- 1906-2007 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
3 m of textual records and photographs (30 boxes)
Name of creator
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).
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Donation from Janet Macy (daughter to Leslie Bell).
35 programs and 5 photographs added from a donation by Marg Milliken (A2021-05). Her mother, Elanor Quance McIntyre, was a member of the Leslie Bell Singers (ca. 1944-1949).
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Fonds contains documents relating to Leslie R. Bell's career as a composer, arranger, choral conductor, educator, and music columnist. Materials include manuscript music (both of arrangements and original compositions); radio scripts and notes relating to his work in broadcasting as a radio commentator for CBC and CFRB, Toronto; publicity documents relating to performances by Leslie Bell and the Leslie Bell Singers; correspondence; documents relating to his work as the co-founder and first executive director of the Canadian Music Educators' Association (CMEA); and, newspaper articles, including those written by Bell and about him). The fonds also contains postmortem documents, including condolence correspondence to his wife, Leona Bell, and documents relating to the Leslie Bell Singers reunions and the Leslie Bell Scholarship.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Files and items are arranged into five series: Manuscript music; Radio scripts, indexes, and notes; Publicity, correspondence, and various other documents; Postmortem documents; and Audio and video recordings.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
The Leslie Bell fonds is stored offsite at Downsview. To access this collection, please contact the Music Library at least 2 weeks prior to your visit.
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
This fonds includes many choral scores created using a blueprint process, which was popular (ca. 1920-1960) for the copying and circulation of music. A copy of many of these scores is also included in the fonds. If possible, please use the copy rather than the blueprint score for access, so as to preserve the physical integrity of the original.
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Previously titled "Archives Collection 39 : Leslie Bell." Reference code (39) removed from the title of the fonds July 30, 2019.