A piece of Victoria history fell into Bruce Davies’ lap, and it came in the form of a small wooden box.
Davies, the curator of Craigdarroch Castle, had spent some time in England in a country home occupied by descendants of Robert Dunsmuir, the original builder of the Castle. Davies was hoping to find more photos of the castle or its occupants, but instead came across a box full of original sheet music composed by Dunsmuir’s granddaughter, Elinor.
“It’s extraordinary work; music for plays, trios, chamber music, a piano concerto, and two fully scored out ballets with story lines and parts for all the orchestras,” Davies said. “I knew she was an accomplished musician, but didn’t know she composed.”
To share this discovery with the public, Craigdarroch Castle is partnering with the Greater Victoria Public Library to host a free event Saturday (April 28) called “Elinor Dunsmuir: An Extraordinary Life.”
The event will include an illustrated talk about Elinor and her life, and also offer a listen to some of her work as recorded by University of Victoria graduate Elizabeth Gerow.
The music is described as unusual for the time because in the 1920s, jazz, swing and big band were the norm. Dunsmuir’s work is said to be a unique blend of classical and jazz that shows off her experience living in Europe.
“Elinor found that she didn’t really fit into Victoria society. She liked Europe, she like to gamble and lost a fortune at Monte Carlo before her mother sent for her in the 1930s,” Davies said. “It’s important to note that she was a brilliant person, but that the constricts of the day prevented her from entering the family business.”
All of Dunsmuir’s work is being recorded and Davies hopes to put it onto CDs to be made available to the public in September.
“Elinor Dunsmuir: An Extraordinary Life” runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Central Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, 735 Broughton St. Those wishing to attend are asked to pre-register by calling 250-940-4875 or online at gvpl.ca/event/elinor-dunsmuir-an-extraordinary-life/