Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Tooting our horn

Things you might not know about Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s population is 3.2 percent of the total for Canada, but consider our contributions to Canada!

World War I claimed the lives of 4,385 of our servicemen and World War II more than 70,000.

At 651,900 square kms (251,699 square miles), Saskatchewan sprawls over more real estate than all France at 643,801 square kms (248,572 square miles).

Our provincial network of roads and highways measures 228,200 kms, 29,500 of them paved. 

Saskatchewan is indeed Canada’s “breadbasket,” with 37 million acres of crop-producing land, 41.7 percent of the Canadian total. 

Saskatchewan has 10,000 lakes. The deepest is Deep Bay at Reindeer Lake, a meteor crater gouged more than 100 million years ago. 

Saskatchewan is gaining international renown for its subterranean treasure trove of fossils, including dinosaurs and prehistoric marine and winged creatures.

Saskatchewan boasts a dazzling number of firsts related to the achievement of tax-funded hospitalization and Medicare. 

We have more fly-in fishing camps than almost anywhere in the world.

At least twelve Saskies have received the supreme honour, appointment as Companions of the Order of Canada.

At least fourteen Saskies have been honoured by a British monarch, with appointment to the Order of the British Empire. 

At least ten of our writers are winners of a Governor General’s literary award, at least two have won the Scotiabank Giller award, and at least one was awarded the Booker award in Britain.

[; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; Archer, Saskatchewan: A history; Lorne Clinton, Alberta Venture 2 May 2008, and other sources] 

“Wrong” sign | unsplash

You’re so wrong!

Common misconceptions about Saskatchewan

Ranging from observations by Captains John Palliser (Palliser Expedition, 1858) and William F. Butler (The Great Lone Land, 1872) to more recent assumptions, usually made by tourists who crossed the province on the Trans-Canada highway.

Saskatchewan is just a vast flatland.” 

Running from the 49th parallel north to the 60th, Saskatchewan is the fifth largest Canadian province. The north is mostly rugged precambrian rock, while the south is largely overlain by glacial deposits, with scattered coulees (former glacial spillways) and a few flat areas (glacial lake bottoms). The Cypress Hills in the southwest, rising to 1,392 metres above sea level, are the highest place between the Rocky Mountains and Quebec’s Appalachians.

“Saskatchewan is a semi-arid prairie province, lacking water resources.”

In fact, the northern half is essentially boreal forest, dotted by 10,000 freshwater lakes. While Palliser’s Triangle in the southwest is the driest part of the grasslands, it usually gets enough rain for dryland farming.

“Saskatchewan was an empty wilderness before European settlers arrived around 1900.”

In fact, since about 9,500 BCE, it was inhabited by diverse indigenous peoples, each with their own cultures and political systems. Southerners depended on vast roaming herds of bison, while most northerners made their living by hunting and trapping in the boreal forests. In both areas, the First Nations had been making deals with Hudson’s Bay Company agents for more than a century before Canadian settlement began.

Saskatchewan is a rural, agricultural province.”

In fact, since 1950, with 70 percent rural population, until now, when it’s only about 30 percent, Saskatchewan has “urbanized” faster than any other province. Though farm output doubled in that period, the non-agricultural sector has become the economic mainstay, as farm mechanization and improved transport led to rural depopulation. 

“Saskatchewan has a diverse, multicultural population.”

In fact, over 80 percent of Saskies were born and raised here, many to the second and third generation. The descendants of European immigrants with distinctive languages and customs have largely blended into the Canadian mainstream. More recent migrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East tend to cluster in the cities, where there are more jobs and more guidance in adapting. Ironically the biggest divide remains between the First Nations and the “interlopers.”

“The people of Saskatchewan are all socialists.

In fact, while it’s true that Saskatchewan was the birthplace of hospitalization, Medicare and other socialist measures under the CCF/NDP, Saskies have been electing Conservative governments intermittently, all along.

Famous Saskies

People everyone should know about

Most Saskies are aware of our superstars such as Joni Mitchell, Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker, Gordie Howe, Buffy Saint-Marie. Here are some who lived in Saskatchewan that you might not know about (more info on them and hundreds more are in relevant chapters).

Comedian Art Linkletter, famous for American radio and television series including “People are Funny” and others, was born 18 July 1912 in Moose Jaw to S.W. Kalle and his wife, but Art was adopted and taken to San Diego. He found this out during a 1974 visit to his birthplace.

Nobel Prize winner Gerhard Herzberg was brought to the University of Saskatchewan by Dr. John Spinks in the 1930s, after they had met in Germany. 

Celebrated NFL football player Reuben Mayes of North Battleford came from a famous African-American family in the Maidstone area, who had led about a thousand ex-slaves to the province in 1910.

Grant MacEwan, who moved with his family to Melfort in 1915, once taught animal science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and was briefly an editor at the Western Producer. He was an MLA and lieutenant-governor of Alberta, best-selling author of fifty-five books, the man with a college named after him.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) lived for a year in Prince Albert after her father moved there with his new wife, but returned to Prince Edward Island to write her remarkable series of Anne books.  

Television broadcaster Keith Morrison of Lloydminster honed his skills as CFQC Saskatoon, and later became a familiar face as CBC-TV anchorman, NBC Dateline.

Leslie Nielsen of Regina acted in serious films such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, and zany ones like Airplane and the Naked Gun

Celebrated actor and comedian Eric Peterson of Indian Head trained in the U of S drama department. He played the famous flying ace in Billy Bishop Goes to War and in the TV series Street Legal, Corner Gas, and This is Wonderland.

Actress Shannon Tweed, formerly of Saskatoon, is best known as the wife of Kiss band member Gene Simmons.

Tenor Jon Vickers of Prince Albert, was an international opera star who performed major roles in London, Milan and New York.

[Linkletter: Not Only a Name: a Long Love Letter from Moose Jaw; MacEwan: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan,567-8 ; Mayes: CBC; Battleford News-Optimist]   

Surprising connections

Famous (and infamous) folks with ties to our province

The legendary American outlaw Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” used to hide out in the Big Muddy badlands in southern Saskatchewan. The caves are still there.

Father Bacchiocci, a Swift Current priest, was said to be the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Al Capone's Hideaway motel in Moose Jaw.
A motel in Moose Jaw commemorates the famous Chicago gangster said to have stayed there often
during the Prohibition era. Photo by Patricia Pavey.

Chicago gangster Al Capone is said to have frequented Moose Jaw during the Prohibition era. Saskatchewan authors and the tourism sector have exploited this belief.

