Mission Statement

 

To encourage, nurture and support performances and educational activities in the London area, where musicians can enhance their interpretative and musical styles as a means of strengthening character development and celebrating the enjoyment of the arts.

SALUTE TO THE FOUNDERS
THE EARLY HISTORY OF KIWANIS IN LONDON
Presented to the Kiwanis Club of Middlesex on August 21, 2003
By Bill Corfield

Good morning members and former members of the Kiwanis Club of London and welcome to the friendliest Golden K Club in Kiwanis. We are 115 pensioners, all over 55 years of age, and enjoying our friendships. Of the six clubs in Eastern Canada which have 100 members or more, five of them are Golden K. Of the ten clubs with 75 to 100 members, eight are Golden K. These clubs provide an opportunity for public-spirited men to join a service club after they retire, which they were unable to do when they were working. And it is the only growing sector of Kiwanis in Canada.

There was no talk of pensions or golden years on December 20, 1920 when 50 young men gathered in the Tecumseh House on the corner of Richmond and York Street to receive the charter of the Kiwanis Club of London Photographs and drawing show that hotel as a structure of Victorian opulence, but Cliff Hunt, who joined Kiwanis in 1922 told me the dining room was so near the railway tracks that speakers had to stop while trains went by. The weekly luncheon meetings were in the Tecumseh House until 1927 when the Hotel London opened and became the home of Kiwanis for 45 years. Cliff Hunt was at the last meeting in the Tecumseh House, first meeting in Hotel London on July 8, 1927 and the last meeting in Hotel London on February 25, 1972.

The Kiwanis Club of London had over 150 members in its second year, 1921, many of them veterans of The Great War. They decided to help boys who fathers had been killed or wounded and the Kiwanis Daddy project commenced. The Kiwanis Daddy invited his adopted boy to his home to participate in family activities, extending hope, affection and guidance. He provided food and health care, visited the boy's home, and arranged for him to go to camp. Kiwanians were assessed $25.00 a year to finance this service.

As the boys grew older, Kiwanis Daddies realized they needed advice on schooling, job training and employment. The club established a Vocational Guidance Committee in 1930, which recruited the expertise of members and business friends to help the boys. The need for such guidance increased during the depression. Kiwanian Fred McAlister was chairman of the London Board of Education in 1940 and saw its value in high schools. London hired the first vocational guidance counselor in Ontario - a teacher and Kiwanian named J.P. Nethercott. The Ontario Department of Education adopted the program the next year 1942.

You will notice in your Kiwordian that there were 416 delegates at the EC&C district convention which was in Sydney NS two weeks ago. This district has 287 clubs. In 1927 the London Club hosted the district convention and there were 566 delegates from 34 clubs. While making comparisons, I should mention that the London Kiwanis Club hosted the largest interclub in Kiwanis history on August 10, 1936 when 512 Ohio Kiwanians chartered a ship to cross Lake Erie, dock at Port Stanley and come to London on the London and Port Stanley Railway. The Premier of Ontario, Mitchell Hepburn addressed the combined meeting in Hotel London, over 700. In 1942 fifty members attended the international convention in Cleveland to see their own member Fred McAlister become international president.

During the 1950's the Kiwanis Club of London helped the families of children with leukemia. Kiwanian Tom Squires, Manager of the Hotel London, arranged for the club to manage the coat check services on the agreement that the money go into the Cancer Welfare Fund. The first year tips were over $5,000. The money was used not only for medication and medical treatment, but also to buy food and coal, because this lingering illness drained parents of money. Too often the club's final contribution was to pay funeral expenses. I believe Harry Kroll of Metropolitan Stores was a dedicated leader in this humanitarian service.

There's a story that Stewart Thompson was on coat check duty when Doug Weldon and wife arrived for a formal dinner dance. Stewart suggested $20.00 was the minimum he could accept to guard Mrs. Weldon's fur coat. When they returned, Stewart suggested another $20.00 would be appropriate to return them.

In 1961 when the Cancer Society built Thameswood Lodge adjacent to Victoria Hospital as a short-term residence for out-of-town patients and families, Kiwanian Jack Adams was chairman of the campaign and the Kiwanis Cancer Fund made a major contribution.

Kiwanian Fred McAlister was mayor in 1946 and envisioned a chain of parks on the flood plains along the Thames River. House construction for veterans was considered more important and his proposal received little support in the 1947 election and he was defeated. In 1949 Kiwanian Vern McKillop, an engineer with the PUC, revived the concept on a smaller scale. He proposed that the PUC and Kiwanis Club work together on a pedestrian park along Pottersburg Creek, a tributary of the south Thames River in east London. The PUC already owned portions of the valley for municipal wells.

