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Sarah Fischer - Return to Canada

Photograph of Sarah Fischer

Sarah Fischer

There was little work for singers in Europe during the war, and Sarah Fischer began to think about returning to Canada. Her mother had passed away much earlier, in 1922, and her father was ill and needed care. Furthermore, she knew that there would be many opportunities for her to develop the music scene in Montréal.

Thus, in 1940, Fischer settled in Montréal, established herself as a professor of voice and opened a studio. Shortly after returning to Montréal, she founded the Sarah Fischer Concerts, a series that would endure until her death 35 years later. The Sarah Fischer Concerts series, with its four concerts per season, promoted established Canadian musicians and presented new Canadian talent.

Working out of her apartment, Fischer ran all aspects of the concerts: contracting performers, preparing programs, and running publicity and ticket sales. In an interview she explained her motivation for the Sarah Fischer Concerts: "I give talent a public hearing. It is important for those who want to be heard. I mix amateurs with professionals -- that's how I got my start -- when (pianist) Myra Hess in London put me on with professionals" (Seligson, 1972). In all, Fischer made possible the debut of over 650 musicians.

Many acclaimed Canadian singers, instrumentalists and composers, including contralto Maureen Forrester (who debuted as a soprano), composer Violet Archer, and pianists Robert Silverman and André Laplante, made their debuts at these concerts. Fischer also performed at her concerts until February 25, 1942, when she sang in public for the last time in a recital that featured excerpts from Pelleas et Mélisande.

In 1946, Fischer instituted the Sarah Fischer Scholarships in memory of Dame Emma Albani, which were awarded annually to three musicians: a singer, a pianist and a string or wind instrumentalist. As well, Fischer offered $100 scholarships to her students. She explained, "I'm thanking Canada for my scholarship 55 years ago which sent me to London and opened the musical world to me" (Allegro, 1965).

Fischer also expressed her love of nurturing talent through teaching: "I give lessons two or three days a week. I never look at the clock. It may be one hour or two. I am carried away by the pleasure of teaching good pupils" (Allegro, 1965). She taught with a tuning fork, and her students studied solfège and sight singing.

Sarah Fischer received a number of honours throughout her life. In 1928, she was elected an Honorary Associate of the Royal College of Music (ARCM). In 1967, all of her costumes from past opera performances were displayed at the Hospitality Pavilion at Montréal's Expo 67, and her recordings were reissued on a private compliation, called Sarah Fischer, for release in Canada. One year later, she received an award from the Concert Society of Jewish Peoples' Schools and the Peretz Schools, an annual prize given to an outstanding artist.

Sarah Fischer demonstrated her love for the art form of opera through her commitment to performance and teaching. Through her concert series and scholarship programs, Sarah Fischer contributed significantly to promoting Canadian musicians, paving the way for new talent and leaving an indelible mark on classical music in Canada.

For more information on Sarah Fischer's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.