The Birth of CAMMAC
The beginnings of CAMMAC go back to 1953, on the shores of Otter Lake near Huberdeau in Argenteuil County. The idea of the founders, George and Carl Little as well as their wives, Madeleine and Frances, was to find a place in the midst of nature where all who love music could participate in it under the direction of professional musicians. Active participation rather than passive listening was to be favoured.
Otter Lake House, Huberdeau, Quebec
Photo from "The History of CAMMAC" by Valerie King
Thus the first CAMMAC music center was born in the Laurentians, named Otter Lake Music Centre. The beginnings were modest - 26 participants registered in the first session, which lasted two weeks.
CAMMAC must have responded to a definite need as with increased participation it was necessary to move three times. In 1968, thanks to a major fund-raising campaign, a combination of donations and interest free loans allowed CAMMAC to acquire Domaine des Bouleaux, today known as the Lake MacDonald Music Centre.
Since 1957, a children's program was organized at the summer camp, as a result of which families could participate in CAMMAC. This contributed to a growing number of registrations and it was necessary to lengthen the duration of the camp.
It goes without saying that prolonging the season brought with it an expanded musical program. Thus courses such as opera, guitar, orchestra, chamber music, etc. were added in the course of years.
Many well-known professional musicians, also convinced of the importance of amateur music in our culture joined with George and Carl Little to offer the participants a variety of musical activities.
There were among others: Mario Duschenes, who taught recorder for many years; Walter and Otto Joachim; and later, Ross Pratt, who has directed the chamber music program for many years; Jan Simons, who began as a teacher of vocal technique, and then was Director General of CAMMAC from 1967 to 1990 and who now holds the position of Artistic Advisor; the Lagacé family, first Bernard and Mireille and later, their daughters, Isolde and Geneviève, responsible for harpsichord and Baroque ensemble.
Concerts also play an important role in CAMMAC. Presented in the evening, and generally open to the public, they allow the participants a chance to witness the talent of their teachers. These concerts have featured such artists as: Maureen Forrester, Louis Quilico (their debuts), Ross Pratt, The Orford Quartet, The Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet, and many others. Quality is always the order of the day on the menu offered to the amateur participants.
A Second Music Centre
In 1978, a second summer camp was founded in Ontario on Lake Rosseau. Amateur musicians have enjoyed the warm welcoming spirit, camaraderie, and friendly music-making of this new CAMMAC music centre. In 1988, the camp was relocated to the beautiful Caledon Hills, with plenty of open space, quiet nature trails, and a large outdoor swimming pool.
In 2001, the music centre was relocated to the grounds of Appleby College, a private school in Oakville, situated on the shores of Lake Ontario. The most recent home of the Ontario Music Centre as of 2004 is at Lakefield College, a private school in the Kawartha Lakes country overlooking Lake Katchewanooka, about 15km northeast of Peterborough.
The unbelievable success of the Music Centre demonstrated the real need for amateur musicians to get together and to experience throughout the year the pleasure and satisfaction they found during the summer. This encouraged a number of participants to meet in Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Ottawa-Hull, Toronto, Vancouver, and Halifax in order to play and sing together in their respective regions.
From this initiative came The Amateur Musician, the internal journal of CAMMAC, which linked members from different regions. In addition, in 1961, following a substantial donation from George Little of his own music collection, a well-stocked music library was created, which is available to all CAMMAC members.
Thanks to CAMMAC's Musical Trips (launched by George and Madeleine Little in 1970), CAMMAC members can have contact with amateur musicians from around the world.
A Promising Future
Today the health of CAMMAC is remarkable. The organization boasts more than 2000 members from across Canada, the United States and overseas.