The club bought 14 acres of valley land for $3,000 in 1951 and another 20 acres in 1953. Kiwanian Herb McClure, a land developer, donated 25 acres in 1959. Kiwanis Park was officially dedicated in 1959 and the PUC assumed operation. Don Matthews was chairman of the Kiwanis Parks Committee for ten years during the land assembly. Bill Corfield was chairman for the next ten years while landscaping and seeding was done, and trees were planted progressively as money and time became available.

These were large trees. Twelve foot maples and larches which required a hole four feet in diameter and two feet deep. This was tough digging and one hole a morning was the norm. Kiwanian Fin Carroll, the Chief of Police, said he would dig four. On the morning scheduled, Fin arrived in a cruiser with four passengers. He said 'OK boys, dig one hole a piece and you are free to go.'

By 1980, Kiwanis Park included all the valley lands from Dundas Street to the south branch of the Thames south of Gore Road, about 160 acres of quiet pathways and a wilderness area for bird watchers, the second largest park in the city. I urge you to go and visit your park. It's a beautiful sanctuary now with mature trees and a paved walkway meandering along the valley. I'm rather proud of it.

To finance this park, Tony Furanna, the PUC manager and a Kiwanian, made an innovative proposal in 1975. Old trees culled within the city were being buried with municipal garbage. He proposed his workers saw the wood during slack hours and pile it on a city-owned site for Kiwanians to sell. The revenue must be used to buy trees for Kiwanis Park. The club purchased a log splitter for the PUC and Harry Hyatt made a cradle to measure a cord, which sold for $4.00. Revenue was $5,000 the first year and over $50,000 was raised over fifteen years. This bought the trees and evergreens.

In 1970 Don Matthews, Vern Mcillop and Tony Furanna revived the vision of parklands along the main Thames River.The Joint Parks Committee was established composed of two representative from the city, two from the PUC and two from the Kiwanis Club. Jim Thompson was a Kiwanis representative for many years.

Music has always been part of Kiwanis since its earliest meetings and is perhaps the greatest long-term contribution the club has made to this community.

Charter member Bert Weir, a real estate broker, formed the Kiwanis Chorus. The 40 singers bought their own white flannels and blue blazers and made their debut at a club meeting in May 1925. The London Free Press had established the city's first radio station CJGC and it broadcast the Kiwanis Chorus from the Tecumseh House. This was the first remote radio broadcast in this city.

The Kiwanis Chorus sang at the 1925 International Convention in Montreal. In September 1932 they went by lake steamer Hamonic to Sault Ste Marie to perform at the district convention. In 1934 they went by train to Quebec City, boarded the liner Empress of Britain for Halifax and entertained at the district convention there.

The Kiwanis Chorus performed repeatedly in London; their programs often expanded to musical reviews, and raised thousands of dollars for charity. Some of Bert Weir's early performers whom you may recognize were Ed Adams, Jack Carter, Fred Manning, John McHale, Ernie Popkin, Stewart Thompson, Gordon Thompson, John Nash, Howard Hartry, Bev Hay, Lloyd Bullen, Lloyd Riley, Tom Yull, Ted Holland, Cliff Hunt, Ross Appelford, Archie McCullough, Ernie Reid, Harry Law, Roger McKinney.

The club's enthusiasm for music prompted members to consider a high-profile and lasting symbol. During 1938 they teamed with the PUC to build a modern bandshell in Victoria Park. World War II forced a delay. By 1948 the original estimate of $15,000 had risen to $45,000. Gordon Thompson was the dynamo who brought the project to completion with a sizable personal donation. During July 1950 more than 10,000 Londoners enjoyed a series of concerts from the Kiwanis Bandshell when it was dedicated to the city's war dead. In 1951 the CBC broadcast twenty summer concerts featuring Kiwanian Martin Boundy and his Radio Band so that thousands of listeners across Canada learned of London and Kiwanis. This was repeated for about six years.

Generations of Londoners enjoyed programs from the Kiwanis Bandshell, which in 1989 was replaced with a bigger and better one. Phil Murphy, a local bandleader and musician was prominent in keeping the Kiwanis identity on the new structure.

