A brief history of the Lakeshore Chamber Music Society
In the late 1950s, to quote Judy Isherwood's "The Lakeshore Chamber Music Society, The First Twenty Years":
"Gertrude MacFarlane and Guen Sydney had arranged a concert of the Bach Choir of Montreal with Jan Simmons as soloist as an experimental venture. When it proved successful beyond their dreams, they sent a questionnaire to Lakeshore residents in the spring of 1959. In it residents were asked if they were interested in a music series. When 135 yes answers were counted, the producer and her assistant went to work."
The result was that over the winter of 1959-1960, Gertrude as "producer" and Guen as "secretary" organized a series of three concerts. The first, in the fall of 1959 was with Mario Duschenes, flute, Melvin Berman, oboe and Kelsey Jones at the harpsichord; the second concert featured the "Montreal String Quartet" with Hyman Brass, Mildred Goodman, Otto Joachim and Walter Joachim while the Montreal Recorder Group played for the third concert. The success of this first series was such that at the last of its concerts, the audience was asked to vote the Lakeshore Chamber Music Society into existence and appoint an executive, which they did with Gertrude MacFarlane as the first president. The rest, as they say, is history.
The programs from the Society's early years are very impressive, and this in spite of the constant refrain in Judy Isherwood's history, of shortages of funds. For example, the program of the first "official" season of the Society (1960-1961) included: the McGill Chamber Orchestra under Alexander Brott; a lieder recital with Jan Simmons; a piano, violin and cello trio; and a Baroque quintet with flute, oboe, violin, bassoon and harpsichord.
The first concerts were held in Adair Hall of Union Church. From time to time the concerts have been held elsewhere, notably in Très-Sainte-Trinité church in Dorion, in St. George's Church in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue and in the Casgrain Centre in John Abbott College. The concerts have been held in Union Church itself now for many years. Actually, the church is a perfect place for the concerts; while the pews may be hard, the acoustics of the building are marvelous.
Changes to the basic format of the concert series over the years have included:
- adding a fifth concert to the program in the 1964-1965 season and a sixth one in the 1987-1988 season;
- granting a bursary for a student to attend the Orford Music Festival in 1972-1973 season;
- adding a student concert to the program in 1973-1974 season and
- offering prizes at the Student Concert in the place of the bursary in the 1980s.
It is interesting to note that the 1969-1970 season included a concert given by the Orford String Quartet and that its program included a work composed by Robert Fleming to celebrate the Society's first ten years. Forty years later, in November 2009, history repeated itself; the New Orford String Quartet played for us and the program included a new work composed by Anthony Tan in celebration of the Society's first fifty years.