Clarence Lucas | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Clarence Lucas

Lucas, Clarence (Reynolds). Composer, conductor, writer, b at Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ont, 19 Oct 1866, d Sèvres, near Paris, 1 Jul 1947; B MUS (Toronto) 1893. The eldest child of Rev D.V.

Lucas, Clarence

Lucas, Clarence (Reynolds). Composer, conductor, writer, b at Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ont, 19 Oct 1866, d Sèvres, near Paris, 1 Jul 1947; B MUS (Toronto) 1893. The eldest child of Rev D.V. Lucas, a widely travelled Methodist minister, he lived in several small Ontario towns before his parents settled (1878) in Montreal. There he studied piano, organ, and violin and organized a school orchestra. Although offered a scholarship to McGill University to study for the ministry, he preferred to work as conductor of an amateur orchestra, trombonist in a theatre orchestra, organist in various churches, and violinist in the Montreal Philharmonic Society. In 1885 he gave a piano recital in Queen's Hall. Shortly thereafter he went to England. On hearing Anton Rubinstein he abandoned his dream of becoming a concert pianist. Lucas then studied privately in Paris with Georges-Eugène Marty, and at the conservatoire with Théodore Dubois, returning (1888) to Toronto to teach harmony and counterpoint at the Toronto College of Music. Lucas' first wife, the English pianist Clara Asher who had studied with Clara Schumann, made her Toronto debut 7 Dec 1888 at the college. In 1889 Lucas became music director of the Wesleyan Ladies College in Hamilton and revived the Hamilton Philharmonic Society, conducting performances of Messiah (December 1889) and Sir Michael Costa's oratorio Eli (April 1890).

Lucas taught 1890-2 in Utica, NY, before returning (1893) to London, where he read proofs and revised manuscripts for Chappell and prepared a new vocal score of Gounod's Faust. He also taught theory and composition privately (his pupils including Mark and Jan Hambourg and the famous French woman ballad writer Guy d'Hardelot) and conducted 1902-4 the Westminster Society. In 1903 he became London correspondent for the Musical Courier of New York, an association which continued in various forms for 30 years. In 1904 he composed and conducted an Irish musical Peggy Machree, starring Denis O'Sullivan, and in 1905 he conducted with George Edwardes Gaiety Productions in London and on tour in the British Isles.

Lucas was engaged by the US actor Richard Mansfield to arrange and conduct Grieg's incidental music for Ibsen's Peer Gynt at its US premiere (1906) in New York. He then toured the USA with the production. His second wife, Gertrude Pidd, was a member of the company. Following Mansfield's death (1907), Lucas conducted Peggy Machree on a short US tour. In New York (1907-19) he was on the editorial staff of the Musical Courier, conducted musicals for George M. Cohan, and composed songs and keyboard pieces, some of a popular nature. He was also the lyricist for songs (including 'The Perfect Song') by Joseph Carl Breil that were used as incidental music (published 1916) for D.W. Griffith's film Intolerance.

Moving in 1919 to London and in 1923 to Sèvres, Lucas freelanced as a transcriber, arranger, lyricist, and translator. He organized and participated in musicales of the Students' Atelier at the American Church of Paris and remained Paris correspondent to Musical Courier until 1933. He also wrote for the US music periodical Etude. Returning in 1933 to London he concentrated once again on composition while continuing editorial tasks.

Lucas' songs and piano pieces in a popular vein do not reveal the depth of his abilities and tend to create the impression that he composed mostly 'light' music. In fact his major works, of which surviving copies are rare, established his reputation according to London's Morning Post as 'an accomplished musician and earnest composer' (21 Sep 1898). Leschetizky is said to have remarked to Mark Hambourg that the Prelude and Fugue, Opus 38 had the best modern fugue for piano. The opera The Money Spider, the cantata The Birth of Christ, and the overtures to Othello, As You Like It, and Macbeth were performed in several British and North American cities to favourable comment, eg, 'The melodies he writes have vitality and beauty and appeal to musician and layman alike. From this it is not to be concluded he is not a master of all resources of modern harmony and orchestration. He can be as modern as the most rabid anti-classicist could desire' (Chicago Tribune, Feb 1901). Like Lavallée, Lucas in his day was Canada's most versatile composer. His son was the British composer and conductor Leighton Lucas (b London 1903, d there 1982).


Stage Works
The Money Spider, opera. Written ca 1897

Anne Hathaway, opera (?). Written before 1898

Peggy Machree, musical play. 1904. J. Church 1904

At least 2 other operas (?): Arabia and Semiramis


The Story of Musical Form (London 1908, repr Boston 1977)

Many articles and reports for Etude and Musical Courier


As You Like It, Opus 35, overture. Chap 1899. RCI 233 (CBC Winnipeg Orchestra)

Macbeth, Opus 39, overture. Chap ca 1900; CMH vol 8

The Birth of Christ, Opus 41, cantata. Chap 1901

Others, including Othello (overture), a symphony, and 2 symphonic poems


Élégie, Opus 30. Vn, piano. Breitkopf & Härtel 1895

Ballade, Opus 40. Vn, piano (orch). Chap 1901

Légende, Opus 42. Vn, piano. Schott 1903

Five Lyrical Pieces, Opus 48. Vn, piano. Schott 1908

Three Impromptus, Opus 70. Vn. Bevan Music Prod 1938

Ballade, Opus 71. Vn, piano. Lucas 1939

Other works published by Donajowski in 1892


Deux Morceaux, Opus 2. Suckling 1889; (No. 2) CMH vol 6

Deux Mazurkas, Opus 13. Nord 1890; CMH vol 6

Praeludium et fuga, Opus 32. Forsyth Brothers 1898; CMH vol 6

Prelude and Fugue, Opus 38. Chap 1900; G. Schirmer 1916

Valse Impromptu, Opus 44. Presser 1904; CMH vol 6

Epithalamium, Opus 54. Chap 1913

Ariel, Opus 55. Chap 1913; G. Schirmer 1914; CMH vol 6

Holiday Sketches, Opus 61. (No. 4) Boosey 1915

Saga, Ein isländisches Märchen, Opus 25. Breitkopf & Härtel no date


Deux Pièces pour grand orgue, Opus 27. Schott ca 1896; (No. 2) CMH vol 4

Trois Morceaux pour grand orgue, Opus 36. Schott ca 1900; (No. 2) CMH vol 4

Canadian Wedding March, Opus 66. Chap 1917

Two Compositions for Organ, Opus 73. Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew 1941

Seven Short Pieces, Opus 75. Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew 1945

Other works for piano and organ published by Naux, Breitkopf & Härtel, Presser, Augener, Chap, Schott, Michael Reane; many others without op no., some published


'The Bells,' Opus 56. Madrigal. Boosey 1913

'Battle Ode,' Opus 65. Part song. Boosey 1915

Others with and without op no., some published by Leonard, Gould & Bolttler, and Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew


Two Lyrics, Opus 8. Ashdown 1889; CMH vol 3

'When Comes the Spring' (J.L. Lewis). Ditson 1891; CMH vol 3

Album of Six Baritone Songs, Opus 29. Chap 1894; (No. 1) CMH vol 3

'Mädchenherz' (Oscar Meyer). Chap 1897; CMH vol 3

Five Songs, Opus 45. Med voice. J. Church 1904

Several other vocal pieces without op no.; also many arr, including Chopin's Nocturne, Opus 15, no. 2 for voice, with words by Lucas; vocal scores of Gounod's Faust, Monckton's Country Girl, etc

Recordings of 'Song of Songs' and 'The Perfect Song' (of which Lucas was lyricist) are listed in Roll Back the Years.

Further Reading

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