Inspector Francis Dickens, son of novelist Charles Dickens, was commanding the NWMP garrison at Fort Pitt during the Riel Resistance, but was persuaded to evacuate his men to Battleford, under threat of attack by militant warriors in Big Bear’s band. 

Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s nephew Bertram Tennyson homesteaded at Cannington Manor near Moosomin. His book of poems did not launch a spectacular literary career, but he stuck to his day job, lawyering.  He was also known to have pinch-hit as stagecoach driver from time to time. 

Aristocrat from Whitewood
Count Beaudrap, who lived at Cannington manor for a while, was said to be related to Joan of Arc!

A couple of nobles associated with the French settlement at St. Hubert, were not shy in their claims to historical prestige. French count Paul de Beaudrap de Denneville (Marche) claimed he was a distant relative of Joan of Arc. He farmed for a while at St. Hubert.

Eminent literary critic Northrop Frye was once a student minister and itinerant preacher at Stonepile near the Cypress Hills for about two years.  The problem was, he couldn’t ride horseback. He was later ordained as a United Church minister.

American author Sinclair Lewis in 1924 went on a canoe trip with his physician brother Claude and the “treaty brigade” officials of the Department of Indian Affairs on their annual trek to dispense treaty money to northern tribes. 

Author Gabrielle Roy had a family connection to Eastend (or Dollard just down the road). Her uncle brought French settlers to the area so she had at least one first cousin in the town. Her autobiography, translated into English as Enchantment and Sorrow, received the Governor-General’s award in 1987.

Writer Robert Fulford was the nephew of Theresa Fulford Delaney, one of some eighty white settlers who spent two months in the camp of Big Bear in the 1885 North West Resistance.

Maple Creek rancher and storekeeper Horace Greeley was a second or third cousin of the famous American author and statesman Horace Greeley.

Hollywood horror film star Boris Karlov performed in Saskatchewan during his early acting years, with a repertory theatre company that suddenly folded. But the very next day the “Regina Cyclone” devastated much of Regina, and he got a job helping to clean it up.

William Wordsworth’s wife was reportedly the aunt of Henry Hutchinson, the first settler in the Souris area between Carnduff and the American border.

The famous physicist Albert Einstein played hockey as a youth in Germany. Einstein is famous for having developed the theory of relativity and for his contributions to quantum mechanics theory. Reportedly, one winter while formulating his world-shaking theory, he took a break in Saskatchewan to play for the Canwood Canucks.

Aldous Huxley once carried on a lively correspondence with Humphrey Osmond, who was working on psychedelic drugs at the Weyburn mental hospital. Osmond coined the word “psychedelic.”

Band leader Matt Kearney worked on the harvest excursions at Moosomin, in southern Saskatchewan.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons television series, was the son of Homer Groening, whose name inspired his Homer character. The senior Groening, born in Main Centre, Sask., was a cartoonist too.

Saskatchewan author Fredelle Maynard’s daughter Joyce was a teenager at Yale, on scholarship, when she fell in love with author J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and left after a year to move in with him.  He was thirty-five years her senior. A year later he dumped her and she wrote At Home in the World about it all, but it was panned. She did not return to Yale.

People with links to Saskatchewan
Actor and musician Kiefer Sutherland is Tommy Douglas’s grandson.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of former premier Thomas C. Douglas, whose daughter Shirley married actor Donald Sutherland. Kiefer plays the highly-principled “accidental president” in the television series Designated Survivor

[Einstein: Saskatchewan Book of Everything, 126. Fulford: Sarah Carter’s introduction to Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear. Joan of Arc: Count De Beaudrap from Revue Historique vol 10 no. 2 at U of S Archives & Special Collections; Whitewood Museum; Revue Historique v. 10 no. 2 December 1999. Karlov: G. Ross Stuart, The History of Prairie Theatre, 70. Maynard: Vogue 13 Sept 2018,Vanity Fair September 1998. Napoleon: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Tennyson: Literary History of Saskatchewan, p.46, vol. 1. Count Uytendale, display panel at Whitewood Museum. Fulford: Saturday Night, June 1976, 970. Wordsworth: McCourt, Saskatchewan, 33-4; ]

Portrayed on screen and stage

Outstanding Saskies who inspired dramatic interpretations of their lives 

Archie Belaney is portayed in Grey Owl, a movie directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Pierce Brosnan. Belaney was an outspoken early conservationist, but pretended to be Grey Owl, an Aboriginal in the northern wilds, and was one of Canada’s most intriguing imposters. 

illustration of Big Bear
Illustration of Big Bear by Ruth Millar – based on a photograph]

Chief Big Bear, Cree leader in 1885 Northwest (Riel) Resistance is the subject of a CBC Television mini-series Big Bear based on Rudy Wiebe’s novel The Temptations of Big Bear, starring Gordon Tootoosis. Unlike other Cree chiefs, Big Bear refused to sign Treaty Six until the starvation of his tribe forced him to capitulate.

Hugh Cairns, VC, war hero is depicted in the play The Great War by Don Kerr, 25th Street Theatre. A statue commemorates him in a Saskatoon park.

Morris Cohen, former juvenile delinquent in Saskatoon in the early 1900s, inspired Don Kerr’s play Two-Gun Cohen, and reportedly an early Hollywood film The General Died at Dawn was loosely based on his life. A full-length book, Two Gun Cohen, was published by New York author Daniel Levy.

Nicholas Flood Davin is characterized in Ken Mitchell’s play, Davin: The Politician. A colourful, outspoken journalist, lawyer and MP, he founded the Regina Leader newspaper. He is noted in history for his ill-starred relationship with journalist and author Kate Simpson-Hayes.

illustration of John Diefenbaker
Diefenbaker – illustration by Ruth Millar for

John Diefenbaker, the only prime minister from Saskatchewan, is depicted in the play Diefenbaker by Thelma Oliver. It starred Terrence Slater, Norma Edwards and Patricia Lenyre.

Thomas C. (Tommy) Douglas, a father of Medicare: Prairie Giant, is portrayed in a CBC Television miniseries; and Keeper of the Flame (documentary). 

Gabriel Dumont, Metis leader in the North-West Resistance is depicted in the play Gabriel Dumont by Ken Mitchell. Dumont escaped to the U.S. where he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Father Athol Murray of Wilcox: the play Murray of Notre Dame by Tony Cashman, is the main protagonist in the movie The Hounds of Notre Dame by Ken Mitchell, starring Frances Hyland, and Barry Morse.

Louis Riel, Metis leader in North-West Resistance, is portrayed in The Trial of Louise Riel, a play by John Coulter (1967) based on the transcripts of Riel’s trial.

