Kenneth Lyle Winters, musician, composer, critic, broadcaster, editor (born 28 November 1929 in Dauphin, MB; died 15 February 2011 in Toronto, ON). Kenneth Winters was an accomplished musician, music critic and radio broadcaster. He was host of CBC Radio’s daily concert program “Mostly Music” from 1989 to 1996 and music critic for the Globe and Mail from 1999 to 2011. With Helmut Kallmann and Gilles Potvin, Winters was co-editor of the first edition of the authoritative Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (1981).
Winters grew up in Dauphin, Manitoba, where his mother, Edythe Kemp Winters, was a pianist, teacher, and the organist at the local United Church. He studied voice in Dauphin with Ursula Koons Dahlgren (1940–46) and piano with Amy Strickland (1942–43). In 1942, he won the boy soprano classes in the Manitoba Music Competition Festival. He also sang in a team of soloists (which included Douglas Rain) and toured Ontario with the Winnipeg Sea Cadet Band. As a baritone in 1946, he was awarded the highest mark at that year’s Manitoba Music Competition Festival by Ernesto Vinci.
Music Studies and Compositions
In 1946 Winters moved to Winnipeg, where he studied music theory with Gwendda Owen Davies, voice with Mary Scarlett Wood, Filmer Hubble, Frederick Newnham and George Kent, and piano with Roline Mackidd and John Melnyk. He returned to Dauphin, where he had set up a piano class, and commuted to Winnipeg for two years to continue his studies. He also began composing songs, and in 1950 his setting of William Blake’s “O Rose, Thou Art Sick” for contralto, flute and string quartet won the first composition award offered by the Winnipeg Jewish Women’s Musical Club. During the 1950s and early 1960s, he completed a number of other songs, including a folk song suite for high voice, flute, viola, and cello.
Career in Winnipeg
Winters returned to Winnipeg in 1954. He served as organist and choirmaster at St Philip’s Anglican Church in Norwood, attended the Manitoba Normal School, and established a piano class. He also did some vocal coaching, taught school music, and sang in a Rainbow Stage production of Annie Get Your Gun in 1956. Also that year, he began writing live music and dance reviews for the Winnipeg Free Press, and contributing music reviews to CBC Radio.
He spent 1959– 60 in Paris studying composition with Nadia Boulanger (which he considered the highlight of his life) and solfège (or solfeggio, a sight-singing method) with Annette Dieudonné. In 1962, he served as music editor for the periodical Canadian Art. He composed five incidental pieces and was the music director for John Hirsch’s production of James Reaney’s children’s play, Names and Nicknames in 1963.
Career in Toronto
Winters continued writing music and dance reviews for the Winnipeg Free Press until 1966, and also covered visual arts, movies, records and books for the paper. He then moved to Toronto and served as music and dance critic for the Telegram from 1966 until 1971, when he was appointed executive director of the Ontario Federation of Symphony Orchestras (OFSO). He also became the founding executive director of the Association of Canadian Orchestras (ACO), administering the national organization from the OFSO offices in Toronto. In 1972 he became involved with the planning of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, and in 1975 he resigned from OFSO and ACO to devote all of his time to the encyclopedia, which was published in 1981.
Winters continued his prolific broadcasting work as a writer, narrator and host with CBC Radio in Toronto. He contributed reviews to such programs as “Critically Speaking,” “Records in Review,” “Music Diary,” and “Sound Reviews,” and hosted such series as “The Music of Chopin” (1964–65), “The Music of Mendelssohn” (1965–66), “Gustav Holst, Planetmaker” (1974), “Sir Michael Tippett: A Composer for Our Time” (1975), and a week-long special on the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth (1985). He was the co-host of the CBC Radio program “Mostly Music” from 1981–82, a regular contributor from 1985–89, and the host from 1989–96.
Winters received an honorary degree from Brandon University in 1989, and served as the music critic for the Globe and Mail from 1999 until his death in 2011. He contributed more than 400 reviews, the last of which was published the day he died, of a heart attack at age 81.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.