Chamber orchestra founded in July 1954 by Boyd Neel - then dean of the RCMT - along the lines of his famous English group, the Boyd Neel Orchestra. The 18 strings and 4 woodwinds of the new group were reduced ca 1957 to 13 strings, with supplementary players for specific works. In turn, John Dembeck, Albert Pratz, Andrew Benac, Clifford Evens, and David Zafer served as concertmasters. The repertoire ranged the 17th, 18th, and 20th centuries and included commissioned works from Maurice Blackburn (Suite for Strings, 1960), Keith Bissell (Three Pieces, 1961), Harry Freedman (Fantasy and Allegro, 1962), and Morris Surdin (Concerto for Accordion and Strings, 1966, premiered by Joseph Macerollo); premieres also included Norman Symonds'Pastel Blue in 1963.

The orchestra gave its first concert at Tillsonburg, Ont, 14 Oct 1954, its CBC radio debut 27 October, and its Toronto debut at Eaton Auditorium 25 November. Concert series followed at Hart House, and individual programs were presented in other Toronto halls and in various Ontario centres. In 1955 the orchestra played an important role in the Stratford Festival's first large-scale music program, staying in residence for a month to give the premieres of Willan's A Song of Welcome with Lois Marshall as soloist and Morawetz's Divertimento for Strings, to perform orchestral programs which included the six Brandenburg Concertos of Bach and Godfrey Ridout's Two Études, and to accompany the Festival Singers and several solo artists including Glenn Gould and Isaac Stern. In 1958 the orchestra represented the country at the Brussels World's Fair, where it appeared with Glenn Gould and Marguerite Lavergne; its program offered works by Ridout and Morawetz. On a tour of Canada in 1960 the orchestra gave 32 concerts, mostly in smaller centres. In 1966 it toured in England, Belgium, and Scandinavia, making its London debut 7 June at the Commonwealth Institute and appearing at the invitation of Benjamin Britten at the Aldeburgh Festival. At Expo 67 the orchestra gave daily concerts of Canadian music for a week, documented in part on the LP RCI 238. On Neel's retirement from the University of Toronto in 1971 the orchestra ceased to give public concerts, although it was not officially disbanded.

The New Hart House Chamber Orchestra, not a successor, founded in 1973 by Bill Phillips, soon was renamed the New Chamber Orchestra. An amateur orchestra under Phillips took the Hart House name in 1976 and continued to give annual concerts under conductor Errol Gay in 1991. Its members were drawn from the University of Toronto community.

See also Toronto Feature: Hart House.

Discography

Blackburn - MacMillan - Surdin - Somers. Neel conductor. 1967. CBC EXPO-15

Boyd Neel Conducts Handel, Elgar and Holst.1970. DG 2530-015

The Boyd Neel Touch: Wolf-Ferrari - Collins - Bizet - Dela - et al. 1970. CTL 477-65137/Citadel CT-6013 (released as A Concert for Strings) Vox Turnabout CTC-32007

Champagne - MacMillan - Symonds - Fauré - et al. Neel conductor. 1963. CTL S-5030

Freedman - MacMillan - Surdin - Somers. Neel conductor, Macerollo accordion. 1967. RCI 238/(Somers) 10-ACM 7/(Freedman) 6-ACM 8

Kreisler - Rimsky-Korsakov - Tchaikovsky - Dvořák - et al. Evens conductor, Galper clarinet. 1965. CTL 5058