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Robert Fleming: Biography

Robert Fleming
1921 - 1976
Region: Ontario

Robert Fleming

Robert Fleming was born on November 12, 1921, and died in Ottawa, November 28, 1976. Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he moved at an early age to Saskatoon, where he studied piano with Lyell Gustin. At fifteen, he went to London, England to study at the RCM with Herbert Howells (composition) and Arthur Benjamin (piano). He won a Canadian Performing Rights (CAPAC) Scholarship in 1939, which took him to the Toronto Conservatory of Music. Teachers at the Conservatory included Healey Willan (composition), Norman Wilks (piano), Ettore Mazzoleni (conducting), and Frederick Silvester and John Weatherseed (organ).

Fleming joined the Music Department of the National Film Board in 1946, becoming Music Director in 1958. During his twenty-four years with the NFB he wrote and conducted scores for over three hundred films. In 1970, he became Associate Professor of Music at Carleton University in Ottawa, a position he held until his death.

Fleming's compositions are typically lyrical and melodious, reflecting his sincere interest in communicating directly with the listener. Strong rhythmic elements and witty inventiveness are also characteristic throughout his many and varied works, which range from orchestral and band pieces, ballets, film scores, to instrumental works, compositions for piano and organ, as well as about one hundred songs. The song cycle, The Confession Stone, is perhaps his best-known composition. He had an obvious affection for the voice, demonstrated a particular facility for fitting words to music, and was "one of the few Canadian composers who appear to feel completely at home in writing for the piano." Although he was one of Canada's most prolific composers, his craftsmanlike approach to composition demonstrated his concern for performer and audience alike. His music has been performed extensively throughout North and South America, Europe, the USSR, Australia, and New Zealand.

Fleming also had a long association with the Anglican Church, composing over fifty hymns, nine settings for the Eucharist, a cantata, and music for the organ. A Wreath of Carols, a collection of twenty-five carols with words by his wife Margaret, is particularly well-known. His last composition, a setting of the new Canadian Eucharist, was found at his piano at his death.

CAPAC

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