Geoffrey Waddington (1904-1966)

Geoffrey Waddington

Year Born: 1904

Year Died: 1966


Waddington, Geoffrey (1904-1966)

Geoffrey Waddington, founder of the CBC Symphony Orchestra, was born in Leicester, England, but his parents migrated to Canada in 1907 and he grew up at Lethbridge in southern Alberta.

His mother played the piano and his father sang in light opera, and from an early age Geoffrey played the violin and conducted. In 1921 he won a scholarship to the Toronto Conservatory of Music and the next year he joined the faculty and also began his broadcast career with radio station CKNC Toronto, owned by the Canadian National Carbon Company.

From 1926 – 33, Geoff was music director of CKNC. He conducted music on many programs including The Neilson Hour which in 1929 became the first variety show broadcast across Canada.

In 1933, the new Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission took over the CKNC studios and Geoffrey became music director of the CRBC, which also inherited The Neilson Hour along with shows like Forgotten Footsteps, an hour-long dramatic series written by Don Henshaw and which featured Geoff Waddington’s orchestra.

In 1935 he left to become a freelance conductor and during the Second World War conducted for This is the Army, a spinoff of the radio program The Army Show with Wayne and Shuster. He was music director from 1938 to ’43 at CBC Winnipeg. After a stint in Alberta with All-Canada Radio Facilities, he was appointed music advisor and consultant to the CBC English network in 1947, although the position was only made official in 1948. He co-founded the CBC Opera Company, was appointed CBC music director in 1952, and that year founded the CBC Symphony Orchestra which was part of the opening night of CBC-TV’s Toronto station in September 1952. He was the CBC Symphony Orchestra’s music director until its demise in 1964 and made it a platform for Canadian musical talent, actively commissioning new music. In 1959, the CBC established the CBC Talent Festival under his direction. Its name was changed later to the CBC Radio National Competition for Young Performers.

Dalhousie University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1956 and he was awarded the Alberta Music Award for services to Canadian music.

Geoffery Waddington died in 1966.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge – April, 2003