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This is a very popular subject, and the presentations that we have on music in Toronto includes film and music clips that will have audience members tapping their feet, and maybe even singing along!

This presentation on the history of music & entertainment in Toronto has been broken up into multiple sections. These can be requested individually, or can be combined together for a longer talk. Sections included in this talk are as follows.

VAUDEVILLE & VARIETY SHOWS were popular at a time before television, radio or downloads. This was the popular form of entertainment for the majority of people living in Toronto. Vaudeville was its height from the 1880s through to the early 1930s. Many of its performers were put out of business by the coming of talking movies, while others found new success in talking movies and then as hosts of the popular television variety shows of the 1950s.

Music_&_Entertainment_1 The section on SILENT FILM & the arrival of TALKING MOVIES in Toronto is dedicated to the big screen. A man named Louis Le Prince is credited as having invented the very first movie back in 1888. It lasted for just over two seconds, but this development would eventually revolutionize the world of entertainment. We’ll take a look back at when silent movies were first shown in Toronto, and how audiences reacted. Thirty years later, Toronto audiences would have the chance to see their movie with sound, or “talkie”. We’ll talk about this, too, and also find out about some of the big stars and movies that were popular at the time.

Music_&_Entertainment_2Music_&_Entertainment_3Music_&_Entertainment_4Music_&_Entertainment_5BIG BAND covers Toronto’s famed dance halls & the stars that played them. By the 1930s, radios had started to appear in homes across Canada, but the best way to hear music was to enjoy it live. So, dance halls sprang up all over the world, in bars, hotels or amusement parks. There was the Palais Royale at Sunnyside Amusement Park, the Palace Pier near the Humber, and the famed Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel. Up at Casa Loma, Glenn Grey and the Orange Blossoms became an internationally acclaimed Big Band. You’ll learn – and hear – all about these and other Big Band dance halls.

Music_&_Entertainment_6ROCK & ROLL TORONTO looks back at when ELVIS PRESLEY & THE BEATLES swept Toronto. Elvis Presley played Maple Leaf Gardens in 1957. The Beatles would appear there in 1964, 1965 and 1966. These concerts really bookended the Rock and Roll Era, and were cultural phenomenon that have never really been duplicated in Toronto since. They weren’t so much concerts as they were goodhearted riots, with thousands of screaming teenage fans taking to the streets. This presentation chronicles this set of concerts while sharing some of the music that made Elvis and the Beatles so popular.


Music_&_Entertainment_8The “ROCK & ROLL REVIVAL” in Toronto features the counterculture movement, psychedelic Toronto, and the Great Yonge Street Clean Up. The late 1960s and 1970s marked a time of great change in Toronto. Young people started to “turn on, tune in and drop out.” They’d had enough of the establishment, of their parents, schools and police, and they went out in search for a new way of life. It was a “feel good” time of love and peace. But, it had a darker side. From the drug haven that developed at Toronto’s Rochdale College, down the sordid stretches of Yonge Street, things grew more and more sleazy. Then, tragedy struck, and the “good people” of Toronto went on a moral crusade to clean up downtown. This part of Toronto’s social history has been set to the folk and psychedelic music of the time.


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