In 1949, a new generation of music enthusiasts launched the biggest musical venture in London's history. They brought together 500 voices from 40 church choirs and the London Symphony orchestra to present Handel's Messiah. On Tuesday February 15 1949 an audience of 4,000 was thrilled in London Arena by the superb presentation of this religious masterpiece. Sir Ernest MacMillan, Dean of Music at the University of Toronto was conductor. Kiwanian Martin Boundy conducted the choir, Bruce Sharpe directed the orchestra, Ernest White was guest organist and Mrs. J.R. Bach, wife of Kiwanian Jim Bach was at the piano.

Kiwanian who formed the organizing committee were Mac MacBain, Bill Posno, Jim Bach, Fred MacBeth, Colin O'Neil, Harold Donahue, Lester Davis, C.C. Fitzpatrick.

The Messiah was repeated in 1950 and 1951, followed by Handel's Judas Maccabeus, Elijah, Samson and the Creation. The series ended in 1958 having exposed thousands to excellent music and given church choirs superb experience. The expensive scores became the Kiwanis Library of Religious Music in central library, which permitted choirs to borrow them.

Walter Blackburn, publisher of the London Free Press and a patron of the symphony, asked the Kiwanis Club to assist in the re-organization of the symphony because there was discontent and financial problems. Mac MacBain and Jim Bach headed this study which separated the administration and financial operations from the musical responsibilities.

The combination of Kiwanis interest in youth and music made it logical for the club to sponsor a musical competition in the YMCA Hobby Fair. Out of this came the idea that the club could sponsor something bigger and with more musical scope.

After a year of planning, the first Kiwanis Music Festival was in the spring of 1959, offering classes for juniors only. Each year the festival added more classes to progressively include church organ, piano, vocal, string and wind instruments, trios, quartets and church choirs, glee clubs and school orchestras.

By 1964 the festival had out-grown the resources of the Kiwanis Club with over 1,000 contestants. Volunteers and scholarships were solicited outside Kiwanis. In 1971 Friends of the Festival made it a community effort and all Kiwanis Clubs assisted.

In 1990 the Kiwanis Club of London relinquished sole sponsorship because the festival had again grown beyond its resources. The Kiwanis Music Festival of London Inc. was established with twelve directors drawn from the seven clubs in the city. This new organization established the Kiwanis Music Festival of London Inc. to provide stable, long-term financing and appeal to a broader community.

By 1995 the festival was the third largest in Canada after Ottawa and Toronto. Over 3,000 entries requiring 400 volunteers to manage halls, assist adjudicators and help the lone secretary with scheduling, administration, printing and promotion. The musical standards were rated superb and many contests started successful musical careers. In

The festival celebrated its 40th anniversary on Tuesday November 28, 2000 with a great musical spectacular. The Anniversary Committee overcame one challenge after another, including the death of Frank Barrett who had been the architect of the revised organization. By the spring of 2000 the musical program was complete. School choirs commenced rehearsing their parts. Rehearsals were well advanced before summer break.
They started again in September.

Another group of volunteers tackled logistics. The original 1967 Centennial Hall plans were reviewed to see if the stage would hold 500 singers. In August Bob Hayman and others built a full-size stage outdoors in four moveable sections. It rose 25 feet. Teachers developed a system for 500 pupils to assemble and leave the stage safely.

When the only full-voice rehearsal was at Saunders Secondary School one week before the concert, 617 students assembled from 15 elementary schools. The Hayman team rapidly modified their structure for 117 more bodies.

At 8:30 in the morning, buses collected the singers at their home schools and transported them to Centennial Hall where day-long rehearsals integrated choir, soloists, pianists, instrumentalists and conductors into one polished team. The audience began arriving long before 7:30 because the house was sold and the overflow watched on television in other areas.

The concert was a thrilling experience in my life. The 617 kids, up since dawn and going all day, sang their hearts out in a spectacular and memorable musical event. I'm sure they will remember it all their lives and that's a very commendable contribution, which Kiwanis made to these young citizens.

And so, I'll let that inspiring event be the final salute to the founders of Kiwanis in London.

The Historic Duet By Kiwanis and Music

The Kiwanis Music Festival of London celebrated its fortieth anniversary on November 28, 2000 with a triumphant musical concert in Centennial Hall, but Kiwanis and Music had enjoyed a radiant alliance long before the festival started.

THE KIWANIS CHORUS
Kiwanis came to London in 1920 and five years later forty members were singing in an enthusiastic and polished Kiwanis Chorus. In May 1925 the group sang at the noon meeting in the Tecumseh House on the southwest corner of York and Richmond Streets. Radio Station CJGC, London's first radio station, carried the music. This program made history in the city because it was the first live radio broadcast 'remote' from the transmitting studio.

