Though his music is recognizably of the 20th century, among his contemporaries Fleming was a moderate. His compositions are basically tonal and use traditional techniques, forms, and media in a personal way. George Proctor wrote of the song cycle The Confession Stone, one of Fleming's most popular works, that 'The style is close to that of early Vaughan Williams, with its many parallel fifths, sevenths, and ninths, frequent ostinati, and simple, folk-like melodies' (Canadian Music of the Twentieth Century). His ballets, film scores (over 250), works for orchestra and band (over 50), chamber works (over 25), piano and organ pieces (over 40), choral pieces (over 30), hymns (50), carols (30), and songs (over 50) concern themselves more with usefulness and direct expression than with daring. He has written eight or more settings of the Anglican eucharist, including a Mass of St Thomas (Waterloo 1974), and his last composition (November 1976) was a setting for the St Matthias congregation of the new Canadian rite. His music has been performed in North and South America, Europe (including the USSR), Australia, and New Zealand. Individual works like the neo-classical Sonatina for piano (1941), the ballet Shadow on the Prairie (1952, commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet), and The Confession Stone (1966, commissioned for Maureen Forrester) have enjoyed great currency. A list of his NFB scores (1946-64) may be found in 'Filmographie des compositeurs canadiens,' the index he compiled for Musique et Cinéma.
Ross Pratt, Maureen Forrester, and John Newmark, the Central Alumni Choir of Ottawa, and various members of the NACO gave a memorial concert of Fleming's music (planned prior to his death as a 'Fleming Retrospective') at the NAC 11 Dec 1976. A co-operative venture by the Ottawa Centre of the RCCO and 11 other organizations including the CBC, the concert was taped for national broadcast. As a memorial to Fleming, an endowment fund was raised in support of the Robert Fleming Award for Young Composers, administered by the Canadian Music Council until 1989 and then by the Canada Council, and given annually to the outstanding graduating student in composition in any Canadian university music faculty, department, school, or recognized conservatory. André Lamarche in 1979 was the first recipient. Other winners have included Denys Bouliane (1980), Anthony Genge (1981), Denis Dion (1983), Guy Perron (1986), and Jacques Tremblay (1991). In addition, the music department at Carleton University has established the (Robert) Fleming (Memorial) Room to house special collections of scores and books. A second Robert Fleming Award has been established in his memory by the Ottawa Music Festival Association. Fleming was a member of the CLComp and RCCO and his status as associate composer is maintained at the Canadian Music Centre. His papers have been deposited at the National Library of Canada.
See also Film scores.
Shadow on the Prairie, ballet. 1951. Ms. (Suite) RCI 129 (TSO)
Romance (arr), ballet. 1954. 2 piano. Ms
Music for 3 puppet plays (Wat 1970) and for over 250 films for NFB and others
Six Variations on a Liturgical Theme. 1946. Str orch. Ms
Red River Country and Seaboard Sketches (1953). Med orch. Ms
Ballet Introduction. 1960. Full orch. Ms. Col MS-6763 (Susskind)
Concerto 64. 1964. Pf, orch. Ms
'You Name It' Suite. 1964. Str orch. GVT 1965
Concerto for Tuba. 1966. Ms
Prairie Sailor, folk cantata (Kines). 1970. V, orch. Ms
Hexad. 1972. Med orch. Ms
Our Mind Was the Singer, song cycle (Finch). 1972. Bar, orch. Ms
Of a Timeless Land (M. Fleming). 1974. Alto, orch. Ms
Also 5 Suites for orchestra (1942-63) and some 10 works for band (1964-74). All manuscript
The Wealden Trio 'Song of the Women' (Hardy). 1940. SSA, string quartet. Ms
A Musician in the Family. 1952. Trb, piano. Ms
A Two Piece Suite. 1958. 2 clarinet, bass clarinet. Leeds 1970. Dom S-69004 (Galper)
Colours of the Rainbow and Maritime Suite. 1962. Ww quartet, string quartet, harp. Ms
' Go for Baroque'. 1963. Fl, oboe, harpsichord. Ms
Three Dialogues for Flute or Oboe Solo. 1964. Fl (oboe), piano (harpsichord). Leeds 1981. CBC SM-268 (Berman).