Seager Wheeler, a plant breeder known as the Wheat King, inspired the play Harvest Moon, shown every year in Rosthern for years. 

Colin Thatcher, son of former premier Ross Thatcher, is depicted in Love and Hate: The Story of Colin and Joanne Thatcher, by Maggie Siggins and Suzette Couture. Colin Thatcher was convicted of having his wife murdered, but he always claimed to be innocent. 

Order of Canada medals
Order of Canada medals

“Knights” of the realm

Companions of the Order of Canada

“Companion” (CC) is the top rank of the Order of Canada (the others are CM, Member, and OC, Officer). The Order of Canada could be considered our version of knighthood. (These are cited elsewhere at more length in this website.) Some were also honoured as Fellows of the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Canada (too many to list here).

Lloyd Barber, born in Regina – former president of the University of Regina.

Lloyd Axworthy, born in North Battleford – former minister in Prime Minister Chretien’s government.

Samuel Bronfman of Wapella – liquor industry baron and philanthropist associated with the mighty Seagram’s.

Balfour Currie, Kindersley and Saskatoon – head of physics at the U of S, founder of Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, and other lofty academic posts.

E.M. Culliton, Elbow – former Justice of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan and Chief Justice of Saskatchewan.

Brian Dickson, Yorkton – lawyer, puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and later Canada’s fifteenth Chief Justice of Canada.  

Tommy Douglas, Weyburn – former premier of Saskatchewan, one of the two Fathers of Medicare, once voted our country’s “greatest Canadian.”

Willard Estey, Saskatoon – moved to Ontario, appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, became Chief Justice of Ontario, later appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Emmett Hall, Saskatoon – law professor and judge, one of the two Fathers of Medicare. He became Chief Justice of Saskatchewan and chaired several royal commissions and public inquiries.

Gerhard Herzberg – Nobel prize winner and professor at the U of S; he fled to Saskatoon from wartime Germany. His many important posts include that of physics director at the National Research Council.

Ray Hnatsyshyn, Saskatoon, MP and cabinet minister, and later a senator.

Albert Wesley Johnson, Insinger – held several top posts in the federal government before becoming president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Chalmers Jack (CJ) Mackenzie, Saskatoon, former dean at U of S, called the most important Canadian in the growth of science after World War II. In Ottawa he became president of Atomic Energy of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada.

Joni Mitchell, Saskatoon – world-renowned singer.

Hilda Neatby, Saskatoon – academic, professor of history at the U of S, especially noted for her ideas on education.

Jeanne Sauve, Prud’homme – former governor-general.

Walter P. Thompson, Saskatoon, scientist and former University of Saskatchewan president.

Jon Vickers, Prince Albert – a former farm boy who soared to international opera stages, notably Covent Garden in London, England

[The Canadian Encyclopedia and other sources.]

“For King and country”

Saskies honoured by the Order of the British Empire

Being invested in Britain’s OBE carries impressive prestige. A surprising number of Saskies were so honoured, usually for heroic efforts abroad during the world wars. The ranks are: Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), member (MBE).

George Findlay Andrew served in British intelligence in China in both the world wars. Here he wears traditional Chinese garb with pride,
in the country of his birth.

Findlay Andrew (OBE), who moved to Saskatoon in 1959, received his award at Buckingham Palace on July 20th, 1920, for secret war work in China. If secrecy was involved, the OBE handbook often doesn’t cite specific actions of people so honoured. His papers, which include a letter inviting him to London to receive the award, suggest it was for sending vital “intel” to the British from his strategic location in the northwest. Some thought it was for helping prevent a Uighur uprising, which could have led to another pro-German front.

Henry Black of Regina was made a commander of the OBE in 1935 for his work with the Saskatchewan Relief Commission, created by the Anderson government in 1931 to administer relief measures during the desperate days of the Depression. The commission was axed in 1934 by Liberal premier J.G Gardiner due to public criticism.

Elizabeth Cruikshank was a leader in the Local Council of Women in Regina. She was noted for her war work, and was active in the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. She was also an author and a Leader-Post columnist. [Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

Dr. Robert George Ferguson, a heroic figure in the fight against tuberculosis in Saskatchewan,  reportedly was honoured with an OBE. [Star-Phoenix, undated clipping, likely in 1942.

Joan Bamford Fletcher of Regina got her OBE for leading some two thousand women and children to safety out of a Japanese prison camp in the jungles of Sumatra, in twenty separate convoys along dangerous switchback roads, at the close of World War II. The jungles were swarming with hostile Indonesians fighting for independence from the Dutch. Japanese soldiers, now demobilized, assisted her in the hair-raising exodus.

Air Vice Marshall Arthur Clinton Maund (CBE) of the hamlet of Cando was also honoured as Commander of the Order of the Bath, and with the Distinguished Service Order, and received one Russian and two French medals for his military exploits in World War I. He had enlisted in the Saskatchewan Light Horse in Battleford but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he served in Russia, 1919-20.

RCAF Group Captain Ernest Archibald McNab (OBE, CD, DFC) of Rosthern also received a Distinguished Flying Cross. An air ace, he commanded Canada’s first RACF fighter squadron abroad in 1940. Son the McNab who became lieutenant-governor, he got his OBE for outstanding war work.

Violet McNaughton on stage with dignitaries
Farm leader Violet McNaughton addresses crowd at Indian Head celebrating founders of the Territorial Grain Growers Association, August 19, 1955. Also on stage are James Gardiner (left), ex-premier, and T.C. Douglas, premier. Photo by Western Producer, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Violet McNaughton (OBE) was an outstanding feminist, newspaper columnist and women’s editor at the Western Producer, noted for her role as a leader of farm women and in achieving the franchise for women. She was active in many important early farm organizations. In 1924 King George V conferred to her the OBE for services to rural women.

Ellaf Olafson (MBE), a war hero born in Shaunavon and brought up in Eston, studied engineering at the U of S. In World War II, as a captain in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he designed an innovative portable bridge that was built in record time to expedite Allied river crossings in Italy.

George Porteous (MBE) of Saskatoon was posted to Hong Kong with the Winnipeg Grenadiers during the Japanese siege of 1941 when more than 1075 Canadians were killed or wounded; others were taken prisoner. He was awarded his MBE for maintaining morale among his fellow prisoners, who for four years suffered unspeakable ordeals. A Scot, he had come to Canada in 1910 and attended high school and university in Saskatoon. Long after the war he became the 14th Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan.

Alleyre Sirois (CM, MBE) originally from Vonda, was invested as a member of the OBE for his war work in intelligence for the British Special Operations Executive in France. He also received the French Croix de Guerre. On his return to Canada he studied law and, practiced in Gravelbourg before becoming a Queen’s Court judge in Saskatoon in 1964.

