Longtime National Ballet music director George Crum dies at 80

George Crum, the pianist and conductor who was invited by National Ballet of Canada founder Celia Franca to become the ballet's first music director, has died. He was 80.

George Crum, the pianist and conductor who was invited by National Ballet of Canada founding artistic director Celia Franca to become the ballet's first music director, has died. He was 80.

Crum died Saturday after a short illness in Toronto, according to a press release from the National Ballet.

Crum, a frequent conductor for CBC Radio opera broadcasts, was music director and conductor of the ballet for 33 years and remained music director emeritus at the time of his death.

"George Crum was a pioneer of the arts in Canada," said National Ballet artistic director Karen Kain.

"Along with our founder Celia Franca, he forged a fledgling ballet company into the great institution it is today.We all owe him a great debt and will miss him greatly."

Crum was born Oct. 26, 1926 in Providence, R.I., and moved with his family to Toronto at age three.

He began piano and organ studies at the age of 12 with Edmund Cohu, organist and choirmaster of Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont. He made a debut as a recitalist in Toronto at age 16 and was a regular on CBC Radio.

In 1946, Crum became coach with the Royal Conservatory opera departmentand assistant to its director, Nicholas Goldschmidt, with whom he had studied conducting.

Hebecame chorus master and a conductor for the Royal Conservatory Opera, which later became the Canadian Opera Company. He made his conducting debut in 1948 inthe company'sproduction of Faust.

Crum also worked in 1949 and 1950 with the Opera Nacional de Centro-America in Guatemala.

Franca, founder of the National Ballet, invited him to become conductor for the newly formed ballet corps in 1951.

That same year, Crum married soprano Patricia Snell. In 1952 he served as an opera coach at the Salzburg Festival.

Crum provided orchestrations and arrangements for numerous works in the ballet company's repertoire including Pas de Deux Romantique (1959/60), Princess Aurora (1960/61), One in Five (1961/62),Melodie (1966/67), Giselle (1969/70), Les Sylphides (1973/74) and Offenbach in the Underworld (1975/76).

He remained conductor of the Conservatory Opera and also guest-conducted CBC opera telecasts, and opera and symphony performances in Canada, the U.S., Japan, and Europe.

Eventually, the demands of being music director for the ballet took most of his time and he dropped his involvement with the Conservatory Opera.

However, he still took guest conducting jobs, including conducting the opening of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1969 and appearing in Mexico in 1980 during ceremonies marking the inauguration of President Miguel de la Madrid.

In 1972 he received the Celia Award in recognition of his services to ballet in Canada.

He retired from the ballet in 1984, but has since appeared as guest conductor at 25th anniversary gala performances and in 1989 for Veronica Tennant's farewell performance of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

He has also prepared musical arrangements for ballet companies including the Joffrey Ballet of New York and the Ballet Teatro of Mexico City.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, Jennie and Angie, and seven grandchildren.