Carl Morey (1934–2018)

Carl Morey (1934–2018)

The musicologist Carl Morey died on December 3, 2018 in Toronto at the age of 84. He served as the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music and the Director of the Institute for Canadian Music from 1991 until his retirement in 2000. Obituaries are available online from the Faculty of Music website here, and from the U of T News website here.

On Thursday, 11 April 2019 in the lobby of the Edward Johnson Building from 4 to 6 pm, the Faculty of Music held a Tribute to Carl Morey to honour his memory, with speeches by friends and former colleagues, and musical performances. The program for the event is available here: PROG-Carl-Morey-tribute_Apr11.

Here are the opening remarks by Robin Elliott on that occasion:

My name is Robin Elliott and I have the honour of serving as the Jean A. Chalmers Chair of Canadian Music here at the University of Toronto. I inherited this chaired professorship from Carl Morey, who held it from 1991 until his retirement in 2000. There was talk at the time of Carl’s retirement about letting the Chalmers Chair lapse. Carl fought hard and prevented that from happening; Canadian music studies, and I personally, owe him a big debt of gratitude for that.

Carl supervised my PhD thesis The String Quartet in Canada, and I also took several courses with him during my graduate studies in musicology at the University of Toronto in the 1980s. These ranged widely, from medieval music notation, to Music in Paris at the turn of the 20th century – the latter course reflecting his deep and abiding love for the city of Paris, his home away from home. It may seem strange in retrospect that with three medievalists on staff at the Faculty of Music back then, it was Carl who taught the medieval music notation course. He was technically a Baroque specialist, having completed his PhD thesis at Indiana University in 1965 on the late operas of Alessandro Scarlatti – which reminds me, I also took a course on the Scarlatti operas with him. However, his musicological training was both broad and deep. He studied medieval music at Indiana University with Willi Apel, whose book The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900–1600 was the bible of early music notation in those days. Carl’s studies with Apel readily equipped him to explain the mysteries of ligatures, neumes, and mensural notation to graduate students.

When Carl was himself a graduate student in musicology in the 1960s, the field pretty much ended with Beethoven, chronologically speaking; more recent music was left to performers, music theorists, and sundry other musical enthusiasts, but was not thought to be a topic worthy of serious investigation by true scholars of music. And so Carl chose a Baroque topic for his research, but that is not where his true musical interests lay. He did love Baroque music, but his real passion was for the canonic operatic repertoire from Mozart to Richard Strauss. Eventually musicology caught up with Carl’s interests, and late in his career he was very pleased to be able to offer the Faculty’s first ever course on the Operas of Puccini, when Puccini had finally become a respectable topic for serious musical study.

Carl’s main contribution as a scholar was in the field of Canadian music studies – a field that is thousands of miles and hundreds of years distant from his own doctoral studies, but one that nevertheless became his abiding research interest. Late in his career that Carl really came into his own as a publishing scholar. In the last four years of his tenure at U of T, he published numerous articles, several editions of music by Glenn Gould, and no less than four books on Canadian music, including Opera Viva, the handsomely produced history of the Canadian Opera Company that he co-wrote with Ezra Schabas, combining his love of opera and music in Canada. The article on Carl in the first edition of Encyclopedia of Music in Canada states that he was at work on a history of music in Toronto. On numerous occasions, I heard him disavow that assertion; indeed, I am sure that more than once he said there was not a grain of truth in it. I was somewhat surprised then, to say the least, when not long before his death Carl turned over to me an extensive article – more like a short book really – that is a draft of his history of the beginnings of concert life in muddy York and Toronto. It is carefully researched, beautifully written, and meticulously detailed. On that same visit, I spoke to Carl about a beautiful manuscript that I had just been examining – it is a professional copyist’s full score of Ernest MacMillan’s choral/orchestral work England: An Ode. Carl knew the score well, of course, having been responsible for the revival of England in 1993, on the centennial of MacMillan’s birth. However, his own personal favorite musical manuscript was the holograph of the final scene from Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier. He showed me his copy of the beautiful facsimile reproduction of that manuscript, published in 1964 on the centennial of Strauss’s birth, and he spoke at length and with intimate knowledge about Strauss’s beautiful penmanship and the clinical precision with which this transcendently beautiful music is laid out on the page. I was deeply touched when Carl’s daughter Rachel presented me with that very publication after Carl’s death, as a bequest from Carl. When I opened the covers of it, I discovered that tucked inside was another gem, a reproduction of Strauss’s autograph manuscript of the song “Morgen,” which Strauss had presented as a wedding gift to his bride, the soprano Pauline de Ahna, in 1894. This is why our first musical performance for this tribute to Carl was Strauss’s heart-stoppingly beautiful song “Morgen,” performed for us by Monica Whicher and Steve Philcox.


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