18 cm of textual material (3 oversized documents)
1 floppy disc
1 object [medal]
History / Biographical
Stewart Hamilton was born in Regina, Saskatchewan to Florence Hamilton (née Stuart; 1893-1983) and James Shire Hamilton (1897-1954). His mother was from North Dakota and worked as a nurse (she later remarried under the surname Twiss), and his father, James Shire Hamilton, was from Galt, Ontario, and worked as a corporate lawyer. They had five children: Peter, Dorothy, Douglas, Stewart and Patricia (Patsy). Stewart went to Davin Public Elementary School and attended and graduated high school at Regina Collegiate which later renamed Central Collegiate Institute. His first musical training was in the Lakeview Boys Choir in Regina, under the direction of Kay Hayworth. In 1943, his parents agreed to send him to piano lessons with Martha Somerville Allan. In 1946, when Hamilton's parents moved to Saskatoon, he decided to stay in Regina to continue his lessons, moving into an apartment with Mrs. Annie Hailstone, a dress-maker. Hamilton moved to Toronto in 1947 to join his sister Dorothy Marshall (née Hamilton), who was pursuing her own singing career. He began his piano performance studies at The Royal Conservatory of Music with the Chilean-Canadian composer, pianist, and teacher Alberto Guerrero. In 1948, to help support his studies, he worked as a uniformed usher at Eaton Auditorium, Canada's premier concert stage. This job allowed him to see many performances of The Eaton Auditorium concert series. He also coached singers on the side for twenty-five cents an hour. In 1950 he earned certification as an Associate of The Royal Conservatory of Music (ARCT).
Hamilton spent much of his time in the 1950s involved in the Toronto classical music scene. These seminal years laid much of the ground for his future career in Canadian music. He started frequenting performances and social events of The Royal Conservatory Opera (later known as the Canadian Opera Company) with Herman Geiger-Torel, Nicholas Goldschmidt, and Arnold Walter.
Hamilton accepted an offer from soprano June Kowalchuck, founder of Opera Hamilton, to become the chorus director, rehearsal pianist, and occasional conductor for the Royal Conservatory Opera School, which he held for five years. He accepted his first position as a voice teacher at the local Music Conservatory in Hamilton and spent the rest of his time in Toronto, coaching Elizabeth Benson Guy, Maureen Forrester, and Lois Marshall, as well as accompanying Greta Kraus's lieder classes.
In 1967, he took up a significant technical and musical challenge by accepting the role of pianist and singer in a production of Beyond the Fringe. The show was performed in Buffalo, New York for six weeks, in Toronto for six months, and he later toured across Eastern Canada. During afternoons and off days, Hamilton practiced for his New York City Town Hall piano recital. After a second New York recital in 1968, and a third one in London's Wigmore Hall in 1971, Hamilton decided not to further pursue a concert career and concentrated his efforts on the Toronto classical music scene.
In 1974, Hamilton initiated the annual Opera in Concert series at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto, acting as artistic director, producer, and accompanist. Hamilton was the first Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble and in 1981 he relinquished the position, to act as Lois Marshall's accompanist on her farewell recital tour.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Hamilton was in regular demand as an adjudicator for competitions such as the CBC Young Performers' Competition, Opera America Auditions, the Sullivan Foundation Awards, the Oralia Dominquez Competition (in Mexico), and the George London Foundation Awards
In 1984 he was made a member of the Order of Canada and in 1989 he won the Toronto Arts Award in the Performing Arts Category. In recognition of his significant contributions to performing arts in Canada, he received the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada in 1992.
In 1981, he became the host of the opera quiz on the CBC's Saturday Afternoon at the Opera April–December broadcasts. From 1982-2007 Hamilton worked as the Quiz Master on CBC's weekly Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, as well as appearing regularly as a panelist, and occasionally guest quiz master, on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts in New York City. Hamilton's last Opera Quiz for Saturday Afternoon at the Opera was in the fall of 2007.
In 2000, Opera Canada Magazine awarded him the first Ruby award and in 2004, he was awarded the Beckmesser Award from the Los Angeles Opera League. He received an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) in 2008 from Dalhousie University. Hamilton continued to teach opera repertoire and diction at the University of Toronto and maintained a full coaching schedule and devoted time to master classes across Canada.
His autobiography Opening Windows was published by Dundurn Press in the fall of 2012 and the same year he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Stewart died on January 1, 2017 after a battle with prostate cancer.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of records relating to the life and work of Stewart Hamilton, including correspondence, writing, press, diplomas and awards.