Three Miniatures for Brass Quintet. 1962. Ber 1962
Brass Quintet. 1965. Ber 1965)
String Quartet. 1969. Ms
Almost Waltz. 1970. Fl, piano. Jay 1971. Dom S-69006 (Aitken).
Divertimento. 1970. Org, 2 oboe, 2 violin, viola, violoncello, double-bass. Ms. CBC SM-292 (G. Wheeler)
Explorations. 1970. Acc. Wat 1970
Threo. 1972. Sop saxophone, piano. Ms
Over 40 works including Sonatina (1941), OUP 1943, GVT 1974; Five Modernistics (1946), FH 1955; Study No. 4 (1960), FH 1966; and 4 educational works, published by GVT(1967), FH(1970), and Wat(1968), 4 of which were recorded in 1970 on Dom S-69002 (Mould)
Also works for organ in manuscript
Voice (Songs Recorded)
Coulter Songs. (1946-54). Ms. RCI 248 (Boyden)
The Confession Stone. (1966). Leeds 1968. RCI 246/Expo 4 (Forrester)
Folk Songs from Prince Edward Island. (1973). Ms. CBC SM-259 (D.Bell)
Folk Lullabies (traditional). Med voice, piano. Leeds 1975. CBC SM -144 (Forrester)
Songs on texts by Paul Hiebert (1952-3) and Robert Finch (1972). All Ms
Choral works published by OUP, Wat, Leeds, Leslie, Western, GVT
Other compositions and film scores are listed in Contemporary Canadian Composers; Musique et Cinéma.
'Music for films;' JMC Musical Chronicle, Jan 1963
'Music and the cinema,' and the index of films in Musique et Cinéma
Author Elaine Keillor
'Robert Fleming,' Composers of the Americas, vol 12 (1966)
'The composer who commutes..'. CanComp, 39, Apr 1969
'A film composer's life takes new directions,' CanComp, 72, Sep 1972
Thistle, Lauretta. 'Robert Fleming: a tribute to one of Canada's best-loved composers,' CanComp, 118, Feb 1977
Godsalve, William. 'The aesthetic functionality of film music based on the cooperation and counteraction of tensities, illustrated in the film music of Robert Fleming,' MA thesis, University of Saskatchewan 1981
Fraser, John. 'Carol blends old hope, new land,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 25 Dec 1982
Keitges, Christine DeWit. 'The solo vocal music of Robert Fleming (1921-1976),' DMA thesis, Arizona State U.1988
Jean, Stéphane. The Robert Fleming Fonds: Numerical List (Ottawa, 1998)
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Music Centre
Search the extensive CMC website for Canadian composer biographies and interviews, music scores, online newsletters, audio clips, podcasts, and more. Check out "CentreStreams" to listen to online archived recordings featuring outstanding Canadian composers.
Robert Fleming Fonds
Accomplished Canadian composer Robert Fleming is profiled at this Library and Archives Canada website. Features biographical notes, photographs and an extensive index of archival material.
Robert Fleming Prize
The $2,000 Robert Fleming Prize, which is intended to encourage the careers of young creators of music, is awarded annually in memory of Robert Fleming to the most talented Canadian music composer in the grant competition for composers in classical music. Check the list of previous award winners. From the Canada Council for the Arts.
An extensive collection of audio clips from recordings featuring the National Arts Centre Orchestra performing works by noteworthy Canadian and international composers. Click on a composer's name on the right side menu to access specific works. See also composer biographies and the interactive timeline of historical milestones in classical music. From artsalive.ca and the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Besides hockey and the maple leaf, there is little as symbolically Canadian as the CBC – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It grew out of a developing nation's need to express its identity and find its voice.