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Fifty Years of Leadership In Music:
Glen and Margaret Harrison

(click thumbnail for larger image)

Glen with his parents
Nellie & Gib Harrison

Glen & Margaret with
Susan, Nancy and Reid

Glen with
sister Joyce

At Principal Sparling-
A Festival Trophy


The Choir at Sargent Park




In those day Nellie and Gilbert Harrison were members of Greenwood United Church their children, Glen and Joyce, participants in the Sunday School; a solid West End family bringing up their children through the hardships of the Great Depression and the uncertainties of World War II. And then, somewhere between the end of the War in 1945 and year 1951 Glen met Margaret Dow. They were married in 1951 and the rest…..as follows.

Margaret’s career in music started when she was still a high school student at Kelvin. They put on the Mikado and Margaret was the accompanist, her first G & S show.
Glen started his career as music teacher at Lord Selkirk School in Winnipeg in 1951. His teaching then took him to Principal Sparling , Sargent Park and Elmwood Schools. Along the way he was training his school choirs and entering them in the Manitoba Music festival each spring.

Margaret’s work as a music teacher took her to eight schools in both Winnipeg and Seven Oakes school divisions. Starting at Machray and ending at Carpathia School. (She had time off in the middle of all that to have a family.) Along the way and up to the present she has worked her considerable skill as an accompanist, 13 years at Rainbow Stage, and 18 years as both organist and choir leader of Oxford United Church. Add to this her work as “lesson accompanist” for the singing students of Nina Dempsey and the string students of John Waterhouse, accompanist for Jon Vickers and Mary Morrison when they performed together in Winnipeg, and organist at St. Paul’s United where Glen was Choir director. Margaret’s list of these kinds of engagements goes on and on. Good accompanists are never short of work in musical Winnipeg.

Back to Glen: While still in the classroom he started as the “voice” of the bi-weekly Manitoba School Broadcast “Let’s Sing Together” from 1956 to 1978. This co-production of the CBC and The Manitoba Department of Education was very popular in elementary school classrooms first in Western Canada and later on national radio. From 1971 to ’78 Glen worked for the Department of Education and produced both their radio and television programs.

After 10 years as a school music teacher for the Winnipeg School Division Glen was hired in 1961 as Music Supervisor in Seven Oaks School Division in West Kildonan. During his 10 years there, Glen produced 3 Broadway shows for the School Division’s Community School Program in which members of the West Kildonan community and Glen Harrison’s friends joined to put on Die Fleidermaus, Carousel and Brigadoon.

If I may skip back to the late ‘50’s Glen was once selected as a contestant in the CBC series “Singing Stars of Tomorrow”. He didn’t win, but neither did one of his fellow contestants, Jean Ramsey, who was soprano soloist at Westminster Church at the time.
In 1971, after 10 years with the Seven Oaks School Division, Glen moved to the Department of Education for 7 years (see previous reference). Then, in 1978, he became Supervisor of Music for the Winnipeg School Division from which he retired in 1989.

But what was he doing with his spare time over all these years? Besides being Choir Director of Westminster church he was, from its very beginning a member of the artistic staff of Rainbow Stage. At first he trained the chorus and soloists for various shows (does anyone remember Chu Chin Chow?) and in the early 60’s he became the conductor. He also directed and conducted musicals at Manitoba Theater Center when it was still located in its building on Portage Avenue East (just a few steps down the street from Jimmy Goundry’s Coffee Shop at Portage and Main.) There he worked with John Hirsch and other early MTC directors. He also had time to teach classes off and on in the University of Manitoba faculty of education for 7 years.
Which brings us to 1990 when, with Glen’s retirement, both he and Margaret were casting about looking for a retirement project. And the Gilbert and Sullivan Society was born, Margaret as its accompanist and Glen as its director.

Fifty years in the life of a city sees many changes; in the cultural life of a city, in the musical life of a city. Winnipeg’s music scene has been rich and varied; Glen and Margaret’s contribution to that scene has been constant, also varied and altogether remarkable. We at Westminster have enjoyed Glen’s leadership for all those fifty
years and Margaret’s contribution for many of them. Our sincere thanks to them both.


The School
Broadcast Teacher



A Big School Broadcast
from the Concert Hall



Glen & Margaret at Westminster Church
November 2007

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