Celebrating the “incomparable” Valerie Tryon

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections
World-renowned concert pianist and former Associate Professor in McMaster’s School of the Arts, Valerie Tryon performed at Convocation Hall during an event celebrating the donation of her archives to McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.

World-renowned concert pianist and former Associate Professor in McMaster’s School of the Arts, Valerie Tryon performed at Convocation Hall during an event celebrating the donation of her archives to McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.

“Incomparable.”

That was how world-renowned concert pianist, Valerie Tryon was described at a recent concert hosted by McMaster University Library which paid tribute to her life and work.

“Valerie is a consummate musician in almost every form,” says internationally recognized conductor Boris Brott who spoke at the event. “She plays with such perfection, that I think that’s why the word ‘incomparable’ is truly the right word to describe her.”

The event, held in Convocation Hall, featured performances by Tryon and celebrated the donation of her personal archives to McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.

“The collection is quite extraordinary in importance,” says McMaster University Librarian Vivian Lewis, “While it is not physically large, it helps to tell the story of one of Canada’s great musical figures. It tells the story of a woman, British by birth, who travels the world to perform and record, but who considers Hamilton and McMaster her home. We are grateful to have been entrusted with the documents and artefacts that capture the life’s work of this remarkable talent.

Valerie Tryon (pictured) served for many years as McMaster's Artist-in-Residence.
Valerie Tryon (pictured) served for many years as McMaster's Artist-in-Residence.

The archive, in large part assembled by Alan Walker, Professor Emeritus in McMaster's School of the Arts from scrapbooks kept by her father, consists of a range of materials collected between 1941 and 2012 including newspaper clippings, reviews, photographs, concert programs, and other artefacts that document her prolific and celebrated career.

For many years, Tryon served as both Artist-in-Residence and an associate professor in McMaster's  School of the Arts. She was awarded a Honourary doctorate upon her retirement and since then, has continued to teach, record and play at concerts and recitals around the world.

“To be here at McMaster, the place that I’ve known for so many years is really quite wonderful,” says Tryon. “I started my whole Canadian ‘visit’ here in the 1970s and I’ve played in this hall so many times that I know the names on all the portraits. McMaster really feels like home to me. It seems absolutely right that this is the place that my archives should go to.”

McMaster is home to the archives of a number of prominent musicians including Bruce Cockburn, Ian Thomas, Jackie Washington, Boris Brott, Alan Walker, Morely Calvert, and Louise Bennett Coverley (Miss Lou).

Dean of Humanities, Ken Cruikshank, who also spoke at the event, says it’s important to continue to build these archives.

“It’s these special collections– these things that people can come and see and feel and touch– that are really important,” says Cruikshank. “Having collections like this one are extremely important to our students and our researchers and this collection adds remarkably to that.”

The youngest student to be admitted to the The Royal Academy, Tryon is a Juno Award winner, a Hamilton Gallery of Distinction inductee and also holds the Harriet Cohen Award for Distinguished Services to Music, and the Franz Liszt Medal from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture for her life-long commitment to, and promotion of, Liszt’s music.

Watch video of Valerie Tryon performing "On the Wings of Song," composed by Felix Mendelssohn and arranged by Franz Lizst.