Chapter Five: Music
The Cookson Organ p. 87
The Tofield Band p. 89
The Tofield United Church Choir p. 91
The United Church Junior Choir p. 93
The Community Christmas Carol Festival p. 93
Other Orchestras, Music Instruction, Holy Trinity Anglican Church Choir p. 94
Bardo Choir p. 95
Pioneer Dance Orchestras p. 96
THE COOKSON ORGAN
This is the story of an inanimate object–an organ. It shared the rigorous pioneer experience of the early settlers, sank into obscurity for a time, but in 1958 again became the centre of attraction.
It was brought from Winnipeg to Edmonton, before 1890, packed in a Red River Cart. One might wonder if the horrible squeaking of the all-wooden Red River carts did not cause excruciating agony to the musical soul of the organ.
The organ was destined for the first Anglican mission in Edmonton and no doubt its acquisition was a joy to the congregation.
Some time prior to 1900, the organ was acquired from the Mission by Miss Annie Cookson (later Mrs. Matthew McCauley) and brought by her to the Cookson home in Tofield about 1900. Miss Cookson’s father, George Cookson Sr., was one of Tofield’s earliest settlers and his home had become a centre of religious activities in the Tofield area. The organ was a most welcome addition to the church services held in the Cookson home. These services, as well as weekly prayer meetings, were conducted by the Rev. Robert Whillans. George Cookson Sr. was an accomplished organist and spent many happy hours at the organ.
Social gatherings too, were enlivened by music from this organ. In the early diaries of both George Cookson Sr. and Mrs. Cookson, mention is made of Jack and George Jr., singing “0 Dem Golden Slippers” at various social functions both at home and in public. Following the death of his wife in 1909, George Cookson Sr., went to live with his son and daughter-in-law Jack and Jessie Cookson. To his son Edmund, who had lived at the parental home until now, was given the organ.
Edmund married Olive Isabel Ingram and a family of a son and two daughters were born before his premature death from appendicitis. The
older daughter, Mrs. Hugh Bruce of Lindbrook was custodian of her grand-father’s organ until 1947 when, after consultation with the members of the original Cookson family, she donated it to the Northern Alberta Old Timers’ Association on behalf of the Cookson family. The late James McCool, then Secretary of the Old Timers’ Association, accepted it on their behalf.
During the Christmas season of 1958, the old organ was repaired and put into such good condition that it could again give forth Christmas carols.
Mrs. George Cookson while visiting her daughter, Mrs. Art Lampitt in Edmonton, received a hurried phone call from her son, Inspector of Detectives Cookson advising her to turn on her radio. Hastening to do this she was overjoyed to hear the familiar tones of the Cookson organ playing the still older carols of Christmas.
THE TOFIELD BAND
The material for this article was obtained from Mr J. L. Abbott and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Spilsted.
Music has always played a big part in the life of Tofield. The pioneers had neither movies, radio, nor television, so had to provide their own entertainment.
In 1908, the first village band was organized. It was sponsored by the village council: in the minutes of the council, there is a notation that a hall had been rented for band practice and $5O.00 had been donated towards the cost of the necessary instruments. The leader of this band was Mr. C. Davidson and the members were Mr. W. C. Swift, Mr. H. K. Adams, Mr. R. O. Bird, Mr. Harriman, Mr. Abbott, Mr. McMullen and Mr. Herb Diamond.
According to Mr. Abbott, when the Village of Tofield became the Town of Tofield in 1909, the Town Band played “a few selections in front of the old Queen’s Hotel in honour of the occasion.” The Mayor of the newly-constituted town, J. O. Letourneau and the councillors, Mark Ferguson, R. E. Emery, A. F. Fugl, J. B. Harper, A. Maxwell and A. Lamoreaux were the honoured ones.
In 1913 a new band was organized and some of the former members rejoined together with a few new ones. Mr. Abbott was the leader; some of the new members were George Brace, Russ Graham and Ernie Rogers. This band used to play for the soldiers to march and parade on the parade ground where the United Church now stands.
