A Brief History of TEMPO  Reprinted from CAMMAC Toronto Region Newsletter, February 2017. By Frank Nevelo, President of TEMPO. Edited version.

Interest in the playing of medieval, renaissance, and baroque music at an amateur level began to be organized in Toronto with the creation of the Recorder Players’ Society in 1964 and the development of early music programs at the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University. Two-week early music festivals were held at Scarborough College each July from 1974 to 1980 and this attracted amateur early music players from all over North America.

In 1983, recorder teacher Sue Carduelis (then known as Sue Prior), called a meeting at her home to discuss the formation of a Toronto branch of the American Recorder Society as an alternative to the Recorder Players’ Society which had been associated with CAMMAC since 1964 and was the only organization then available for amateur early musicians in Toronto. Several Recorder Players’ Society members also played viols and were interested in creating an organization where they could play their viols. A few meetings were held at the home of Lois Dove, a gifted viol, recorder, and renaissance flute player, to discuss what should be done. It was decided to create a new organization open to amateur players of all kinds of early instruments, not just recorders, and would include additional early music disciplines such as dance and voice. Eventually, each workshop would feature a professional coach, unlike the Recorder Players’ Society, which had a professional coach only once a year at its Annual Workshop. And thus, the Toronto Early Music Players’ Organization, the name with the catchy acronym T.E.M.P.O. devised by Lois Dove, was created in 1984.

The original TEMPO organizers included Lois Dove, Jerry Jacobs, Carol Cady, Shirley Peters, and Miep Koenig, as well as Don Berry who was a member of the Recorder Players’ Society at the time. Jerry Jacobs was to become TEMPO’s first President in 1984, serving until 1986. Other people joined that first year, including Geoff Gaherty, Irene Kyle, and Peg Parsons, plus Joyce Mackay, Marjorie Berry, Nan Foster, Isabel Smaller, Sharon Geens and Heide MacMahon of the Recorder Players’ Society. It is likely that most of these TEMPO members were CAMMAC members as well.

The very first TEMPO meeting took place Sunday afternoon, November 18, 1984 at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Scott Paterson, a teacher at the RCM who had also been enthusiastic in 1983 about creating a Toronto chapter of the American Recorder Society, (ARS) provided his large classroom on one of the upper floors of the Conservatory as the venue for this workshop. Unfortunately, that was the same afternoon as the Santa Claus Parade and the Conservatory happened to be directly on the parade route. Noise from the parade drowned out the music making of the recorders and viols at the workshop, and participants had to stop every now and then to wait for the noise to subside. See Memories

The earliest meetings were held at various locations. In addition to the Royal Conservatory of Music, there was the Church of the Redeemer in the same Bloor St./Avenue Rd. neighbourhood, and then Lansing United Church near Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave. from 1986 until 2011 when a major reconstruction was started of the building adjoining the church sanctuary. A portion of each TEMPO member’s membership fee went to pay for a membership in the American Recorder Society as well, which formalized TEMPO’s relationship as a chapter of ARS. When professional coaches were hired to lead these workshops, money became so tight in the first few years that coaches could be paid only a fraction of their regular professional fee or worked for free if they were willing. By 1989, TEMPO was running a program of monthly Sunday afternoon workshops from September to June, plus an all-day workshop in October and an all-weekend workshop in April (Friday night to Sunday afternoon!). It also published a twiceyearly newsletter.

TEMPO has had to do extensive fundraising to maintain its operation. A garage sale was held in 1985 at Nan Foster’s house and a book sale was held June 20, 1987 at Trinity St. Paul’s Church at Bloor and Spadina. However, the key fundraiser has been an annual Silver Tea, later called Fundraising Tea, which began in September 1985 and was then moved to May in 1988 and has been running in late May or early June ever since. TEMPO members would form chamber groups at these teas and perform throughout the afternoon. Visitors to the tea would be given a printed program in exchange for a donation, and then they would enjoy an afternoon of music while munching on a wide assortment of snacks and beverages, and, we hoped, while viewing items to bid on at the silent auction or perusing other items available for immediate sale. The first Silver Tea had four chamber groups but this quickly grew until there were twelve or fourteen in some years.

TEMPO has also ventured into the sale of branded products such as ceramic coffee mugs, travel mugs, T-shirts, and sweatshirts. The daughter of long-time TEMPO member Duncan MacCrimmon designed the logo on these products. Heather had been taking costume design courses in the early 1980’s and was intrigued by renaissance styles, producing the TEMPO logo found in this article. The letters in the TEMPO acronym became an anthropomorphosis of seven people dressed in renaissance clothing and holding various renaissance instruments. For the very first TEMPO promotional brochure, Heather drew characters in both renaissance dress and heavy metal punk rocker dress to appeal to young potential members who were being influenced by the punk rock scene at that time.