Dr. John William Tranter spinks, former president at the U of S, – Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections.

John William Tranter Spinks (CC, MBE, SOM), president of the University of Saskatchewan 1960 to 1975, was invested as a member of the Order for his work in Britain during World War II, “developing search and rescue procedures for missing aircraft.“ He was also named a Companion of the Order of Canada, member of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and a Saskatoon Citizen of the Year.

Harry Thode, born in Dundurn, received two degrees at the U of S followed by a PhD in the U.S. Noted for his work in atomic research, he was honoured by the Order of Canada and the Order of the British Empire, and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. He became president and chancellor of McMaster University in 1961. [Star-Phoenix 14 April 2017]

Plant breeder Seager Wheeler (MBE) known as the Wheat King, helped boost Saskatchewan as the “bread basket of the world.” He assisted mother nature in selecting the best wheat seeds (some from mutants) he had grown, exhibiting them at agricultural fairs around the world and developing new strains.

Pilot Officer E.A. Wickenkamp (OBE) of Stenen joined the RAF in 1938. He received the OBE for rescuing two crew members after the crash of his aircraft. A month later, he was shot down and killed during an attack on a battleship.

[Andrew: unpublished ms. by Ruth Millar. Black: Commander_of_the_Order_of_the British_Empire. Fletcher: Millar, Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues. Maund: Canadian Virtual War Memorial and other websites. McNaughton: Herstory, 1971. Olafson: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Porteous: Sirois: Green & White fall 2005. Spinks: Canadian Encyclopedia. Other sources: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Wikipedia]

Saskatchewan emblems

In 1941, the western red lily was chosen as our official flower. It grows in meadows and semi-wooded areas where its flaming red blossoms stand out like flames against a natural green background. 

The sharp-tailed grouse was selected as the provincial bird emblem in 1945.

Our official flag was adopted in 1969. It features the provincial shield of arms, with the western red lily. The flag’s upper half is green, symbolizing northern forests; the lower half is gold, symbolic of southern grain areas.

The Saskatchewan fish is the walleye.

Saskatchewan’s fruit is the Saskatoon berry

In 2001, needle-and-thread grass was chosen as our official grass. It’s a native bunchgrass common to the dry, sandy soils of the northern plains. Its seeds are sharply pointed and have long, twisted, thread-like fibres.

Our provincial district tartan features the colours gold, brown, green, red, yellow, white and black. Registered in Scotland in 1961, it was introduced in 1997 for highland dancers. 

In 1988, the white birch was adopted as Saskatchewan’s official tree. This hardwood tree is found across the northern 75 percent of the province. 

Sylvite, a.k.a. potash, is Saskatchewan’s official mineral. We are the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash, over 95 percent of it used for fertilizer.

The white-tailed deer became our official animal in 2001. It tends to be larger in the north than in the south. Adults have a reddish-brown summer coat and a greyish-brown winter coat, with white underparts. 

Curling became our official sport in 2001. It has a rich history here, from the Richardson brothers in the 1950s to Sandra Schmirler in the 90s. 

“From Many Peoples Strength”: The provincial coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986, adapted from the 1906 shield of arms. With a crest of a beaver and crown on top, a lion and deer flank the shield, which displays the royal lion and three gold wheat sheaves. Western red lilies form the base.

Cast in stone (or bronze, or…)

Saskies immortalized in statues & monuments

Chief White Cap and Saskatoon founder John Lake are depicted in a sculpture near the east end of the newly-built Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon. 

Chief Payepot (Piapot), cast by Lyndon Tootoosis, marks the signing of Treaty 4 in Regina. 

Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont in a Saskatoon Park.
Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont
in a Saskatoon Park.

Metis leader Gabriel Dumont is commemorated in a statue in a riverside park in Saskatoon.

A statue of Metis Leader Louis Riel in Regina showing his private parts so offended the Metis Association that the offending image was banished to the basement of the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

First premier Walter Scott is depicted in a statue in Regina.

A statue of Edouard Beaupre, the Willow Bunch giant, stands in front of a local museum named in his honour.

A full-length statue of Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC, World War Ihero, is in Kinsmen Park in Saskatoon.  

A life-size equestrian statue of artist Count Berthold von Imhoff adorns the village of St. Walburg. 

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin by Earl G. Drake graces Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.  

A statue in Saskatoon by sculptor Bill Epp immortalizes the Saskatchewan-born senator Ramon Hnatyshyn, an esteemed Ukrainian-Canadian hero and governor general of Canada for five years.

Statues depicting an encounter between newsboy John Diefenbaker (later prime minister) and Wilfred Laurier is prominently displayed at 1st Avenue and 21st Street in Saskatoon.

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin is in Ottawa.

Statue of writer Farley Mowat
Statue of writer Farley Mowat on
the U of S campus

A statue of Farley Mowat, famous author, graces the U of S campus.

Famed hockey star Gordie Howe, can be seen in effigy at Sasktel Centre.

Popular radio host Denny Carr’s statue is located in a Saskatoon riverbank park. 

A statue of luminary Frederick W. Hill in Regina, was created by Russian artist Leo Mall (Leonard Molodozhanyn).

In the College of Education Building, University of Saskatchewan a new bust stands in the main hallway to commemorate beloved professor David Kaplan, who was a vibrant and influential mentor in the music world in Saskatoon. His Klezmer Band was and is extremely popular amongst Jews and gentiles alike,

The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music

Reach for the stars

Some Juno award winners from Saskatchewan

Joni Mitchell spent her teen years in Saskatoon, and soared to fame as a singer-songwriter around the English-speaking world. Most Saskies know her songs by heart — she’s right up there with Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Her many awards include the Juno in 2008 for Producer of the Year, the Juno in 1975 for female vocalist of the year, at least eight Grammy Awards, the Canadian Walk of Fame, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Buffy Sainte-Marie is probably Canada’s most renowned Cree singer-songwriter, revered internationally as an outspoken advocate for her people, campaigning for social justice through her songs. She was born on the Piapot reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley. After her parents died, relatives named Sainte-Marie dubbed her “Buffy”, and brought her up in Massachusetts. She wrote such songs as “Up Where We Belong” and “Until It’s Time for You to Go”, and won a galaxy of important awards including Canada’s Juno.

Connie Kaldor, Juno award winner from Saskatchewan.
Supplied photo.

Connie Kaldor is a Regina-born singer-songwriter, known for her lusty voice and raucous sense of humour.  A theatre graduate of the University of Alberta, she performed with Theatre Passe Muraille, The Mummers and 25th Street Theatre. Since 1981 she won three Junos for her children’s albums, and has produced fourteen albums, one musical and three award-winning kidlit books.

