Canadian League of Composers/Ligue canadienne des compositeurs

The Canadian League of Composers/La Ligue canadienne des compositeurs. (CLComp) An organization formed in 1951, with headquarters in Toronto, to promote the music and advance the professional interests of Canadian composers. It was the result of the appearance during the 1940s of a wave of young composers expressing themselves in contemporary idioms. They decided to take collective action because of resistance to their music, on the one hand by publishers and concert and orchestra managers who promoted a more conservative musical aesthetic, and on the other by conservative performers and audiences who prejudged it as meaningless and ugly and were suspicious of homegrown art. The CLComp's founding composers had no desire to issue a credo of aesthetic convictions or to forge a distinct Canadian style of music; on the contrary, CLComp members have followed a great variety of compositional styles and techniques. Their initial main objectives were to end composers' isolation from each other, challenge public apathy towards contemporary music, and establish composition as a recognized profession in Canada.

The idea of a league grew out of an informal discussion 3 Feb 1951 between Samuel Dolin, Harry Somers, and John Weinzweig at Weinzweig's Toronto home. After the recruitment of several other sympathetic Toronto composers (Murray Adaskin, Louis Applebaum, Harry Freedman, Phil Nimmons, and Andrew Twa), the first organizational meeting was held 1 Apr 1951. Weinzweig, the true father of the CLComp and compositional teacher to some of its founding members, was chosen president, and a concert of his music, presented 16 May 1951 by soloists and a string orchestra under Ettore Mazzoleni at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Concert Hall and broadcast on 'CBC Wednesday Night,' introduced the young organization to the public. By the end of 1951 it had close to 20 members. A charter was obtained in March 1952.

The group's first move was to arrange hearings for its members' compositions by organizing a series of concerts. The first symphonic program was presented 26 Mar 1952 under Geoffrey Waddington at Massey Hall, Toronto. Other performances were organized in Toronto, Stratford (Ont), and Vancouver. A concert committee in Montreal arranged a performance 3 Feb 1954 under Waddington at Plateau Hall. However, the accumulating administrative duties of organizing concerts proved too taxing for a small number of composers, so subsidiary organizations - of supporters rather than composers - were set up: the Canadian Music Associates (Ontario) in 1954 in Toronto and the Society of Canadian Music/La Société de musique canadienne (Quebec) in 1959 in Montreal. Two to four concerts and film showings were held each season in Toronto until 1958, including two short operas, 17 Nov 1956: Blackburn'sSilent Measures and Somers' The Fool. Three more concerts were held in 1963.

The initial concentration of activities in Toronto and Montreal reflected the stronger presence of composers and of institutions such as the CBC, CAPAC, BMI Canada, and the principal music publishers in those cities. Other individual events took place in Hamilton in 1954 and Ottawa in 1956, and CBC Radio carried some of the music on its networks.

By 1966, some 200 works had been presented in about 40 concerts. At this point the performance of Canadian music had grown to such a degree that special concerts seemed pointless and ineffective. Responsibility for the performance of contemporary Canadian music was assumed and shared, gradually, by other organizations (ARRAY MUSIC, Days Months and Years to Come, Musique de notre temps/Music of Our Time of Montreal, NMC, NOVA MUSIC, SMCQ, Ten Centuries Concerts, and, to a degree, the various avant-garde series of Udo Kasemets). This continues to be the case in 2011 with organizations/ensembles across the country such as the Esprit Orchestra, Continuum Contemporary Music, the Music Gallery, VNM, the Turning Point Ensemble, the ECM+, Motion Ensemble (Sackville, N.B.), Tonus Vivus (Edmonton) and many others.

Meanwhile the CLComp itself sought other ways to promote knowledge of Canadian music. It selected for publication Fourteen Piano Pieces by Canadian Composers (Harris 1955) and prepared a Catalogue of Orchestral Music (1957) listing 233 works written between 1918 and 1957. It built up a small library of scores by its members, but soon recognized the need for an independent agency for the circulation of unpublished Canadian scores, performance materials and information. A plan to this purpose was formulated by John Beckwith and John Weinzweig and submitted to the Canadian Music Council in 1957 (see CMJ, Spring 1957) for inclusion in a submission to the newly formed Canada Council. The result was the opening in 1959 of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), a national organization dedicated to the collection, distribution and promotion of Canadian Music, and eventually, the CLComp's accumulation of their own sizeable library.

Once the original battle for recognition of Canadian music had been achieved the league was able to turn more of its attention to the protection of composers' professional interests in the legal, economic, and administrative spheres. Its concerns have included questions of copyright, mechanical licences, standards for commissioning and rental fees, publishing and recording contracts, Canadian broadcast content, and university courses on Canadian music. In its advocacy for composers' interests, the league has routinely worked with various government departments, arts councils musical organizations, and other composer groups across the country, among them the Canadian Electroacoustic Community and the Association of Canadian Women Composers.

