Remembering Patricia Crum, who like Patricia Snell sang with the Canadian Opera Company and enjoyed a career full of high notes

Jennie Coles remembers the time a man she was dating asked her to marry him. She was in her early 20s and was presumably flattered by the proposal, but wasn’t sure how to respond. He turned to his mother, former opera singer Patricia Crum, for advice. “Well that’s easy,” said Pat. Ask yourself, ‘Do I want my children to have all of their qualities?’ To this day Coles He still laughs at his mother’s words because he immediately realized, “No. Not me, and I don’t want to marry him. “Pat was as glamorous and vivacious as she was down to earth and pragmatic. As if summing up her mother’s parenting style, Coles says,” She led me in the perfect direction. “

Patricia Snell was born in 1927 to Dr. George Carman Snell and Mollie Martin Rowe, but she spent long periods of time with her Aunt Alice, one of the two Rowe family opera singers with musical inclinations. Legend has it, when Pat made her own musical debut at the age of five (“she was known from the start for having a pretty voice,” says Coles), she threw up all over the stage from nerves. Suffice it to say, Crum overcame his nervousness on stage and eventually graduated from Forest Hill Public School to attend the Royal Conservatory. There he studied singing and music and met George Crum, assistant conductor and vocal coach in the opera department. The two were friends for years before they started dating. One night George proposed in her family’s driveway, but she had no idea the proposal was serious until someone called to congratulate her the next day. The two were married in 1951 in a 400-attended partnership wedding inside the historic Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on St. Clair Avenue.

The 1950s were exciting and heady days for Toronto’s burgeoning art scene, and Pat was at the center of it. Patricia Snell (as she was always known professionally) sang with the Conservatory’s Opera Festival and Backstage Opera and helped lay the foundation for what would become the Canadian Opera Company. Around the same time, Celia Franca chose George to be the founding director of the newly formed National Ballet Company.

Even after the birth of her first daughter, Jennie, in 1956, Pat continued to sing, playing Sylviane in “The Merry Widow”, Musetta in “La Bohème” and Rosina in “The Barber of Seville”. By the time their second daughter, Angie, arrived in 1962, a combination of allergy-induced vocal nodules and the demands of being half an artist couple had sunk. She he felt it was the right time to step away from the opera’s limelight and focus on family.

And by all accounts, she loved being a mother to her daughters or whatever friend the two of them brought home. The Crums’ home on Laureleaf Road in Thornhill was a haven for touring artists, extended family, and pool parties, and when George retired to buy Studio Billiards at Yonge at Steeles, billiards players could even be found. competitive there. And Pat never stopped singing, appearing frequently on CBC Radio and with the National Ballet and available for local performances and family celebrations. When Jennie and Angie became women and mothers, Pat took on the role of “babysitter” for six grandchildren, as well as for the adopted children of Jennie and her husband Russ. She was also an animal lover, cared for over 15 dogs in her life, and had a soft spot for cocker spaniels.

When George passed away in 2007, Pat moved in with Jennie and alternated between her and Angie for the next 13 years. Around the age of 86, Pat began to show some signs of forgetfulness, but remained physically capable and with joy to be around. It was in June earlier this year that Pat suffered a fall that landed her in various hospitals.

Despite his declining health, Pat’s mood never waned. He said he had no intention of dying, because he refused to have a COVID funeral. “Mom was always at the party,” says Angie. True to his wishes, Pat passed away peacefully on July 24, 2021, just as Ontario advanced to Step 3 of its reopening and when a proper celebration could be held.

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