Colin James of Regina, a rock and blues singer-songwriter, won the Juno award several times, and did a command performance before Queen Elizabeth. Most recently he won a Juno in 2019 in the Blues Album of the Year category for “Miles to Go.”

The Dead South band cavorts on the newly rebuilt Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon. – Supplied photo.

Dead South (Regina), a lively four-man acoustic bluegrass group who call themselves modern hillbillies, won the Juno in 2018 for traditional roots album of the year, and two Western Canadian Music Awards as “breakout artist of the year” and “roots/duo group of the year” in 2018. Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg described their style as “frontier recklessness, whiskey breakfasts and grizzled tin-pan showmanship.” Their instruments are cello, mandolin, banjo and guitar. They have performed in Amsterdam, Cologne, and in England. One of them, Danny Kenyon, has a day job as structural engineer; among his accomplishments are work on Mosaic Stadium and the support for Scotty the T-Rex at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

Saskatoon native Susan Pesklevits Jacks moved to B.C. as a child, and appeared on the Canadian TV teen show Music Hop. In 1988 she and husband Terry Jacks and Craig McCaw formed “the Poppy Family”, and had several hits. One sold nearly four million copies, reaching No. 1 in Canada, and No. 2 in Billboard. They won a Gold leaf Award (formerly Juno) in 1970. 

Jess Moskaluke was a Juno award winner in 2017 for Country Album of the Year and has had ten Top 10 hits. In 2017 she was the first female country music singer with a song in the Top 5, and her single “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes” reached Platinum status for its genre. Her website says she was the first Saskatchewan resident to be named the Canadian Country Music Association’s Female Artist of the Year

The Sheepdogs of Saskatoon shot to rock star fame when they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2011, after more than 1.5 people voted for them in a contest, and they landed a contract with Atlantic Records. Their favourite genres are seventies-rock, soul and blues. The four won Junos in 2012 and 2013 for best single, and in 2014 for video.  Again, in 2019 they were nominees for a Juno for “Changing Colours” (Rock Album of the Year).

Jake (Jacqueline) Leiske was a member of Farmer’s Daughter (three female singers), which won a Juno in 1998 for best country group, and the Canadian Country Music Association award in 1997. 

[, personal websites, internet]


Other singers who spring to mind

Cree Summer Francks, actress and singer, is American-born but was raised on the Red Pheasant Reserve. Her father is Don Francks, actor and musician. She has done voice-over for over one hundred animated characters in video games, TV cartoons, animated films and commercials.

Lizzy Munson, cellist and singer

Jen Lane of Saskatoon, a veteran folk/roots songwriter, was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for roots solo artist in 2017, and she has appeared on many television shows across Canada. 

Lizzy Munson, born in Saskatoon, cellist and singer, recently performed for three years with Cirque de Soleil in “Ka” in Las Vegas. She sang and danced in such venues as the Calgary Stampede grandstand show.  In 2016 she won the Calgary Stampede Talent Search – an annual Canada-wide competition, and played backup for Shawn Mendes at the Junos  and for Michael Buble in Alberta.

Megan Nash of Regina was nominated for the 2109 Album of the Year Juno award in the contemporary roots category. Her albums include Seeker, Deer Head, Snowbank, and Song Harvest.

Jason Forrest Plumb of Regina is a singer-songwriter who was the lead singer for The Waltons. Now he performs with a backup band, The Willing. He has his own record label, Soccermom Records. 

Kyle Riabko, is a singer, guitarist and composer born in Saskatoon. He appeared on Broadway in Spring Awakening, and Hair, as an actor on film and television, and in solo gigs in New York, Los Angeles and Saskatoon. 

Lorraine McAllister Richards was a Saskatoon-born pop singer and actress who sang with Ken Peaker’s dance band in Saskatoon, and others across Canada. She sang for troops in South Korea, on CBC radio and TV productions in Toronto and Vancouver, with Theatre Under the Stars, and hosted her own TV show. 

Rosie and the Riveters, a Saskatoon-based all-female quartet plus drummer sing a retro blend of gospel, folk and 1940s music sprinkled with a soupcon of modern  feminism. Their bouncy music won them a place on the American top ten folk music charts for seventeen weeks in 2018, and a social action award.

Theresa Sokyrka was born in Moose Jaw, but moved to Saskatoon. She shot to national fame as the first runner-up in the second season of Canadian Idol

Jeffrey Straker, singer/songwriter/pianist of Punnichy and Saskatoon, has played at folk festivals, folk clubs and even the Saskatoon Symphony. He calls his style folk roots with a pop twist.

Suzie Vinnick of Saskatoon is a roots and blues singer-songwriter who often appears on CBC. She was nominated for three Junos, and won the Canadian Folk Music Award.

Colter Wall of Swift Current performed his song “Sleeping on the Blacktop” on the soundtrack of an Oscar-nominated film, Hell or High Water, with Rolling Stone magazine called him “one of 21 country artists to watch for.” 

[Personal websites; First Nations Drum, 14 March 2011; Wikipedia. For a splendid article on Saskatchewan bands in 1970, see: ]


Musicians with First Nations roots

Brad Bellegarde was born and raised in Regina, and is a Nakota/Cree member of the Little Black Bear First Nation. He is known in genres varying from traditional pow-wow to hip hop, for his singing, drumming, dancing, and costume design.

Eekwol (Lindsay Knight) is a rapper from the Muskoday First Nation. A graduate of the U of R and the U of S, she did a masters in indigenous music, and taught native studies at the U of S. She won best hip hop/rap album at the 2005 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and was also nominated for other Aboriginal awards.

Blackstone Singers are well-known in North America as a pow-wow group. They have won three major awards for best pow-wow in 2013, 2011, and 2017 for their albums Celebration of Life, Lonely Memories, and Live in Alexis.

Don Freed is a folksinger with Saskatchewan roots, whose meeting with Johnny Cash in Nashville spurred him on. Freed was in his forties when he discovered his Metis relatives. It propelled him in a new direction, helping Aboriginal kids connect with their own culture.

