Fonds UBCA-ARC-1321 - Harry Adaskin fonds

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Harry Adaskin fonds

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  • Multiple media

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1.19 m of textual records and other material

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Biographical history

Harry Adaskin was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1901 and later emigrated with his family to Toronto. As a child, he learned to play the violin, and at the age of twelve, he entered the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1923 he and three colleagues formed the Hart House String Quartet, in which Adaskin played the second violin. Sponsored by Vincent and Alice Massey, it was the first Canadian musical quartet to make an international reputation. The quartet made many concert tours of North America and Europe, and in 1928 played at Maurice Ravel's New York debut. In 1938 he resigned from the quartet, and as a freelance musician, combined musical performance with a broadcasting career. His wife, pianist Frances Marr Adaskin, undertook several concert tours throughout Canada and the United States. For several seasons in the 1940s, Adaskin was an intermission commentator for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's Sunday afternoon concerts, heard throughout Canada. He also hosted several CBC Radio programmes, including Musically Speaking and, later, Tuesday Night. In 1946, he became head of the new Department of Music at UBC, which he held until 1958. He continued as a professor until his retirement in 1973. His circle of friends and acquaintances included Emily Carr, members of the "Group of Seven," Vincent Massey, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other prominent artists. Adaskin received the Order of Canada in 1974 and honorary doctorates from Simon Fraser University in 1979, and UBC in 1980. He died in 1994.

Custodial history

The papers of Harry Adaskin came into the possession of his step-son Gordon after his death. Gordon Adaskin sorted through the materials, discarding old financial records and routine administrative correspondence, before donating most of them to the University Archives in June 2000. The remainder were donated after Gordon's death by his wife Jan, in April 2002. One additional item, a concert programme from 1947, was donated by Jocelyn Pritchard in 2006.

Scope and content

Fonds consists almost entirely of materials created or acquired by Harry Adaskin throughout his life and career. It includes the manuscripts for his autobiographies, correspondence, scripts for radio broadcasts and lectures, newspaper clippings, and concert programmes, photographs, films, and audio recordings. Also included are annotated copies of Adaskin's two autobiographies: A Fiddler's World (published in 1977), and A Fiddler's Choice (1982). Some outside correspondence addressed to his wife Frances after his death is also included. The fonds is organized in the following series: Autobiographies, Hart House String Quartet, Harry and Frances (Marr) Adaskin Concerts, Musically Speaking Scripts, New York Philharmonic Broadcasts, Tuesday Night Scripts, Miscellaneous Writings, Correspondence, Audio Tapes, Autographed Photographs, Audio Discs, and Film.

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Please see the finding aid for an inventory of files.

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General note

Researchers are strongly advised to check with the University Archives regarding permission to publish or otherwise use materials from this fonds.

Physical description

The other material includes 36 audiotapes, 27 photographs, 8 vinyl LPs, and 3 rolls of film.

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Revised in June 2020

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