August 18, 1893 - May 6, 1973
born in Mimico, ON, composed during the Modern period
Composer, organist, and conductor, Sir Ernest MacMillan was knighted in 1935 "for his services to music in Canada," which included introducing outside music into the country, working at its fine institutions, serving on its many important musical committees, and premiering many of its most promising composers' orchestral works. Upon achieving this remarkable status in his early forties, he continued to make immense contributions for nearly 30 more years.
His career had an early start as his natural abilities in music were noticed and fostered when he was just 10 years old. From there MacMillan was schooled in Toronto and Edinburgh, and several years later attended the University of Toronto and Oxford University, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in Music. He also studied piano in Paris for a brief period of time. Even though his primary occupation was not as a performer, his foundation in this role offered him a separate sphere to explore while he worked within academia and as a composer. His served as an organist as a child at Massey Hall, as a student at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, and as an adult at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church. Afterward he worked at the Canadian Academy of Music, the Toronto Conservatory of Music, and the University of Toronto (as dean of faculty of music).
MacMillan drew and built upon a "rags to riches" World War I experience he had while a student imprisoned at the Ruhleben prison, where he used his rudimentary conducting training to direct a penitentiary orchestra. During this time he set Swinburne's ode "England," which gained him a Mus.D. degree from Oxford, one of nine universities to bestow him this type of honor for his various achievements. Several years after his 27-month incarceration, he diverted his energies away from playing, while still working within academia, to further cultivate his talents as a conductor. This decision led to his leadership of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1931 - 1956), the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (1942 -1957), and of the CBC "Talent Festival" contests. He was also involved with the Canadian Music Council, helped found the Canada Council, and served on the board of the Canadian Music Centre. In addition to his many outstanding achievements, he edited a school music publication, A Book of Songs and a record of the country's accomplishments, Music in Canada.
After critical eye surgery MacMillan ceased involvement in rigorous activities, passing away ten years later, and has since been fondly remembered for his energetic dedication to the musical arts. His compositions include works for opera, orchestra, chorus, solo voice, and string quartet, among other combinations. His Cortège académique for organ has been recorded twice, once featuring J. Watts on Priory, and the other time featuring A. Davis on Carlton Classics. ~ Meredith Gailey, Rovi