Maureen Forrester, LL.D., May 31, 1988
Maureen Forrester

I have the honor to present Maureen Forrester, one of the world's great vocal artists, a contralto whose rich, warm voice is associated particularly with the music of the German romantic and post-romantic composers, but which speaks and sings with equal fervor for the composers of contemporary Canada.

Miss Forrester was born in Montreal, and discovered early that she was blessed with a vocal instrument that responded with beauty and naturalness. Eschewing formal education in order to concentrate on the development of her voice, she made a smooth - and from this distance, easy - transition to a professional career. Her early contact with the famed conductor Bruno Walter sharpened her understanding of the works of Gustav Mahler, and today she is known throughout the world as a performer of his music. Local music lovers will recall her eloquent performance this year of Lieder from Mahler's Das Knaben Wunderhorn with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Having worked with some 2,000 conductors, Miss Forrester's busy career includes around 120 performances per year. Throughout the years she has remained loyal to her Canadian origins, and has been a strong supporter of Canadian music. She often includes Canadian composers on her programs at home and abroad, frequently commissioning and premiering works, and promoting them through master classes and other activities. Her special role has often been recognized through honors and distinctions, including being named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967.

For the past five years Miss Forrester has served as Chair of the Canada Council, the Federal government's chief instrument for funding of the arts. Through her interest, influence and insistence, the Council's arms-length relationship to the government has been maintained. Her determination that Canada should continue to provide a financial foundation for the arts, free of political pressure, awarded on merit as assessed through peer evaluation, has preserved one of the most vital aspects of our artistic heritage. Without the Canada Council, without an independent Canada Council, Canada's artistic life would be infinitely poorer.

But above all, Miss Forrester is a performer, one who pours herself into her works with such total intensity that the listener may believe that it is she who speaks rather than a poet who wrote words and a composer who wrote music perhaps a hundred years ago. This is the magic of a great performer - to tell another's tale with such vividness that the listener is absorbed into a first-person experience. This is the magic of Maureen Forrester.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege to ask, in the name of the Senate of The University of Manitoba, that you now confer on Maureen Forrester the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

-citation delivered by Arnold Naimark, President, University of Manitoba