Tom Jackson, renowned singer, actor, humanitarian and activist from One Arrow reserve, is well known for the Huron Carole, his annual series of Christmas concerts. Some of his albums won Juno nominations and he has sung on the folk music circuit. His TV credits include North of 60, Star Trek, Law & Order, Shining Time Station, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. His films include The Diviners, Skinwalker, Cold Pursuit,  Deadfall, Mee-Shee: The Water Giant, and Grizzly Falls. His song-writing, in the album Ballads not Bullets particularly, delivers messages with social clout, and he helped spark about $200 million worth of donations for food banks and disaster relief. Honours showered on him include the CCMA Humanitarian Award 1996, the Queen’s Jubilee Medals 2002 and 2012, the Juno Humanitarian Award 2007, Gemini Humanitarian Award 2007, and the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement 2014.Jackson was the Chancellor of Trent University from 2009 until 2013, and has received honorary degrees from ten universities.  He was designated an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.

Andrea Menard. – Supplied photo.

Andrea Menard of Saskatoon is a Métis singer/songwriter, actor, keynote speaker, trainer, retreat host, and advocate for “rematriation” and reconciliation. A star in the Netflix series, Blackstone, Andrea is a five-time Gemini award nominee, a fifteen-time music award nominee, and has produced a TEDx Talk, “Silent No More.” She has recorded four award-winning albums, produced a symphony show, written and starred in two television programs, has performed for royalty, prime ministers, governors-general, residential school survivors, families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and sang her song “Peace” to the world’s NATO generals.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: see Juno award winners.

Joey Stylez/Joseph LaPlante is a rapper born on the Moosomin First Nation but raised in Saskatoon. In 2011 he was nominated for a Juno, for his CD Black Star, awarded “best pop CD” at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.

Winston Wuttunee, recording artist, songwriter and comedian, storyteller and teacher, learned different instruments while studying for a music degree at the U of S. Wuttunee’s awards include the Canadian Aboriginal music award in 2002; best Aboriginal recording in 2003; best documentary in 2008; plus nominations in other categories.

Jacob Faithful and his son Jarron Gadwa are members of Young Spirit, a Cree band nominated for a Grammy in 2019 in the Indigenous Music Album category. They got to go to Los Angeles for the ceremony.

[Eekwol: wikipedia. Faithful: Global News 14 February 2019. Freed: CBC News 20 jan 2019 and other sources. Jackson: Wuttunee: ]

And the band played on …

Other contemporary bands making soundwaves across the nation or continent.

The Age of Electric is a hard-rock band from Lanigan and Regina: Todd and John Kerns, Ryan and Kurt Dahle. Their song “Remote Control” hit No. 9 on the Canadian singles chart. They were nominated in 1998 for a Juno as best new group.

The Deep Dark Woods are an “alternative country” band from Saskatoon. One of their songs made CBC Radio 2’s list in the Great Canadian Song Quest in 2009. The group are signed with a Canadian and an American record company.  

Don Freed acquired fame in Saskatoon in 1960s coffee houses. Since then he has hobnobbed with people like Murray McLauchlan and Johnny Cash, and for a time hooked up with Joni Mitchell. He discovered his native roots when he found out he was descended from Gabriel Dumont. Now he teaches song-writing to Aboriginal kids, and calls his group Don Freed and the Kids.

Hart-Rouge, a folk group from Willow Bunch, comprises siblings Paul (husband of Connie Kaldor), Michelle, and Suzanne Campagne. After their original group Folie Avoine folded, they formed Hart-Rouge with sister Annette, performing songs in English, French and first Nations languages.

Folk duo Kasy & Clayton of Glentworth, Sask. have been written up in Rolling Stone, the Georgia Strait and elsewhere, and interviewed on national CBC radio. They have produced five albums. Clayton Linthicum, whose home town is Saskatoon, sings and plays electric guitar, and his cousin Kacy Anderson does vocals and plays acoustic guitar. They perform with a dummer and bassist.

Kick Axe is a heavy metal band formed in Regina in the 1970s. It achieved some fame in the 1980s, disbanded for a while, and adopted the name Kick Axe in 2004. Its original members included George Criston, Larry Gillstrom, Raymond Harvey, Brian Gillstrom, and Victor Langen.

Jack Semple of Regina moved to Toronto and rose to national acclaim when he won a Much Music guitar contest. He received Gemini nominations in 1999 and 2000. He and his band still perform across North America.  

The Northern Pikes, a Saskatoon rock band, were inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Original members were Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin, Merl Bryck and Glen Hollingshead.  They were active from 1984 to 1993, and since 1999.

One Bad Son was a Saskatoon rock band before moving to Vancouver. With a “kitbag” of albums and singles, they were listed as “one of the top ten Canadian bands of 2013 and 2014”, and hit the Canadian rock charts about six times.

Reignwolf is an indie/blues/rock band headed by Jordan Cook of Saskatoon, with Stacey-James Kardash and Joseph Braley. First called “Seven Deadly Sins”, they adopted the name Reignwolf after moving to the U.S. Reignwolf was hailed as one of “ten new artists you need to know” by Rolling Stone magazine in January 2014.

The group Solstice of Saskatoon, who call their genre “vocal jazz”, have been a musical fixture in Saskatoon for forty years. Currently they comprise five women and three men singers, plus a keyboard and saxophone player.

Wide Mouth Mason, a Saskatoon band that formed in 1995 was nominated for best new group at the 1995 and 1998 Junos. Their album “Nazarene” went gold in Canada. Lead singer was Shaun Verreault, lead guitarist and vocalist.

[Band websites, Wikipedia]

World music …

Radio host Patricia Pavey’s list of world music performers living in this province         

3M2C, Saskatoon’s Latin band: three Mexicans, two Canadians plus a Bosnian and a Brazilian, serve up a spicy mix of Latin rock and pop. 

Oral Fuentes Reggae Band (Saskatoon): A mixture of Reggae with a Punta Rock/Latin/Afro fusion.  Members come from Belize, St. Lucia, Ghana, Nigeria, Seattle, Victoria and Saskatoon.

Bandja (Regina): Latin/African with vocals, guitar, bass, saxophone and percussion

Andino Suns (Regina): Latin folk-rockers from Chilean families.

Circling Over Shannon (Saskatoon): Contemporary Celtic mayhem, playing fiery jigs and reels, heartfelt Celtic songs and moving airs and ballads.

Del Sur Al Norte (Regina): A South American Folk/Latin Dance band; multicultural, multi-generational (ages from ten to fifty), they play steel drums, pan flutes, guitar, accordion and percussion.

Karraganna (Maple Creek): Global indigenous rhythms using didgeridoo and percussion.

Minor Matter (Saskatoon): Orchestral folk; multi-instrumentalists playing bassoon clarinet, glockenspiel and ukulele.

Oye (Regina): A Latin band that plays hip-hop, salsa, cumbia, folk, rock, jazz and funk. 