The group's reputation spread and invitations arrived from clubs and audiences throughout Eastern Canada. In September 1932 The Kiwanis Chorus travelled by steamboat SS Hamonic to Sault Ste. Marie to sing at the annual convention. During 1933 two shows were presented in London's Grand Theatre which raised $11,000 for community service. In 1934 the singers travelled by train to Quebec City where they boarded the ocean liner Empress of Britain which made a special docking in Halifax. They performed at the Kiwanis convention and gave a public concert in the Halifax Theatre. In 1935 they produced two musicals in London's Winter Gardens on Queens Avenue which produced $3,000 for club projects. The members bought their white flannels and blue blazers and paid most of their own expenses.

Kiwanis musical reviews continued to be enjoyable entertainment and money-raisers until 1937 when public support began to dwindle because of the prolonged depression and war rumours. The Kiwanis Chorus faded gracefully into history leaving more than a decade of happy memories.

THE KIWANIS BANDSHELL
The club's enthusiasm for music prompted members to consider a lasting and high-profile symbol. During 1938 they teamed with the Public Utilities Commission to replace the aging bandstand in Victoria Park with a modern, acoustically-efficient bandshell with a stage, changing rooms and washrooms. The start of the war in Europe in 1939 forced a delay.

By 1948 the original estimate of $15,000 had risen to $45,000 and Kiwanians had to make personal pledges before construction commenced. On July 26, 1950 more than 10,000 enjoyed a series of concerts which dedicated the bandshell to the memory of those who died in World War II. The London Free Press published a Special Section, which commemorated this event and the thirtieth anniversary of Kiwanis community service. Each summer from 1951 to 1956 the CBC broadcast twenty concerts by local musicians on its national radio networks.

The Kiwanis Bandshell became a traditional feature of Victoria Park as generations of audiences were entertained. By the end of 1980, however, age and weather had weakened the structure and in 1989 Kiwanis and the PUC teamed once again to replace it with a larger one with better washrooms and enlarged leisure facilities.

THE KIWANIS ORATORIOS
A new generation of music enthusiasts in the post-war club launched the biggest musical venture in London's history. They brought together over 550 voices from 62 choirs and with the London Symphony Orchestra presented the mighty Handel's Messiah. On Tuesday, February 15, 1949, a capacity audience of 4,200 in the London Arena on Bathurst Street, was thrilled by the superb presentation of this religious masterpiece.

Encouraged by this triumph, the Kiwanians repeated The Messiah in 1950 and 1951. In 1952 the mammoth presentation of Handel's Judas Maccabaeus received equal plaudits, followed each year by Elijah, Samson, and The Creation. The decade of performances not only introduced audiences to magnificent music but also gave church choirs experience with professional conductors and vocalists.

Increasing competition from a new entertainment called television eroded attendance and the last oratorio was in 1958 after nine seasons. To continue the legacy, the Kiwanis Club presented the expensive musical scores to the London Public Library so that the church choirs could borrow them.

KIWANIS AND THE SYMPHONY
During 1950, while the oratorios were in rehearsal, a group of business leaders asked the Kiwanis Music Committee to assist the symphony because the conductor had resigned and there was considerable financial debt. A meeting with the musicians produced the agreement that musical and administrative responsibilities would be separated. Kiwanis formed a community-wide association which administered financial and support services, leaving the conductor and musicians free to prepare their best performances.

The Symphony was saved from financial disaster and musical disintegration and gradually earned community support. Individual Kiwanians continued to serve the Symphony Association for many years and the club derived great satisfaction from assisting the musicians who had made the oratorios such outstanding successes.

KIWANIS MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Kiwanis Club sponsored musical competitions in 1957 at the London YMCA Hobby Fair, but many members thought more could be done to help young musicians. They spent most of 1958 planning. The first music competitions and adjudications in the spring of 1959 were small and for junior classes only.

Interest and participation increased in 1960 and Kiwanians decided that the competitions should be every year and classes expanded gradually. The festival concept was created. In 1961 there was a range of competitions and adjudications for piano, organ, vocal, string and wind instruments, trios, quartets, school bands, church choirs and glee clubs. There were 563 entries with about 2,000 participants. Four adjudicators were hired to assess contestants who performed in five halls over the festival week.

