Debus | Orchestra
Members | Audio
by Elizabeth Gowan
At the end of the 2009/2010 season, the COC will say goodbye to Stanley McCartney who has been principal clarinet of the orchestra since 1985.
As principal clarinet of the Toronto
Symphony Orchestra he performed under
conductors Karel Ancerl and Sir Andrew Davis.
He has performed with many distinguished
conductors including Zubin Mehta, Kurt Sanderling,
Erich Leinsdorf and Seiji Ozawa.
occasions, at the request of Robert Marcellus,
principal clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra, he
performed with that orchestra under George Szell
and was invited by Szell to perform the E-flat
clarinet on the Cleveland Orchestra recording
of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé.
performed and taught at the Banff School of Fine
Arts and Scotia Festival of Music and performed
at the Stratford Festival with such distinguished
artists as Glenn Gould, Leonard Rose, and Oscar Shumsky. He was a member of the Toronto
Woodwind Quintet and has performed on many
occasions with the Brunswick, St. Lawrence,
Orford, Purcell and Aeolian string quartets.
Stan taught for many years at the University
of Toronto, and one of his former students can
be found in the COC pit. Colleen Cook, our second
clarinet and bass clarinet, says he taught her to
think as a musician. “He would only work on one
piece by any particular composer. That way I would
get the style of the music but wouldn’t be spoon-fed
all the things the composer did.
on the Mozart clarinet concerto, it took two or three
lessons before he would allow me to play the
first note because my breathing and preparation
to play were not what he wanted. At the time
I questioned this approach, but in retrospect I really
There have been many highlights of his tenure
at the COC. Moving from the O’Keefe Centre to
our fabulous new opera house is high on the list,
and Stan is quick to credit Richard Bradshaw
for his work in getting us here. “I don’t know how
Richard did it. . . . I don’t know how he did a lot
of things!” Of course, the Ring Cycle with all its
prominent clarinet solos stands out in his memory.
“I had always wanted to do it, and had played bits
and pieces of it over the years. But to perform the
entire cycle was such a thrill—I loved every minute
of it.” He also remembers the huge improvement
in the quality of the orchestra during his 25 years
with the COC. He is sorry to be leaving just as
Johannes Debus arrives as our new music director,
for he anticipates a lot of positive change and still
further improvements in the orchestra under
But just listing his achievements doesn’t begin
to convey the experience of having Stan as a colleague.
His professionalism and conscientiousness are
legendary. He is usually the first one in the pit,
arriving early to warm up and work on reeds
before each performance. His quest for the
perfect reed – and his chronic worrying when
he doesn’t think he has it—have been the source
of a lot of good-natured teasing in the woodwind
section. In fact, “Are you going to use that reed?”
has become a running joke among us.
Before he leaves us, Stan will be featured
in a tribute concert on April 29 at the Richard
Bradshaw Amphitheatre as part of the Chamber
Music series. He will be performing Mozart’s
Clarinet Quintet in A Major, accompanied by
a string quartet made up of COC musicians Marie
Bérard, Benjamin Bowman, Theresa Rudolph
Koczó, and Bryan Epperson. Stan picked the
repertoire for the concert (which will also include
the Borodin String Quartet No. 2), choosing the
Mozart because he regards it as one of the great
masterpieces in all chamber music.
Stan hastens to add that while he is retiring
from the COC, he will not be giving up performing
and has plans to make a CD in the near future.
“I’m certainly not going to stuff the clarinet under
the bed! It would be a temptation, but I don’t think
I could do that. So we’ll play it by ear, so to speak.”
Retirement will allow him to focus on two of his
passions: golf and fishing. As soon as opera
season finishes at the end of May, he will be hitting
the greens every day if he can. And he’s planning
a trip this summer to Gods River in northern
Manitoba to fish for walleye and speckled trout.
Goodbye Stan—it won’t be the same here
Elizabeth Gowen plays bassoon in the COC Orchestra.
Music Director Johannes Debus and the COC Orchestra. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2009