Spencer, Herbert

Herbert Spencer. Conductor, violinist, composer, b Liverpool 28 Feb 1875, d Montreal 24 Dec 1945; Associate, Dominion College of Music. As a child he studied violin with Henry Lawson, piano with Helen Beer, and theory with W.J. Doran. Emigrating to Canada in 1891 he continued his studies in Montreal with Horace Reyner and Charles O'Neill. In a long career as a theatre and hotel orchestra director he conducted at the Lyceum, His Majesty's, and Loew's theatres in Montreal and at the Château Frontenac hotel in Quebec City. For some 20 years he was music director for the theatrical producers Sparrow and Jacobs. Spencer is said to have improved the quality of music in the movie houses by using a symphonic orchestra and programming 'music of the masters'. In the 1920's, with the Mount Royal Concert Orchestra of Montreal, he pioneered in orchestral radio broadcasts.

Spencer founded and was the violin in a trio in Montreal (1899-1904, with Louis Charbonneau, cello, and a Mrs. Turner, piano). He played first violin in the CSM in its early years and became an arranger for the CBC ca 1938. His unpublished compositions include the operetta The Cavaliers (W. A. Tremayne), which was produced by the Lyric Operatic Society of Montreal. His song 'The Wreck of the Julie Plante' (William Henry Drummond) was sung by Pauline Donalda at the Russell Theatre in Ottawa in 1915. Several of his short pieces and folksong arrangements for orchestra or band were heard on CBC radio. The CBC has preserved some of Spencer's manuscripts in its Montreal library.