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Charles O'Neill

Charles O'Neill (b. 31 August 1882, Duntocher, Scotland, d. 9 September, 1964, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada)

Childhood piano lessons were followed by organ study under Albert Lister Peace in Glasgow and theory instruction under Archilbald Evans in London. At 15 O'Neill took a position as organist at Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England, and played cornet in the local band. He moved to Boston in 1901, to New york two years later, and to Kingston, Ont, in1905 to serve as cornet soloist with the newly formed Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Band.

The Dept of National Defense sent O'Neill to train as a bandmaster at the Royal Military School of Music (Kneller Hall, Twickenham, England)) in 1908. On his return to Canada in 1910 he succeeded Jospeh Venzina as music director of the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery Band at Quebec Citadel. He continued his theory and composition studies with Herbert Sanders of Ottawa and became one of the earliest B MUS graduates of McGill university, In 1919 he attained the rank of captain, and in 1922 he became music director of the newly created Royal 22nd Regiment Band at Quebec Citadel., developing the ensemble into one of the finest in Canada. He made a name for himslef also as a comductor at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto (eg, feature band 1927, Composite Permanent Force Band of Canada 1930), as director of a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation orchestra in Quebec (ca 1935-7), and as a guest conductor in several Canadian and US cities and in London in 1937 at the coronation of of George VI. As an intrepid but just adjudicator (eg, at the CNE in 1923 and many years thereafter) he gained wide respect. At the US State and National Band Contests he judged alonside John Phillips Sousa and Edwin Franko Goldman in 1928. He was president of the American Bandmasters' Association 1933-4. He also was vice-president of the Dominion College of Music of Montreal.

In 1937 O'Neill left his position with the Royal 22nd Regiment and began an association with the University of Wisconsin (as a summer school instructor and acting director) and the State Teachers' College at Potsdam, NY (teacher of conducting and composition 1937-47, head of the Music Dept 1942-7). O'Neill returned to Canada and taught theory and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto1948-54. He retired to Quebec City but continued to compose.

- Helmut Kallman, Hélène Plouffe, Encyclopedia of Music in Canada


Photo Source: CMC Archives

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Canadian Music Centre