John Duncan. Harpist, harp builder, b Derbyshire, England, 2 Jan 1904, d Toronto 9 Jun 1998. He began his study of the harp at 10 under Thomas Archibald Wragg in Derby and took further instruction from Charles Collier at the RCM. After playing in a Derby theatre orchestra he moved in 1927 to Canada, where he joined Reginald Stewart
's radio orchestra heard on 'Maple Leaf Symphony' on station CKGW in Toronto and, soon afterwards, the Uptown Theatre orchestra. In 1930 he formed the Old World Musicians, a group of four dedicated, though not exclusively, to the performance of medieval music. The group was heard weekly on local independent stations and, after 1932, on the CRBC and its successor, the CBC. It performed intermittently until 1965.
Duncan taught 1932-42 at the TCM. In May 1933 he began to work for the CRBC (CBC 1936-), playing as a soloist or orchestral musician in hundreds of programs and participating in many premieres. He composed and played the music for CBC TV's 'The Friendly Giant' for more than 25 years until the show was cancelled in 1984. Duncan made several cross-country tours, including one 1935-6 during which he played for the famous skater Sonja Henie. He has composed several works for harp and, for the Old World Musicians, some for violin, cello, flute, harp, and organ. Duncan built 11 harps and restored, rebuilt, or repaired more than 100.
Carolyn Whitley Desjardins, Betty Nygaard King