International Outreach

The CLComp has concerned itself with Canadian representation in international competitions and festivals. It submitted scores for the 1952 Olympiad in Helsinki and was the Canadian chapter 1953-6 of the ISCM. International relations were fostered through the league's joint sponsorship with the Stratford Festival of the International Conference of Composers in Stratford, Ont, in 1960.

In 2011 the CLComp has continued to actively administer the Canadian Section of the ISCM. Each year they select 6 Canadian works for submission to the international World New Music Days and financially assist Canadian composers to travel to this event to promote their music. They also publish a promotional CD of the selected works, and participate in the ISCM General Assembly.

Awards and Competitions

The CLComp has hosted several awards and competitions throughout its history, including the Canada Music Citation, the Friends of Canadian Music Award, and various Composition Competitions.

In recognition of the contributions made by performers to the interpretation of Canadian music, the league created the Canada Music Citation. It has been awarded to Victor Feldbrill (1967), Mary Morrison and Robert Aitken (1969), and John Avison (1970); special tributes have been paid also to John P.L. Roberts (1972) and two of the CMC's long-serving staff, Norma Dickson and Henry Mutsaers in 1979. At a time when financial assistance for young composers was scarce it established a scholarship (worth $250) in 1968. The first recipient of this award was John Fodi, who won it again in 1970. Other winners have been Denis Lorrain (1970), Robert Bauer and Paul Crawford (1971), Michel Vinet (1973), Dennis Patrick (1974), Michel Longtin (1975), and Denis Gougeon (1977). This award was discontinued as scholarships and bursaries became increasingly available from other sources.

In 1993 the Friends of Canadian Music Award was established to honour individuals committed to Canadian composers and their music. The first recipient was David Olds in 1995. In 2011, the CLComp's 60th anniversary year, there were two awards: one to Julian Armour, and the other to Patricia Shand for Special Lifetime Achievement in Canadian Music scholarship.


The 20th-anniversary celebration of the CLComp was held at the University of Victoria in February 1971, and consisted of concerts and panel discussions. The 30th-anniversary conference, held in Windsor and Detroit 12-14 Jun 1981, was the largest gathering of composers ever assembled in Canada. It offered three days of concerts (including one entirely of works by founding members of the league) and discussions dealing with current issues. The 35th anniversary was celebrated in Ottawa, and the 40th (titled Canadian Music into the 21st Century) was held in Winnipeg. The 50th anniversary, held in Kitchener, Ont, entailed five days of concerts, open discussion forums, the Past Presidents' dinner, and workshops. Guest performers at the event included the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Penderecki String Quartet, NUMUS, and others. The 60th Anniversary was held in 2011 in Toronto, and included a CLComp members' composition competition, a student composer competition (co-sponsored by the Canadian University Music Society), an additional Friends of Canadian Music Award, the launch of the CLComp's new website, a keynote lecture featuring Glenn Buhr and a panel of composer-performers entitled Our Native Song, and a concert co-presentation with Esprit Orchestra.


The CLComp is governed by a national council, consisting of 12 members elected biennially by the membership. From these, the council itself elects an executive. In 1981, the council was reorganized to ensure representation from the entire country, based on the distribution of composer members. In 2011 there were four representatives from Ontario, three from Quebec, two from BC, two from the Prairie Provinces (SK/MB), and one from the Atlantic Provinces. The league is funded through annual membership dues and funding from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and SOCAN.

The first president of the CLComp was John Weinzweig, who served from 1951-57 and 1959-63. He was later made president-emeritus. Other presidents have included Victor Davies (1979-82); Paul McIntyre (1982-83); Alex Pauk (1983-89); Patrick Cardy (1989-92); Rodney Sharman (1993- 98); John Burge (1998-2006); Paul Steenhuisen (2006 - 07); James Rolfe (2007-11). In 2011 Jennifer Butler became president.


Membership in the CLComp has evolved from its historical roots. Initially, it was by invitation (requiring nomination by a member). Eventually, the practice changed so that applications could be made directly as well, with the process that applicants had to have a certain number of works and performances to their credit and had to submit scores to a selection committee. By 2011membership reached over 350 and had evolved to four designations: student, professional, emeritus (for members over 65), and affiliate. Healey Willan and Claude Champagne were made honorary members in 1955.


The CLComp underwent an important renewal process in 2006-2009 with a strategic plan, revamped governance, re-branding, and improvements to administration and member services. It continues to advocate for an environment in which Canadian art music is highly valued and its members can flourish artistically as composers. In addition to its lobbying focus, the CLComp offers professional development opportunities to members: workshops, mentorship, web resources and awards.

Throughout its history, the league has gone far towards realizing its principal aim of giving contemporary Canadian composition a vital position in musical life, and one of its greatest achievements has been and will continue to be moral support and encouragement to the individual composer, member and non-member alike.

The CLComp's archives are held at Library and Archives Canada.