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Hubert Eisdell - Later Career

Although Hubert Eisdell's Canadian performances date as early as 1932, it is unclear exactly when Eisdell made Canada his permanent home. He made his first Canadian appearance on May 18, 1932 with Miss Winifred Dowell and her string sextet at the Fine Arts Galleries on Grenville Street in Toronto.

On October 6, 1932, he performed at the Eaton Auditorium in Toronto with conductor Sir Ernest MacMillan in a benefit for unemployed musicians. In the same year, he made a soloist appearance with the Mendelssohn Choir in Handel's Messiah on Saturday, December 17. Toronto Star music critic Augustus Bridle reviewed the concert and remarked that "Hubert Eisdell displayed a perfect scholarly knowledge of all the tenor arias and admirable finesse in phrasing, diction and legato," but found Eisdell's voice "a little too dry for the humanism of Handel lyrics" (Bridle, 1932).

In 1933, Eisdell accepted a teaching position at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music). His wife, Katharine, stayed on in England, and then, in 1950, she and her son moved to Australia, where she set up a teaching studio and worked in radio. Eisdell remarried in 1935 to Alva Grieve Graham, a Canadian.

 
Bach Society concert program, featuring Hubert Eisdell, Toronto, 1933, cover and title page

In addition to teaching at the Toronto Conservatory, Eisdell gave song recitals, ballad and oratorio concerts and radio broadcasts. On April 27, 1933, he appeared with the Bach Choir, singing the role of the Narrator in the Canadian premiere of J.S. Bach's St. John Passion at Yorkminster Church in Toronto.

 
  Concert review, "Eisdell Excellent in Cycles of Song", Toronto Daily Star, December 1933.
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In December of the same year, he was the soloist in a performance of Vaughan William's On Wenlock Edge with the Conservatory String Quartet and Ernest MacMillan at the piano. Augustus Bridle noted in his concert review that Eisdell's interpretations conjured memories of Gervase Elwes' performance of the same work. Bridle wrote further: "Eisdell's perfectly lyric tenor voice brought out with startling severity all the tragedy of this absolutely English drama in five song scenes. No finer presentation of this kind has ever been made here" (Bridle, 1933).

 
Advertisement for Bach's St. Matthew Passion at Massey Convocation, Toronto, April 7, 1936  

He made several appearances with the Toronto Bach Society, including another performance of Bach's St. John Passion on March 19, 1934 at Convocation Hall. On January 29, 1935 he was tenor soloist for the Bach Society's Massey Hall debut, and was praised for "his remarkable skill in phrase, tone-color, dramatic fervor and enunciation" (Bridle, 1935).

With the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and contralto Eileen Law, Eisdell appeared as a soloist in a production of Elgar's oratorio Dream of Gerontius at Massey Hall on February 27, 1935. In 1936 he sang in Bach's St. Matthew Passion several times in the days and weeks leading up to Easter, including April 1 at the Eaton Auditorium and April 7 at Convocation Hall. His final Canadian performance took place on November 16, 1937 in Mendelssohn's Elijah.

Concert review of a production that featured Eisdell, Toronto Daily Star, November 1937.
Read the review

Eisdell eventually left Toronto and became a teacher of English, French and Latin at Lakefield College in Lakefield, Ontario, where he had taught during his first visit to Canada in 1905. He was also the school's organist until 1947. Presently, an award named in honour of Eisdell is given to an outstanding arts student annually at Lakefield College.

Hubert Eisdell died on Saturday, May 28, 1948 in Peterborough, Ontario after a long illness. A welcome addition to the music scene in Toronto, he made a distinct impression on Canadian music lovers through his performances of oratorio and song. Furthermore, through his prolific recording career, his legacy has been preserved in both his native England and in Canada.

For more information on Hubert Eisdell's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.


References

Hubert Eisdell, tenor, teacher (1882-1948)

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