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Manson, Robert Graham
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Robert Graham Manson was a violinist, violist, pianist, and composer. Born in London, England on July 11, 1883 to James Alexander Manson (journalist and author) and Margaret Emily Deering, Robert G. Manson studied music at the Royal College of Music in London (1900-1903) with Arthur Somervell, Sir Frederick Bridge, and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. After graduation he stayed in the United Kingdom where he performed with the Scottish Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra.
By 1911, he was living at a boarding house at 320 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario with fellow musician Percy Thomas, a second violinist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) conducted by Frank Welsman starting in 1908. Manson also played in Welsman's TSO, and is listed as a violist on two programs for TSO concerts with Kathleen Parlow (March 16, 1911 and October 18, 1911).
After World War One, during which he served in the British Expeditionary Force, he married Mary L. Stewart in Bedford, England (m. 1921, d. 1940 in Toronto) and performed regularly in North America, including two seasons with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikolai Sokoloff, and fifteen years with the "New" Toronto Symphony Orchestra, formed by Luigi von Kunits (violin, 1925-1932; viola, 1932-1940). He also performed with the Spivak String Quartet, led by Elie Spivak, and taught at the Hambourg Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Manson also wrote a number of original compositions and made several arrangements. His compositions exist in manuscript form only. Helmut Kallmann's Catalogue of Canadian Composers (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1952) lists eight manuscripts: Symphony in C minor, An Atlantean episode, Niagara, Canadian fantasy, Ukrainian fantasy, Quintet in F major, Quartet in D major, Alouette. and The collection of Manson's manuscripts at the University of Toronto Music Library also includes Symphony in G minor, which was premiered in County Orange Hall by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Donald Heins; Symphony in D major; and two of Manson's arrangements.
During World War Two, he served as a translator in Ottawa; on one of his travel documents from a trip in 1922 from England to Canada, he listed having reading comprehension of English, French, German, and Spanish. Following the war, he continued to perform regularly in and outside of Canada. According to his obituary, he performed at the Hart House Theatre two weeks before he died at his home on 49 Huntley Street, Toronto on February 14, 1950.
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Created March 13, 2023. Last updated May 19, 2023.
Richard S. Warren, Begins with the oboe : a history of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (University of Toronto Press, 2002).
The Globe and Mail
Census records, voter lists, immigration and travel documents via Ancestry®.
Frank Welsman fonds (OTUFM 25)
Sir Ernest MacMillan collection, Toronto Symphony Orchestra programs (OTUFM 15-A-308)