TEMPO became a registered charity in 1988 with its own constitution and the authority to issue charitable donation tax receipts. Far and wide, TEMPO members work to fulfil the mandate clearly expressed in our constitution: “To nurture and encourage the appreciation of early music by promoting interest in, and the study and practice of, early music, and by organizing classes, workshops and concerts in early music and such other complementary purposes not inconsistent with these objectives.”

Numerous workshops were cosponsored by TEMPO and the Toronto Early Music Centre with emphasis on voice and viols. Founded the same year as TEMPO in 1984, Toronto Early Music Centre (T.E.M.C.) was an umbrella organization for early music activities and organizations in the Toronto area, and it promoted public awareness of early music. T.E.M.C. holds an annual Early Music Fair at which TEMPO members have performed in its various locations over the decades, such as Harbourfront Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, Montgomery’s Inn, and Fort York.

TEMPO has done many community outreach performances at museums, galleries, churches, detention centres and seniors’ homes. Two open workshops coached by Scott Paterson in 1989 and Deborah Jackson in 1990 were held at Harbourfront Centre as part of their Family Day program and the Toronto Early Music Centre’s Early Music Fair. Visitors were able to experience a live rehearsal with live musicians. When the Early Music Fair moved to the ROM, various TEMPO chamber groups were spread throughout the museum playing
in the galleries, demonstrating instruments to young visitors, and answering questions from curious parents. Programs for young people and families were presented at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, and Proctor House historical museum in Brighton.

TEMPO members are a cultured bunch who have donated their services as performers at Spadina House, Claude Watson School for the Arts, the Metropolitan Separate School program for gifted children, and the University Arts Women’s Club annual Christmas party. Our members have played at the Richard III Society Banquet, the Polish Canadian Society annual Midsummer Serenade, and the First Unitarian Church “Daytimers” program. TEMPO members have also played at Providence Centre seniors’ residence, the West-End Detention Centre, the Women’s Law Association of Ontario, and the Osgoode Hall Law School centenary celebrations of September 1989 as well as their Centennial Convocation Dinner of June 1990.

TEMPO musicians have been honoured guests at a variety of interesting settings: A wedding on a boat, at a golf course, in a garden--all happy occasions where our music adds a much appreciated note of celebration. However, TEMPO members have also participated in a number of memorial services, our music comforting those who mourn, including services for our late members Isabel Smaller, Lois Dove and Heide MacMahon. TEMPO members were shocked by the tragic death of founding member Lois Dove and her husband John in a car accident on May 10, 1989 while vacationing in Botswana to visit their daughter, Marion, who was teaching at a school there. The Lois Dove Memorial Scholarship Fund was then created to assist those who are unable to afford the full fees for our workshops. Many TEMPO members’ last memory of Lois was when she and John hosted an “ARS 50” party on April 1, 1989. At precisely 5 p.m. Eastern Time, TEMPO members began playing Anthony Holborne’s 1599 almaine “The Night Watch” in the Doves’ living room as part of a world-wide play-in to celebrate the American Recorder Society’s 50th anniversary.

Some members who have found paying early music gigs at weddings and dinner parties have donated their pay back to TEMPO to keep the organization thriving. TEMPO had a financial crisis in 1997 that unfortunately severed the formal relationship between itself and the American Recorder Society. Increases in the ARS membership fee together with the major weakening of the Canadian dollar in the mid 1990’s meant that more and more of a TEMPO member’s membership fee had to go to pay the ARS membership fee, leaving less and less money available to fund TEMPO’s activities. Some TEMPO members still choose to be members of ARS, but not high enough in number for TEMPO to remain a chapter of the ARS.

The field of early music may seem to be a static subject locked into a period of history centuries ago, but new discoveries are being made continually. For example, TEMPO members were privileged to experience a workshop on the just-published 6-part wind band music of Christian III of Denmark written in 1541, presented by David Klausner in 1990. New practitioners of early music keep popping up and TEMPO is sometimes lucky enough to be the beneficiary of these surprises. For example, one of our frequent coaches is Matthias Maute from Montreal who has a very busy performance schedule, and, not being able to make the upcoming April 2nd TEMPO workshop as was originally planned, he was able to get for us Alexa Raine-Wright, a recorder and baroque flute player based in Montreal. The TEMPO executive committee had never heard of Alexa before, and we were pleased to hire yet another brand new coach. In its 33-year history, TEMPO has hired at least 89 unique coaches who have coached about 360 workshops. The most frequently hired coaches have been Scott Paterson and Colin Savage of Toronto, and Valerie Horst of New York City.

TEMPO workshops are open to all players of early instruments who have a reasonably good command of their instrument. We have had some workshops tailored for “buzzie” instruments such as crumhorns, shawms, cornamuses, cornettos, and sackbuts. Most workshops nowadays attract recorders, viols, cellos, and the occasional renaissance & baroque flute, violin, guitar, and, less occasionally, lute and harp. Membership has been in the 33 to 43 range over the past ten years.

This article was written from material sourced from several former and current executive members.