Mr. Dressup composer Donald Himes dies at 80

Musician Donald Himes, who composed the theme music for long-running CBC children's television show Mr. Dressup, has died at age 80.

Donald Himes, who composed the theme song for long-running CBC children's television show Mr. Dressup, has died at age 80.

The musician also starred in the CBC children's show Butternut Square from 1964-65, working with Ernie Coombs before they moved on to Mr. Dressup, which premiered in 1967.

A native of Galt, Ont., Himes studied piano as a child. He worked at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and studied eurythmics with Madeleine Boss Lasserre, a Swiss dance trainer who brought the method to Toronto.

"Eurythmics is the teaching of music through movement," Himes said in a 1972 interview with the Toronto Star. "You study everything — form, harmony, rhythm — through movement."

After further study in Geneva, he began using movement in teaching music to children in Toronto. He also taught athletes, actors and opera singers.

"Children responded fantastically. Movement, you know, is so natural to children," he said, describing how he asked children to run around as he played music and used their own motion to teach them about changes in rhythm.

"Eurythmics is not an art form on its own, it isn't geared to performance. But it allows a person to be much more aware of himself, and that is useful, whether you're an actor, or a musician, or a dancer, or a writer or a sculptor," Himes told the Star.

An original member of Toronto Dance Theatre, he taught and choreographed there and was at one point principal of its school. Himes also taught at York University's dance department.

He was involved in many stage productions, including a Babar for children in 1972 and the dance piece L'Enfant et les Sortilèges to music by Ravel in 1989. At age 71, Himes danced in Holly Small's 2001 children's work, Souls.

Coombs retired from Mr. Dressup in 1996, but he continued to make public appearances and work in live theatre. He died in 2001.

In an interview with CBC's As It Happens at the time of Coombs's death in 2001, Himes said his piano accompaniment stayed fresh because of Coombs's continual enthusiasm for the show.

"You find a way of arranging Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in 300 different ways," he said.

The show got dozens of letters from children, Himes recalled.

"From the sort of 'I love Mr. Dressup, I love Casey and Finnigan,' to more specific letters, you know, regarding incidents on the show — and from parents, something that related to something that their children were going through at the moment, you know and [it was a ] very gratifying response," he said.