Vernon (West) Barford. Organist, choirmaster, teacher, b Wellington College, Berkshire, England, 10 Sep 1876, d Edmonton 22 Apr 1963; AAGO (Associate American Guild of Organists) 1912, honorary MA (Alberta) 1924, honorary FCCO 1945. He began piano lessons at four and attended the choir school of Worcester Cathedral 1887-92. Having failed preliminary examinations for Oxford, he emigrated to Canada in 1895 to homestead in the Qu'Appelle district of Saskatchewan. He soon was engaged as organist at the pro-cathedral in Qu'Appelle and one year later gave up farming to teach piano at Qu'Appelle, Fort Qu'Appelle, Indian Head, and Sintaluta. In 1900 he was engaged as organist-choirmaster at All Saints Church (Cathedral from 1945 on), Edmonton, where he stayed until 1956. He also taught piano privately. In a career which spanned effectively more than half a century of the musical development of Edmonton, perhaps Barford's most distinctive pioneer achievement was the establishment, with the help of Howard Stutchbury, of Canada's first provincial competition festival 5 May 1908. His abilities as a conductor came to the fore in the early 1900s, when with the Edmonton Amateur Operatic Society, which he founded in 1904, he conducted Planquette's The Chimes of Normandy
(1904) and Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury
(1905) and The Pirates of Penzance
(1906). In 1909 he succeeded L.H. Alexander as conductor of the University of Alberta
Glee Club. In 1920 he conducted the Mendelssohn Chorus of Edmonton in the city's full-scale choral-orchestral performance of Messiah
and for the 1924-5 season he served as conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
. He was in charge of music for the inauguration ceremonies of Alberta as a province in 1905 and for the golden jubilee in 1955. In 1958 he conducted the RCAF Band and a chorus organized for the occasion at the opening ceremonies of the Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton.
Barford's style as a lecturer, described by Graham George as 'fluent and persuasive... with a solid array of factual information,' was epitomized in a series of talks he gave over radio station CKUA in 1932 and 1933. His compositions - more than 50 songs, short choral works, and piano pieces - achieved, according to George, 'unpretentiousness, clarity and expressive accuracy, not always by very simple means'.
Barford served 1907-14 as the first president of the Edmonton Musicians' Union. He was made an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Winnipeg, in 1950.
See also Edmonton; Competition festivals.
Vernon Barford, 'Music in Alberta,' Alberta Golden Jubilee Anthology (Toronto 1955)
R. Dale McIntosh
Provincial Archives of Alta. Vernon Barford interview, tape 67.182; papers 67.277
George, Graham. 'Vernon Barford,' CMJ, vol 5, Winter 1961