CAMMAC | The Canadian Encyclopedia



CAMMAC (Canadian Amateur Musicians/Musiciens amateurs du Canada). Non-profit organization founded in Montreal in 1953 by the brothers Georges and Carl Little and their wives, Madeleine and Frances, with the aim of encouraging the activities of amateur musicians at all levels.


CAMMAC (Canadian Amateur Musicians/Musiciens amateurs du Canada). Non-profit organization founded in Montreal in 1953 by the brothers Georges and Carl Little and their wives, Madeleine and Frances, with the aim of encouraging the activities of amateur musicians at all levels. First established as a summer camp, accessible to all without distinction of age, sex, or musical competence, it was called the Otter Lake Music Centre (Centre musical du Lac-à-la-Loutre) and was situated at Huberdeau in Argenteuil county to the northwest of Montreal. During the last two weeks of August about 20 participants took courses in solfège, choral music, and recorder with Carl and Georges Little, Mario Duschenes, and Ruth Blanchard. At the end of the week a mini-festival of three concerts by professional musicians was later added to the program of studies. In 1959 Canada's first conference of amateur musicians was held at the Otter Lake centre.

In 1961 an amendment to the charter obtained from the Quebec government in 1954 conferred the name CAMMAC on the organization. In 1957 a special program was added for children from 4 to 12 in order to allow entire families to make music together (a feature uncommon, if not unique, in North America). In response to the wishes of the participants, winter courses were begun in Montreal, and regional committees were established. In a short time a veritable 'people's conservatory' of some 400 students emerged. With the development of 'continuing education' and leisure programs by the education authorities in Quebec, CAMMAC courses were abandoned in 1975. However, the regional committees continued to function effectively, those of Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa being particularly active.

In February 1959, the periodical CAMMAC was launched. Mimeographed at first, it appeared 1964-9 as a printed quarterly titled Musicien amateur/Amateur Musician. With Madeleine Little as its editor it offered news, editorials, and articles by professional and amateur musicians, an international column, and unpublished works by Canadian composers. In 1966 5000 copies of a special issue on music education were printed. Georges Little helped found the CAMMAC music library in 1959 by donating his personal collection of choral music. The library of the defunct Little Symphony of Montreal, another contribution, is located at the national office in Montreal. The CAMMAC library is operated on the general principles of the Drinker (choral) Library in the Free Library of Philadelphia, and its lending service is open to all Canadian members of CAMMAC. A catalogue and supplements are issued. During the winter season, depending on the wishes of its members, CAMMAC organizes readings of cantatas and other choral works under the direction of guest conductors. The acquisition in 1968 of the splendid Domaine des Bouleaux on Lake MacDonald, some 50 kilometres northwest of Montreal, has made it possible to accommodate larger numbers. In 1990 the summer session was extended to eight weeks, and there were some 1100 participants, 81 teachers, 28 different courses, and 40 concerts. Plans were finalized in 2003 to rebuild a new cultural facility on the site of the Lake Macdonald Music Centre that will offer year-round access. Summer activities at the Lake Macdonald Centre are offered to adults, adolescents and children and include instruction in most forms of musical expression including choral singing, chamber music, jazz, and Broadway singing as well as most individual instruments. The centre also offers instruction in dance, pottery, and woodworking as well as a sports program for children. Besides accommodating the regular activities, the centre is available for rental by various member groups, choirs, orchestras, etc.

In 1978 a nine-day summer program, along the lines of that at Lake MacDonald, was initiated in Ontario at the Rousseau Lake School for Boys in the Muskoka region, north of Toronto between Parry Sound and Huntsville. In 1989 this musical centre moved to the Cedar Glen School, between Bolton and Palgrave, near Toronto. The Ontario Centre does not have a permanent location and has been held at the Appleby College campus, a private school near Oakville, as well as at Lakefield College, a private school near Peterborough. CAMMAC's activities have largely been confined to Quebec, Ontario, and the Atlantic provinces. Although a musical centre was established at Miracle Valley, near Vancouver, in 1984, it was closed some five years later. In 2004 CAMMAC was operating out of five regions: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau, Quebec City, and Nova Scotia.

Although the summer sessions are the most representative of CAMMAC's activities, each regional centre sponsors events throughout the year. The Montreal region is perhaps the most active with the organization of the Montreal CAMMAC Youth Orchestra, which was founded in 1990, as well as the Montreal CAMMAC Youth Choir. Every regional branch hosts sight-reading activities and publishes its own newsletter.

CAMMAC has been subsidized by the MACQ, the Quebec Ministry of Education, the Canada Council, and the OAC. From 1962 to 1968, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institute, CAMMAC invited German string quartets for four-week residencies at the MacDonald Lake camp. From 1972 to 1980, a special subsidy from the Secretary of State made it possible for French-speaking Canadians from outside Quebec to take part for 15 days in the camp's activities at MacDonald Lake.

Through its public concerts CAMMAC has assisted the early careers of artists who later have achieved fame, including Maureen Forrester, Frans Brouw, and Louis Quilico. It has also hosted recitals by groups such as the Orford Quartet and the Amsterdam Locki Stardust Quartet. The Montreal Bach Choir, directed by Georges Little, for several years gave its services free of charge. Among the professional musicians who have participated in CAMMAC activities as teachers or performers have been Jan Simons (general director 1969-90), Walter and Otto Joachim, Hyman Bress, Bernard and Mireille Lagacé, John Newmark, Ross Pratt, R. Murray Schafer, and John W. Taber. Bartholomew-James Crago became general director of CAMMAC in 1991. An archival collection that accounts for the years 1953-1992 has been deposited at the National Library of Canada.

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