Later, the indefatigable Mr. Abbott organized a Tuxis Boy’s Band. He was conductor and apparently found the task arduous for he said, “The boys didn’t know a note from a mule’s ear, so we had to start from scratch by learning to blow the instruments. But before this band broke up, we had given several concerts in aid of some charity.”
The Tuxis Boy’s Band was composed of: the Kask brothers, the Cole twins, Arthur Smith, Gordon Jobb, Harold Lewis, Barney Kendall, Teddy Paradis, Clifford Lee, Bill Swift, Oscar Brook and B. K. Hingly.
In the early 1940’s a band was organized by Mr. Herb Chandler, a fine and enthusiastic musician. When, after a few years, he left Tofield, Mr. Rex Boyles became band leader. This band continued for several years. It is worthy of note that at one time there were three generations of the Jacobs’ family playing the band: D. W. “Mudge,” his son, Thomas, and his grandson, Kenneth.
The July 1 parade was always led by the band; band concerts were given and band music was contributed to other entertainments. In the 1960’s, however, lack of members forced the group to disband.
In the early 1960’s, instruction in band music was begun in the school. Captain of the P.P.C.L.I was the first instructor. He was followed by Staff Sergeant Coates. The present instructor is Mr. Bus.
Under these instructors, the band has grown steadily both in numbers and in proficiency.
THE TOFIELD UNITED CHURCH CHOIR
The following information was compiled by Mrs. J. E. Stinson and Mr. J. R. Francis.
In the very early days of Tofield, when the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches had united services, J. R. Francis said that while there was no regular choir, many duets and quartets were sung at the services.
One quartet that he remembers very well was composed of Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Whillans, Mr. Jack Cookson and Mrs. Daniel Francis. After the service, they received an unexpected comment on their musical ability when Billy Rowland came up to them and said, “Say, you folks sure got mixed up in that song but you came out even at the end.”
When separate Methodist and Presbyterian congregations were formed in 1907, each church had its own choir. Some of the members of the choirs in those days were: Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Harper, Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Cress, Jack and George Cookson, Mrs. P. Lee, Harold Martin, Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Whillans, Ethel Noland, Sid and Jack Carter, Mrs. McConnell, Lily, Oma, Fanny and Venah Rickner, Fred Casey, Charlie Chillman, Mr. Paul, Mrs. Newbigging, Margaret and May Gladsby, Hazel Mallory, Mr and Mrs. H. Ward, Mrs. Daniel Francis, R.E. Emery, Mr. Latimer, Mrs. J.W. Morton, Miss L. Hammond, Mr. and Mrs. Roland Murray and Miss Ila Murray.
Until 1907, Miss Gertie Francis was the organist for the church services. After that date, while Miss Francis continued in the Methodist Church, Mr. A. J.H. McCauley became the organist for the Presbyterian Church. After 1912, Charlie Carter replaced Miss Francis in the Methodist Church; Mr. McCauley continued in the Presbyterian Church for many years.
In 19″35″, Mrs. J.E. Stinson became organist for the United Church and Mr. Larry Broughton took over the leadership of the choir. Among the choir members of that time were: Jack and George Cookson, W.C. Swift,
Mrs. Firth, Mrs. Torrie, Mr. and Mrs. L.W. Smith. Cantatas were sung at Christmas and Easter.
When the Smiths and Larry Broughton left Tofield the choir dwindled until it was not carried on regularly.
A few years later, Mr. Herb Chandler, who was also active in the band and the Community League, took over the leadership of the choir and it flourished again. But when, in turn, Mr. Chandler left Tofield, the choir again diminished. Mr. Roland Murray, a fine musician, was the choir leader for several years when it sang on special occasions.
In 1955, when the present church was opened, a new choir was formed under the leadership of Mrs. Seller, a fine musician with a wonderful voice and a talent for leadership. This choir consisted of members from the former congregation of Ketchamoot, Lakeshore and Tofield, now united into one congregation.
