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The Arion

(Toronto, 1880-1881)

Prepared by Kathleen McMorrow
Online only (2008)

The Arion : a Canadian Journal of Art, Devoted to Music, Art, Literature and the Drama , was the second of three music journals to appear in nineteenth-century Toronto, the English-language centre of cultural activities in Canada. The editor and publisher, J. Davenport Kerrison, was born in London in 1841, and established himself in Toronto as a pianist, organist, teacher and composer from about 1866 through 1888. The journal was issued monthly, from October 1880 to September 1881. The last issue included a table of contents for the volume, and plans for the coming year, but no further issues appeared.

The announced aim of the journal was to “instruct public taste in recognized standards.” Most issues contained a didactic article on vocal or pianistic technique, and a biographical sketch of a European composer (reprinted from a collection by G. T. Ferris), or performer. More distinctively, there were several editorials demanding better qualified music teachers, naming particular individuals as local examples of the misuse of the titles “doctor” and “professor,” and others questioning the effectiveness of the Trinity College (Toronto) music program. These generated a series of heated responses from correspondents.

Each issue included news and detailed reviews (all unsigned, but probably by the editor) of Toronto activities: cantata and oratorio performances by the several large choral societies, church choir concerts and services, instrumental recitals by visiting and local artists, programmes by music schools, and developments in the music trade. There were brief reviews of songs or short piano pieces published in Toronto.

Regular sections titled “Musical Gossip,” or “Breves and semibreves” included reports, selected from American journals, of concerts, new operas, festivals, appointments, obituaries, etc., in Europe and the United States.

Of the arts listed in the subtitle, only music received significant attention. There were occasional articles commenting on the sketching tours or major exhibits of local painters; half a dozen brief anonymous poems appeared. One notable contribution from a writer who later became a professional poet is the essay “The power of music,” by Archibald Lampman, then a student of literature at Trinity College.