Rise of the Pianists (1940s)

The most popular song to come out of Canada in the ’40s, thanks to Vancouver nurse (Carmen) Elizabeth Clarke, was “There’s a Bluebird On Your Windowsill” (1948). Second in rank would be American-born, naturalized Canadian Ed McCurdy‘s “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” (1949). Canadians continued contributing to the richness of classical music, through the decade, thanks to the likes of Portia White and George London. White’s singing achieved international fame which helped to open previously closed doors for Blacks, she being an African Canadian. In 1964 she performed for Queen Elizabeth II. George London formed the Bel Canto Trio with tenor Mario Lanza and soprano Frances Yeend in 1947. In 1956, he appeared on the popular Ed Sullivan television program opposite Maria Callas.

But of Canada’s classical music stars, the most famous of them all—right up to the present time—debuted in 1947 and his name was Glenn Gould. With a quirky personality, he was an unlikely candidate for superstardom, but when his magic fingers danced on piano keys, they took everyone’s breath away.  

With Canadian country music well underway, having been launched in the 30s, Canada, in the 40s, was to produce its first stars of jazz. With fingers as dazzling as Gould’s but improvising rather than structuring themselves after Bach, another of the greatest pianists of all time (worldwide) appeared, namely Oscar Peterson. Four years prior to Peterson’s debut, another jazz piano legend had appeared, though more famous as an arranger. He was Gil Evans. 

Gould, Evans, and Peterson were the biggest names in Canadian music debuting in the 1940s and they were all pianists.