Percy Faith (1908-1976)

Percy Faith

Year Born: 1908

Year Died: 1976


Faith, Percy (1908-1976)

Live music was a key feature of the early days of broadcasting in Canada, and a significant contributor to its growth was Percy Faith, who was born in Toronto on April 7th 1908.   His musical career was launched when, as a seven-year-old, he began to learn the violin; he graduated to the piano at ten, and at the age of thirteen was playing piano accompaniments to silent films in movie theatres in Toronto.  He was only fifteen when he made his debut at Massey Hall, playing Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy. At the age of eighteen, Faith’s hands were injured in a fire, which put an end to his concert pianist ambitions, but arranging and composition lessons from Toronto musicians Louis Waizman led his career in a new direction, and he was soon writing for hotel orchestras, and then for Geoffrey Waddington’s CKNC Radio Orchestra.

Faith’s own broadcasting career as a performer began in radio with CKCL, where in 1927 he conducted Simpsons’ Opera Hour, and in the following year he appeared with singer Joe Allabough as duettists Faith and Hope. He joined the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Corporation in 1933, and over the ensuing years – during which, in 1936,  the CRBC became the CBC – was arranger-conductor for many series, including Gaiety and Romance, Mardi Gras, Cosmopolitans, Streamline, and Bands Across The Sea.  In 1938 he began a new series, Music by Faith, which was also heard in the U.S., and in 1940 this exposure resulted in his being offered a job with NBC Radio in Chicago, as musical director of the Carnation Contented Hour, which ran for seven years. Other radio shows he conducted included The Coca Cola Show and the Buddy Clark Show

After some early recordings for American Decca, and later for RCA,  Faith was signed in 1950 by Mitch Miller at Columbia Records; this was the start of an association with Columbia that was to last for twenty-six years.  As composer, arranger and conductor, Faith was associated with scores of top-selling recordings.  Tony Bennett, Jerry Vale, Johnny Mathis, Vic Damone and Sarah Vaughn were among the singers who benefited from his arranging and conducting skills, while his composition My Heart Cries For You was a major hit for Guy Mitchell.

The Percy Faith Orchestra recordings of Theme from A Summer Place, Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet, Song from the Moulin Rouge, Delicado and Return to Paradise were all major chart successes (and the first two titles won Grammys in 1960 and 1969 respectively), and he wrote many film scores for Paramount, Universal and MGM, as well as the distinctive theme for television’s first 90-minute western series, The Virginian.

Though Faith did not appear frequently on U.S. television, he returned to Canada from time to time to conduct CBC-TV specials.  While he became a U.S. citizen in 1945, he retained a great affection for Canada, and recognized his indebtedness to his native land by establishing the Percy Faith Award for Music at the University of Toronto in 1974.

Percy Faith died of cancer in Los Angeles on February 9th 1976.

Sources include: The Encyclopaedia of Music in Canada

Written by Pip Wedge – August, 2004