Mrs. Seller continued as leader until illness forced her to retire in 1959. Mrs. Stinson then took over the task of directing the choir and has continued until the present, while filling the post of organist as well. The choir has been enhanced by the presence of several groups of High School girls who have sung in the choir until they went away to further their education elsewhere. Members of the choir in 1968 are: Mrs. Lil Schultz, Mrs. Doris Oslund, Mr. and Mrs. John Wall, Mrs. Daisy Young, Mrs. Betsy-Ann Gallinger, Mrs. Faye Dodds, Miss Beth Ingram, Miss Vicki Wall, Mr. George Abernethy, Mr. James Ingram. Until his death early in 1968, Mr. Keith Appleby was a valued member the choir.
UNITED CHURCH JUNIOR CHOIR
This choir began in 1936 under the leadership of Mrs. J.E. Stinson, after a group of Sunday School pupils had practised a special number for Rally Day. The average number of members was twenty-four. They sang at church services the first Sunday of the month, wearing white gowns and wine-coloured ties. They prepared music for special occasions.
In 1951, Mrs. George McFadzean became the leader of this choir. Eventually, there were so many members that the choir had to be divided into two sections. They sang at special services, at Christmas Carol Festivals, at music recitals and at concerts. In 1958 and 1959, they took part in the Junior Choir Festival held in
Convocation Hall at the University of Alberta. This choir continued until the late 1960’s.
THE COMMUNITY CHRISTMAS CAROL FESTIVAL
Since 1955, the Tofield Community League has sponsored the annual Christmas Carol Festival. This has been a very important event of the Christmas season. All the local choirs as well as choruses from the Tofield and Ryley schools participate. Community singing of the beloved Christmas carols has been led by Mrs. Seller, Mr. Henry Schroeder, Mr. Paul Voegtlin and Mr. Terry Granger. The following is an excerpt from the Christmas issue of the Tofield Mercury in 1958:
There wasn’t even standing room for the overflow crowd who attended the Carol Festival on Wednesday evening. The items were introduced by Rev. Sydney Bell and Mrs. Seller led out in the community singing. Local choirs taking part in the festival were the Bardo Lutheran Church Choir, the St. Francis of Assisi Junior choir, Schonseer Mennonite Choir, the Mennonite Brethren Senior Choir, United Church Senior Choir, and the Salem Mennonite Choir.
During several decades, the Tiedemann orchestra has played for country dances. First, Fred, August, and Ed formed the orchestra; then Chris, Ben, Ella, Bill, and Emil. The second and third generation, Ed’s
son, Bert, and grandson, Donald, as well as Ben’s son, Kent, have played in the Tiedemann orchestra.
The Lawson boys, Wayne and Leonard have also made a name for themselves with their orchestra.
Just recently, The Aino Jensen Orchestra has been in demand for local dances.
Music lessons have been given over the years in Tofield. Some of the teachers of piano have been: Mrs. Firth, Mrs. Stinson (who first presented the annual music recital), Miss Lydia Boese, Miss Enns, Miss Barbara Phillips, Mrs. Calvin Annis, Mr. L. Brodeur (who came out from Edmonton), Miss Glenda Patterson, Mrs. Madeleine McCormick, Miss Hilda Riedeger, Mrs. Andy Heiberg.
HOLY TRINITY ANGLICAN CHURCH CHOIR
Mrs. Webb, Sr. was organist from 1912 to 1914; she was followed by Mr. Poppleston, 1914-1917. A mixed choir served the congregation. Mrs. Webb and Mrs. J. W. Robinson were organists, followed in 1931-1938 by Mrs. D.G. McCarthy. Rev. Wallis was choir leader; cantatas and concerts were presented under his leadership as was also the case when L.A. Broughton led the choir. During the regime of Rev. Orme, a junior choir was formed which sang over C.F.R.N. At this time Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Garford and Mrs. Robinson alternated as organists. Mrs. Brian Brown, Mrs. Marie Eaglesham and Miss Elizabeth Crispin have also served as organists. Mrs. Reg Crispin is the present organist.