Whiskey Jerks (Saskatoon): Defying genres, this group’s music can be described as Klezmer/gypsy/folk/jazz with a Prairie twist.  Instruments include violin, clarinet, accordion, vocals, guitar, drums and upright bass.

[Patricia Pavey, host on Radio CFCR, Saskatoon) 

The golden baton

Some well-known classical and concert music groups

Since homestead days, Saskatchewan’s talented musicians have entertained and charmed audiences in informal settings such as schools, churches — and later —  concert halls. The music departments of the universities in Regina and Saskatoon have long fostered the professional careers of budding musicians. The result is a rich medley of ensembles, choirs and orchestras in the province today performing in a variety of venues.  [List in progress]

Amati Quartet, also called the University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet, performs classic string quartet pieces on priceless seventeenth century instruments crafted by the Amati family in Italy. In 1959 the university purchased these instruments – two violins, a viola and a cello -from Stephen Kolbinson, an early Kindersley homesteader, who sold a half section of land to buy them. (The Amati violin is considered to be as important as the Stradivarius.) The quartet made their international debut at the Amati 500th Festival in Holland in 2005, and performed in Rome and Cremona, Italy in 2006. In Saskatchewan they performed before the Queen, the premier and the lieutenant-governor in 2005, and on many other special occasions.

The Gala Trio of Saskatoon is an ensemble of three musicians with a broad repertoire, including classical, jazz and musical theatre. Its members include Arlene Shiplett, who plays French horn in the Saskatoon Symphony, calliope at the WDM, and with the International Brass Quintet. She teaches at Usask. Gaye-Lynn Kern studied at Usask, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and the Mozarteum. She teaches in her own studio, adjudicates across Canada, and is involved in local theatre. Audrey Bayduza teaches music theory, plays the organ, and is an active accompanist. She holds a Master of Music degree in theory and an ARCT in piano performance. See their website at:

Half of Regina’s “Hummingbird Crossing”, the Chang and Mrazek duo, sing “traditional duo harmonic lines” with acoustic accompaniment. They play bluegrass, bluegrass-gospel and folk, and self-arranged pieces from various genres. Helen Chang plays many acoustic instruments including fiddle (violin) and mandolin; and composes. She’s a former member of the Regina Symphony Orchestra, plays keyboard including church organs, and has an ARCT in classical piano. Tim Mrazek is a multi-instrumentalist / composer who collects non-bowed stringed instruments such as guitars, banjo, and the Chinese zhongruan. He also plays dobro and slide guitar. He reached ARCT level in classical guitar and has a double major in music education and guitar performance.

Pile of Bows String Quartet, a string ensemble based in Regina, performs “classical, rock, pop, … jazz, and some mash-ups.” Their witty name is a pun on Regina’s original name, Pile of Bones. In groupings of various sizes the group performs well-known popular songs and classical pieces at corporate events and weddings. Pile of Bows has a website and a Facebook page.

The Prairie Chamber Choir, formed in 2015, calls itself “Regina’s newest semi-professional chamber choir.” Their special niche is to present choral works by prairie composers, promoting choral art music through performance, presentations and recording projects. Conductor Melissa Morgan originally spearheaded the group’s formation as the Prairie Lecture Choir for a choral project. Their eighteen members are diverse, representing teachers, professors, students, and even computer specialists. They have a Facebook page.

Prairie Virtuosi (Saskatoon) is a classical chamber orchestra founded in 1997, drawing upon the wealth of musical talent in the province. Their bi-annual concerts often feature talented Saskatchewan soloists and ensembles, including the Saskatoon Children’s Choir, and their concerts have been recorded and broadcast by CBC Radio.

Regina Symphony Orchestra plays more than thirty concerts a year over thirty-nine weeks, to combined audiences totalling over thirty thousand. They have performed with ballet and opera companies and a youth orchestra, and are regularly broadcast by CBC. In its many incarnations since its founding in 1904 by Scottish homesteader Frank Laubach as the Regina Philharmonic Society, the RSO has called itself the Orchestral Society, the Regina Philharmonic and Orchestral Society, and the Regina Choral and Orchestral Society. In 1924 it joined the Regina Male Voice Choir to become the Regina Philharmonic Association in 1924, later the Regina Symphony in 1926. Its numbers expanded to seventy in the 1960s. Darke Hall was home to the RSO from 1929 to 1970, but they now perform at Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts (Connexus Centre). Prince Charles is the orchestra’s patron. – [, Wikipedia]

Four times a year, Saskatoon Chamber Singers fill the lofty nave of Knox United Church with glorious song, directed by James Hawn. They are a mixed-voice choir of between twenty-eight to thirty-five singers performing classical, international and Canadian compositions. Membership is by audition.  This choral ensemble was formed in 1977 by former members of the U of S Greystone Singers, whose musical director Robert Solem became theirs too. They sang at the Learned Societies conference in 1979, and for productions by the Saskatoon Opera Association and Gateway Players. Repeatedly they have lit up the airwaves on CBC Radio as well. 

Saskatoon Children’s Choir began singing together from 1996 to 2000, when they sang in youth choir festivals in Moose Jaw and Battleford. They represented Saskatchewan on Canada Day in 1988 at the National Arts Centre. Since then they have performed and/or competed in Spain, France, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Some of their tours supported worthy causes such as the struggle to ban land mines. They have performed with the band Barenaked Ladies, before the Queen, on CBC airwaves, and with the Nylons in South Africa, Germany and Italy. They also appeared in the operas Carmen and The Magic Flute in Saskatoon.

Saskatoon Choral Society was formed under the name Saskatoon Oratorio Society in 1953 by Victor Kviens, then director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. Participants don’t have to audition, they just have to love singing. Their repertoire ranges from sacred to secular. It includes folks songs, Broadway tunes, spirituals, operettas, standard and modern selections arranged in two, three, four and five-part harmonies. They have a website.

Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1927, although similar orchestras were formed in 1909, 1913, and 1924, before the SSO adopted its current name in 1937. The SSO’s first music director was Arthur Collingwood (1931-1947). Its first venue was Convocation Hall at the U of S, and then the Adam Ballroom in the Bessborough Hotel, the gorgeous but doomed Capitol Theatre, the U of S Gymnasium, and now the Centennial Auditorium ( TCU Place). The host of celebrity artists it has featured in past decades include the Irish Rovers, Anne Murray, Bruno Gerussi, Anton Kuerti, Jon Vickers, Pinkas Zukerman, Amanda Forysth, Maureen Forrester, Guy Few and Ian Tyson. The SSO has teamed up with the U of S Department of Music to present a medley of forms of choral productions, and with ballet and opera companies of national renown. CBC Radio regularly broadcasts its performances. The orchestra currently has about sixty members, and its current music director is Mark Turner.

