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Eminent Danish baritone

Here’s an ad from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring a prominent Danish baritone and the piano that was to accompany him at his upcoming concert.

A Google search for Poul Bai revealed that he had immigrated to Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia’s entry on Danish music in Canada states that Mr. Bai arrived in 1927, taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music from 1927 to 1932, and taught privately until about 1960. He also conducted a 20-voice Scandinavian male choir for many years.

I also found a Canadian wartime propaganda pamphlet from 1941, Canadians All, that lists Mr. Bai among noteworthy Canadians of Danish extraction. The introductory sentence of the foreword to this pamphlet was:

Before the Nazi attacks with military strength, he attempts to undermine the moral and physical resistance of his victim nation by termite tactics.

That’s overwrought, but probably not wrong.

When I realized that Mr. Bai had settled in Toronto, I looked him up in the Toronto city directories. I couldn’t find him in the 1928 or 1929 directories; the 1930 directory lists a Paul Bai as a salesman, but I’m not sure whether this was him and he was briefly taking on a day job. He’s not in the 1931 directory, so I don’t know for sure.

The first definite sighting of Mr. Bai in the Toronto city directories is in 1932, when a Puol Bai is listed as an artist. In the 1933 and 1935 directories, he is listed as Poul Bai; in 1940, he’s back to being listed as Paul Bai. I sense that this was an ongoing struggle.

Moving forward: because the Canadian Encyclopedia listed him as teaching until about 1960, I looked him up in directories from about that time. I found him in the 1958 and 1960 directories listed as Paul Bai and working as a singing teacher; perhaps, by then, he had given up and had anglicized his first name. He does not appear in the 1961 directory, so maybe the Canadian Encyclopedia researched him the same way that I did.

The ad mentions in small type that Muriel Gidley was to accompany Mr. Bai on the piano. I didn’t trace her in the city directories, but I did find her obituary – she passed away in 2004 at the age of 98. Under her married name of Muriel Stafford, she has a Canadian Encyclopedia entry. She also has an Internet Movie Database entry, as she appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1963 as a guest, and appeared on the TV series We the People twice in 1949.

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