Archer, Thomas

Thomas Archer. Critic, broadcaster, bass, b Ely, Cambridgeshire, England, 24 Jul 1899, d Cowansville, Que, 28 Aug 1971. He began music studies at the St Paul's Cathedral Choir School in London and in 1911 received a Coronation Medal for his singing at Westminster Abbey. Emigrating to Canada in 1919, he resumed formal music studies in Montreal with Walter Clapperton, Percival J. Illsley, and Frank H. Rowe, and was the first Peterson Memorial Scholar at McGill University. Later Archer was a bass soloist at the St James the Apostle, Erskine, and St James Methodist (now United) churches, retiring from performance in 1929 when he began to write reviews for The Gazette.

In January 1930 he became the first staff music and drama critic for The Gazette, a position he held for nearly 40 years. In 1940 and for some seasons thereafter he was the intermission commentator for the CBC of the New York Philharmonic broadcasts; on one occasion in 1945 he presented Stravinsky, who was visiting Montreal, in a rare radio interview. Archer was also commentator for the CBC series "Canadian Music in Wartime." For several years Archer was program annotator for the MSO, the Montreal Festivals, the Casavant Society, and the Opera Guild. He contributed to publications in Canada and abroad. In 1959 he travelled to Vienna and wrote an illuminating series of articles on the Viennese masters from Mozart to Bruckner.

Archer's large personal library included full scores of all of the operas of Wagner and most of those by Richard Strauss. His extended essay on the latter's music has remained in manuscript and is held at the CMM and the NL of C. He once wrote: "None of the decisions reached by the critic... can be regarded as final judgment. The whole history of criticism is strewn with the corpses of critical opinions that have been put forward as judgments." Archer was always at the forefront of the Montreal music scene, fostering new talent and promoting public support for worthwhile projects.

Thomas Archer, "Claude Champagne," CMJ, vol 2, Winter 1958

"Functions of a musical critic," Montreal Gazette, 20 Dec 1930, repr 23 Jul 1966

"The season of music 1930-1931," Montreal Music Year Book 1931 (Montreal 1931)