In 1976 forty young musicians joined together to form the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra (SSYO) under the sponsorship of the Regina Symphony Orchestra. This award-winning orchestra now has fifty members from various parts of southern Saskatchewan. Members audition to join, and enjoy the opportunity to rehearse, perform and travel with other music-minded performers. Historically, many later joined the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and other professional orchestras across the country.

The University of Regina Orchestra directed by Dr. Alain Perron performs a wide spectrum of orchestral styles. Composers whose works they have performed include Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Rimsky-Korsakov, Respighi and Stravinsky. The Orchestra is open to musicians of the Music Department, other students who play orchestral instruments, former students and other musicians. Auditions may be required. They perform a full concert in the University Theatre at the end of each semester.

Saskatoon’s Willoughby-Widdershin ensemble features guitarist Walter Hofmeister and harpist Chris Lindgren and family. Their performances range from traditional European, including baroque and Renaissance, to modern folksy music. Using vintage and contemporary, voice, wind and string instruments, they alternate in mood between romping and sublime. Hofmeister is a sessional lecturer in music at the U of S.

Sources: Canadian Encyclopedia, concert programs, orchestra websites]

Musicians par excellence

Some celebrated classical musicians and singers from Saskatchewan

Portrait of Murrary Adaskin.
Esteemed musician and composer
Murray Adaskin.
Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives.

Murray Adaskin headed the U of S music department 1952-66, and was composer in residence until 1972. He studied music in Toronto, New York and Paris, conducted the Saskatoon Symphony and was violinist with the Toronto Symphony. He was Saskatoon Citizen of the Year in 1969, and received the Saskatchewan Arts Board lifetime award for excellence.

Two youthful classical musicians
Saskatoon musician Neil Chotem as a youth, playing piano accompanied by violinist Ruggiero Ricci, Jan 15, 1935. Photo A 874 by Leonard Hillyard, from Local History Room,
Saskatoon Public Library

Neil Chotem, formerly of Saskatoon, was a composer, arranger, conductor, concert pianist and musc educator. After serving in the RCAF in World War II, he moved to Montreal. He did a number of records, and appeared on radio, television, in concerts and a film, and taught at universities and conservatories.

Arthur Collingwood was the first chair of the music department at the University of Saskatchewan. having come to Canada from England, he took charge of the Conservatory of Music in Regina, and conducted the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Robert Fleming was a composer, pianist, organist and teacher born in Prince Albert; he studied with his mother and Lyell Gustin in Saskatoon, and later at the Royal Conservatory of Music in England. In the 1940s he taught at Upper Canada College (a prestigious school in Ontario) and later was composer at the National Film Board from 1946 to 1958, and music director until 1970. He then taught music at Carleton University, Ottawa.

Pianist Garth Beckett, born in Eston, studied with Gustin and played with the Saskatoon Symphony, then studied in England and Italy. In Saskatoon he and Boyd Mcdonald formed a duo (1966-79), playing with major orchestras, and serving on the University of Manitoba faculty of music 1967-76. They performed New York and in many European cities. Beckett headed the piano department at Wilfrid Laurier University from 1976 to 1996. McDonald, pianist, composer and teacher, was born in Tuberose, and studied with Adaskin, Gustin, and leading musicians in Paris.  

Operatic tenor Emile Belcourt was born in Laflèche. After studying pharmacy at U of S, he switched to opera in Vienna, appeared at Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells in England, and at Edmonton and Seattle in such operas as Boris Gudonov, die Fledermaus, and Tristan and Isolde.

Russell Green, Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, prior Dean of Acadia Russell Green, Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, prior Dean of Acadia University, and pianist for Queen Elizabeth before coming to Canada. Trained at the Birmingham School of Music and other prestigious places in England, he had highly developed musical skills. Green held five degrees from England, and was an extensive composer for voice, choral, orchestra, small and large ensembles. He was a pianist, organist, teacher, choir conductor, and conductor for small and large ensembles, and organist and Choral Director for Knox United Church. Green formed the Russell Green Singers in Saskatoon, where he had a studio. He wrote thousands of compositions, some now preserved in the University of Saskatchewan Archives.

Lyell Gustin was an early pianist and teacher who came to Saskatoon in 1912 after studying music in Quebec. After further studies in Saskatoon, Chicago, New York and London, in 1920 he opened a studio in Saskatoon, and mentored several renowned musicians including Robert Fleming and Neil Chotem. His former home is now a mecca for musicians and music-lovers.

David Kaplan taught at the U of S music department for forty years and was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, Saskatchewan Order of Merit, Saskatoon Citizen of the Year. He also received the Queen’s Jubilee medal.

Ethel Leuning (nee Codd) of Saskatoon began singing in light opera in Canada but graduated to grand opera in Chautauqua, New York, appearing in her first concert in Cologne, Germany.  She appeared in cities throughout North America

Tania Miller, first female music director (and conductor) of a major orchestra in Canada, was appointed to the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in 2003, and has been guest conductor for orchestras in Toronto, Seattle, Bern (Switzerland), Oregon, Hartford, Wroclaw (Poland), among others. Opera was an ‘early passion” in her life, and she has conducted opera productions in Ann Arbor (Michigan) and McGill, (Montreal). She grew up in Foam Lake, but was educated elsewhere.

William Rowson, conductor and composer, started studying violin at the age of three in Saskatoon. Now he is assistant conductor of the Vancouver and Stratford symphony orchestras. Works he composed have been performed at various venues across Canada, and he has worked with well-known celebrities such as Jane Arden and Chris Hadfield.

Concert pianist David Swan, originally of Saskatoon, became artist in residence at Ware Academy of Music in Markham, Ont, specializing in contemporary music. He has won gold medals in theory and piano teaching, and won the Eckhardt-Granatté and CBC talent competitions. He has performed with the Montreal, Calgary, Quebec, Saskatoon and Winnipeg symphony orchestras.

Famous tenor Jon Vickers of Prince Albert was an international opera star. A scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto launched his spectacular operatic career. Major roles such as Samson, Otello, Tristan and Peter Grimes took him to London, Milan and New York. When he died in 2015, the New York Times praised his “colossal voice and raw dramatic intensity.” He was colossal in other ways too — he was known to have hefted stout sopranos above his head at parties.

Thomas Yu, a U of S graduate, has been called one of Canada’s “most accomplished musicians.” Among honours he has received is the Cliburn International Amateur Piano competition, awarded to the world’s best amateur piano player.

[Canadian Encyclopedia,; StarPhoenix; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Wikipedia. Yu: SSO concert program, November 2019]