THE BARDO CHOIR
The first Bardo Choir was organized in 1899. it consisted of Mr. Peter Jevning, Mr. Martin, Ragna and Magda Jevning, Petrina Strand, Mr. P. B. Anderson and Ingeborg Jevning. The choir leader was Mr. P.B. Anderson.
By 1900, Mr. Bower, teacher of the Bardo school, had organized a choir of his students, assisted by Delia Bartness and Jennie Lerbekmo. These young people sang the sacred cantata, “Under the Palms” under the direction of Mr. Bower.
Rev. O.K. Blomlie, pastor 1923 to 1926, took over the direction of the Bardo choir during this period; cantatas and anthems were presented. Since that time, the choir has been led by various people, some of whom have been: Alice Broughton, George Hendrickson, and Monrad Finseth.
The Bardo Male Chorus was organized in 1930 under the direction of Albin Anderson. This was an enthusiastic group of singers under an enthusiastic leader and they did a great deal of singing for a number of years. Their music consisted of both sacred and secular numbers.
One of the highlights of the existence of the Bardo Male Chorus was its tour of the Grande Prairie country in 1941 when they gave concerts in the various communities in the north country.
After 1942, Alice Broughton directed this chorus for a couple of years. Since then, it has been reorganized at intervals under various leaders. In later years, a number of members have passed away or have left the community so the chorus is no longer functioning. Their singing has left pleasant memories in the Community.
In 1951, a parish choir of fifty singers was organized with members from Bardo, Kingman, and Round Hill.
This choir flourished about three years and presented concerts and cantatas at Christmas and Easter.
Under the direction of Mrs. Lester Severson, this parish choir continues to contribute to the musical life of the Tofield area.
PIONEER DANCE ORCHESTRAS
The Spilsteds and Mr. Abbott said that one of the first musical teams in Tofield was Mr. and Mrs. Barker. Mrs. Barker was a harpist as well as a pianist and had secured her musical education in Vienna, Austria. The Barkers and Mr. Abbott formed the first Tofield orchestra. After the Barkers left a Miss Henderson, a teacher, played the piano, Mr. Rattray, the violin and Mr. Abbott, his trumpet. Later, Mr. and Mrs. Pincott were added to the orchestra.
Then a new orchestra was formed with Bill Spilsted on the violin, Bob Robinson on the clarinet, Bert Calvert on the traps and drums, Lem Abbott on the cornet and Harold Bone at the piano. This orchestra was much in demand for the dances which invariably followed the hockey matches in which Tofield’s Silver Seven participated. Other members of the orchestra were Warren Hopper and Mr. Roberge. When the Variety theatre was in its youth as a dance hall, this orchestra supplied the music.
Bill and Carmen Spilsted recalled the house dances with nostalgia. Since there were few public places available for dancing, houses and schools were used. The place didn’t matter too much; enough people to dance and someone to play for them were the only requirements of a successful dance — and all pioneer dances were successful.
Bill and Carmen would hurry through their chores on the day of a dance and set out by horse and buggy or horse and cutter according to the season, Bill with his violin and Carmen with her banjo. On the cold win-
ter trips, Carmen always carried an umbrella — yes, an umbrella! She had found that it made an effective windbreak a function that was much appreciated. Not that they would have let the weather intimidate them with a dance in the offing.
Dances began at sundown and lasted until sun-up. Square dances, schottisches, polkas and waltzes were the order of the day. The “caller” for the square dances was frequently Frank Steinbach, brother-in-law of Frank Shupe and Mrs. Hosler.
Everyone dances with vigour and pleasure through the long winter night. Children too young to dance were put down on a convenient bed; teenagers danced with their elders; every dance was a family affair. They were held from as far north as the Bill Bloss (Ron Goeglein) place to the southern areas of Miquelon and Kingman. The Spilsteds were happy to play for them anywhere.