Winners in 1963 performed in several concerts at the Kiwanis Bandshell. The1964 festival attracted so many participants that there were insufficient Kiwanians. Wives and non-Kiwanian volunteers were recruited. Success was creating another problem. The costs of halls, adjudicators fees and expenses, music, and printing of syllabus and program, were outstripping income from ticket sales and entry fees. The Music Committee formed 'Friends of the Festival' in 1971 and invited scholarship donations.

The festival expanded annually, providing encouragement, incentive, expert assessments and scholarships for more and more young talented performers. Many became successful professional musicians, others became music teachers, a few achieved international fame. In 1979 the festival was expanded to two weeks and by 1985 occupied nine halls over the full period. This required many more volunteers and other Kiwanis clubs were invited to help. The scheduling became so complicated and extensive that a computer was purchased in May 1985 and the 1986 festival was the first with electronically sorted entries.

Despite these changes, the Kiwanis Music Festival continued to face an uncertain future because success was making it grow more and more beyond the resources of the founding organization. In 1995 the Kiwanis Club of London relinquished sole sponsorship of the festival and it was re-incorporated as The Kiwanis Music Festival of London Inc. with twelve directors drawn from the seven Kiwanis Clubs in London: The Kiwanis Club of London, The Kiwanis Club of Forest City, The Kiwanis Club of Middlesex/London, The Kiwanis Club of Thames Valley, The Kiwanis Club of North London, and The Kiwanis Club of Riverview. This new organization established a Kiwanis Music Festival Foundation to provide more stable, long-term funding and appeal to a broader community.

By 1995 the festival was the third largest in Canada after Ottawa and Toronto - over 3,000 entries requiring 400 volunteers to manage halls, assist adjudicators and help with scheduling, administration, printing and promotion. The musical standards were rated superb and many contestants started their musical career by winning a certificate of excellence.

THE SPECTACULAR ANNIVERSARY SHOW
The Music Committee decided in 1999 to celebrate the festival's fortieth anniversary in 2000 with the most spectacular musical concert in its history. Despite the concerns of many doubters, the Anniversary Committee overcame one challenge after another. They obtained the enthusiastic support of musicians in the London Symphony. The Thames Valley District School Board approved material and moral support and encouraged their elementary school music teachers to volunteer their choirs. By the spring of 2000 the musical program was complete and choirs started to practice their parts. Rehearsals were well advanced before summer vacation and continued when the schools re-opened in September. Singers were asked to purchase white T-shirts as uniform dress with profit helping to pay for music and transportation.

Another group of volunteers tackled logistics. Would the stage hold 500 students? The original 1967 Centennial Hall plans were reviewed to confirm that supporting structures would carry the load. In August engineers and contractors built a full-size mock-up outdoors in four moveable sections which rose twenty-five feet above the ground. Teachers developed a system for the 500 singers to assemble and leave safely and be accommodated both sitting and standing.

When the only full-voice rehearsal was at Saunders Secondary School a week before the concert, volunteers were amazed that 617 students assembled from 15 public elementary schools. The stage scaffolding was rapidly modified, more mobile platforms borrowed from secondary schools and all components assembled at Montcalm Secondary School for rapid transit to the hall the night before the show. Contractors volunteered staff and trucks.

Meanwhile several festival winners, who were enjoying musical careers, were invited to come home and be part of the celebration. The guest artists, soloists, pianists, instrumentalists and conductors, were integrated into the concert music together with the choir and orchestra, so that the programs could be printed.

The great day arrived - Tuesday, November 28, 2000! At 8:30 that morning, school buses collected the singers at their home schools and transported them to Centennial Hall. A day-long rehearsal integrated choir, guest soloists, pianists, instrumentalists and conductors into a polished team. The audience began arriving long before the 7:30 curtain because the house was sold out and the overflow had to watch and listen on television in the foyer. The performance was spectacular! The students sang until at final curtain they were exhausted but happy. The guest artists added the touch of professionalism. The Symphony was superb. The audience exclaimed their appreciation with long enthusiasm.

The members of the Kiwanis Club of Middlesex/London are proud to be partners in The Kiwanis Music Festival of London and produced this history as a 40th birthday present, compiled by Kiwanian Bill Corfield.

 

The Kiwanis Music Festival of London Inc.
is the organizing body of The Kiwanis Music Festival.
Charitable Organization No. 89211 8191 RR 0001

(519) 432-5183 (519) 432-9885 Fax E-mail: cvcleland@rogers.com