The Canadian Music Centre offers condolences to the family of Dr. Charles M. Wilson, who passed away peacefully on June 13, 2019 at the age of 88.
Dr. Wilson was born on May 8, 1931 in Toronto, Ontario, and studied composition at the University of Toronto and Berkshire Music Centre at Tanglewood. His primary mentors included Godfrey Ridout, Lukas Foss, Carlos Chavez and Aaron Copland, though his music is also heavily influenced by Stockhausen and Carter. Stylistically, he composed in most of the idioms of the 20th century, from serialism to indeterminacy, as well as tonal centered works, but all of his works are characterized and unified by a strong emotional lyricism originating from the human voice.
Passionate about vocal genres, Dr. Wilson was organist-choirmaster (1954-64) at Chalmers United Church, Guelph for ten years. As founder and conductor (1955-74) of the Guelph Light Opera, he used local singers to present one oratorio and one musical annually. During these years he conducted choirs and taught high school in the Guelph area and was, for a time, Music Supervisor of Guelph Township public schools. He conducted (1962-74) the Bach-Elgar Choir of Hamilton, but resigned to devote his time to study and composition. He began teaching at the University of Guelph in 1979, where he became Director of the electronic music studio and later Composer-in-Residence.
Dr. Wilson composed in a variety of genres, but his best known music involves the human voice. He wrote many works for his wife Elizabeth, a contralto, and frequently performed in recital with her. Larger scale vocal works include the oratorio The Angels of the Earth and his operas, The Summoning of Everyman, Heloise and Abelard (Commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company), Psycho Red, and Kamouraska. Dr. Wilson also composed works for ensembles including the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, the Festival Singers of Canada, the Canadian Brass, and Dalhousie University.
Dr. Wilson’s contributions to Canadian music were significant and diverse, and his presence will be greatly missed.