Making Music: Profiles from a Century of Canadian Music


498 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-00-200056-3
DDC 780'.92'271




Reviewed by Desmond Maley

Desmond Maley is the music librarian at the J.W. Tate Library,
Huntington College, Laurentian University, and editor of the CAML


I had the feeling while reading these brief biographies of 200
outstanding Canadian musical artists that some of the articles had a
familiar ring. Sure enough, when I checked the Encyclopedia of Music in
Canada (2nd ed., 1992), I found portions of it were quoted without
acknowledgment by the Barris duo. The article on Jon Vickers is
particularly egregious, being simply an abridged version of the EMC2

Errors in editing were noticed, and there are also some debatable
judgments. Healey Willan is described as “Canada’s greatest
composer,” but the profile does little to substantiate the claim.
Similarly, we are told that Robert Farnon, around 1950, was “widely
regarded as the greatest living composer of light classical music in the
world.” Again, there are no criteria for “greatness,” nor a
systematic examination of Farnon’s work to explain why such an
encomium should be bestowed.

Making Music is not a complete disaster, however. The Barrises do write
with insight about the pop music, dance bands, and jazz with which they
have long been associated as broadcast journalists. The profiles of Dan
Hill, Mart Kenney, Moe Koffman, Gordon Lightfoot, Rita MacNeil, Alanis
Morissette, the Rheostatics, and Don Thompson are among the rewarding
portraits in this volume. And they also accord space to artists not
included in EMC2, such as Jack Duffy, Ralph Fraser, and Murray Ginsberg.

But the cursory entry on Oscar Peterson is a major disappointment.
It’s also puzzling that a musician’s musician like Paul Bley, or a
master pianist like Anton Kuerti, are omitted. The francophone
representation is thin, with only Robert Charlebois, Céline Dion,
André Gagnon, and Ginette Reno being chosen.

On balance, I think the Barrises should have done better. Too often the
biographies end with an anecdote or a quotation from a newspaper
article, rather than the authors supplying their own critical judgment.
It adds to the impression that Making Music is a set of journalistic
pieces masquerading as a book.


Barris, Alex, and Ted Barris., “Making Music: Profiles from a Century of Canadian Music,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,