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Bell, Leslie R.
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- Bell, Leslie Richard
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Leslie (Richard) Bell was a choir conductor, educator, writer, arranger, and composer, who was born in Toronto on May 5, 1906 and died there January 19, 1962. He received a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from the University of Toronto (1930); Master of Arts (MA) from the University of Toronto (1931); and a Doctorate of Music (D MUS) from the University of Montreal (1946). While studying with Frederick Horwood and Louis Waizman at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (TCM, now the Royal Conservatory of Music) (1917-1925), he played clarinet and saxophone in the orchestras of Luigi Romanelli and Joe DeCourcy and later led his own dance band. He taught English, history, and music at Parkdale Collegiate Institute (1935-1939), where his pupils included Howard Cable, later an associate at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and founded a girls choir there, the Alumnae Singers, later the Leslie Bell Singers. He was president of the music section of the Ontario Education Association (OMEA) from 1938 until 1941; chairman of the music department at the Ontario College of Education (1939-1948) and also taught summers at Queen's University (1946-1952) and at the University of Toronto (1946-1952).
Later in the 1950s, Bell divided his time between conducting (he also formed the short-lived Leslie Bell Gleemen in 1957), writing, and broadcasting. His broad musical interests were reflected in his work as music columnist for the Toronto Daily Star (1946-1962); associate editor in charge of music education for the Canadian Music Journal (1958-1962); contributor to many other publications; and radio commentator for CBC and CFRB in Toronto. In 1959, he was the co-founder and first executive director of the Canadian Music Educators' Association (CMEA) and editor of its journal, the Canadian Music Educator (1959-1962). In the Canadian Music Journal (Spring 1962), Geoffrey Payzant wrote: "It was his driving ambition to close the gap between the art of music and the minds of the many. He took the view that there is popular music good and bad and art music good and bad, and that the best of each had more in common than is generally thought to be the case."
Bell wrote Variations on a French Noël for string quartet; several choral works for female and mixed groups published by Canadian Music Sales and Mills; and many folk song arrangements published by Canadian Music Sales, G.V. Thompson, Shawnee Press, and Summy. After Bell's death, the CBC and the CMEA sponsored the Leslie Bell Memorial Choir Competition in 1963-1964 and 1965 (won by the Tudor Singers of Montreal, Quebec and the Acadia Chapel Choir of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, respectively). The Leslie Bell Prize was established in 1973 to assist a choir conductor in post-graduate training. Administered by the Ontario Choral Federation, it has been awarded to Edward F. Moroney (1973), Robert Cooper (1974), David Christiani (1975), Carole Boyle (1976), Jean Ashworth-Gam (1977), Gerald Neufeld (1978), Brainerd Blyden-Taylor (1981), Richard Dacey (1983), Daniel Hansen (1984), David Fallis (1985), Karen Price-Wallace (1986), Laurence Ewashko (1988), and Andrew Slonetsky (1990).
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Updated October 30, 2019.
See his biography in The Canadian Encyclopedia.