. 2016
Kirk David Ryan (1970s) – 26 Nov. 2015
Reid Scott (1940s) – 2 Mar. 2016
Stewart Snider (Class of 1969) – 9 Jan. 2016

May They Rest in Peace

The Malvern Collegiate Archives 2004-2016

by Vandra Masemann

The Archives started out of the Malvern Reunions that were held for the 50th, 60th and 75th anniversaries of the school. The yearbooks and commencement programs were also collected all along. All of these documents and photographs from these reunions must have been kept in the school library as the librarian, Judy Bergen, did quite a bit of work collecting memorabilia from alumni and organising the material. She also made up a historical display for the opening of the new library in 1987. There is a dedicated room in the school library today where all Malvern Muses may be read, starting in 1924.

At a later point, the material was moved to the elevator shaft on the first floor, where we found about 20 cardboard boxes when we were preparing for the 100th anniversary in 2003. A teacher had formed an Archives Club, and the students had done some preliminary sorting and listing. An extensive collection of memorabilia was donated by alumni at the time of the Centennial Reunion. It was clear that the collection needed a more permanent home.

After several years of moving around, the MRBS Archives Committee was given its present room, which used to be the workroom of the old school library. There are also large photographs and posters stored in the Book Storage Room in the basement. In 2004, the Malvern Red and Black Society was formed to keep Malvernites in touch with one another, to develop the Archives, and to raise funds for various uses such as restoring the Cenotaph. The TDSB Manager of Archives, Greg McKinnon, and conservator David Sowerbutts came to give us a workshop on how to set up and manage the archives. We try to meet the professional standards for a small archive in Canada.

The Archives Committee has worked for the last 12 years to create the Archives in their present state. Donations from alumni have allowed us to store all the materials in acid-free boxes and containers. Lockable cupboards were added later. Two books have been published about the history of the school: The Malvern Centennial 2003 book and the Malvern C.I. at 110 book. Vintage sports shirts have been sold to raise funds. Archival poster displays are used at each reception following the annual Malvern Commencement. Current students use the Malvern Archives for research. Inquiries from alumni are answered year-round. Research has been done on past scholarships, athletic championships, and other achievements, as well as on all Malvernites who served in both World Wars. Alumni may visit the Archives by appointment to do their own research. We are also willing to do research for Malvernites who live further afield. Messages may be left on our phone line at 416 393-8683 or by email at

In conclusion, we could not have done this work without your support. Many thanks to all of the Malvernites who have sent donations for the archives!

Author: David Fuller

MRBS Webmaster and parent of two MCI graduates (2011 & 2015) and another very bright son. Decade representative for 1903-1939 and Service Personnel.

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