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La Riche Canadienne’ - The Music of Elinor Dunsmuir

The CD, La Riche Canadienne: The Music of Elinor Dunsmuir (1887-1938) features 30 tracks, a mix of music for voice and piano and chamber music for piano and strings and can be purchased by visiting or emailing our gift shop .

Elinor was the granddaughter of Robert and Joan Dunsmuir, builders of Craigdarroch Castle and the fifth of the eight daughters and two sons of their son James, who built Hatley Castle and served as and BC’s Lieutenant Governor, and his Southern-belle wife Laura.

Elinor chafed at some of the expectations of her privileged upbringing (looking for a husband) and headed for Europe where she embraced others (such as having enough money to study music in Europe, as well as gamble). Not welcome in the family business because she was female, Elinor found an outlet for her intelligence and creative impulses in music, both composing and performing.

Serendipity put a box of Elinor’s musical compositions in the path of Bruce Davies, Craigdarroch Castle curator, and the national historic site that is a one-time Dunsmuir home acquired Elinor’s creations.

Craigdarroch Castle was then on the search for how to bring Elinor’s music to life and found their answer with Nicholas VanGiesen and Elizabeth Gerow, who became champions of the project. VanGiesen became the creative director for the project, while Gerow transcribed and performs Elinor’s music.

“What fascinates me is the distinct blend of sounds in Elinor’s music – a tasteful and refreshing smoothie with hints of the classical, impressionist, jazz and music theatre genres of the 1920s,” writes Gerow in the CD liner notes. “For the past four years, I have had the immense privilege of not only transcribing and performing Elinor’s hauntingly beautiful music, but also in researching her life – which is one of the most fascinating historical treasure hunts I’ve ever embarked on.” 

The CD was recorded in January and February of 2018 using the Steinway Piano in the drawing room at Craigdarroch Castle. When the Dunsmuir family originally purchased the piano and had it shipped to Victoria on April 28, 1901, The Daily Colonist newspaper reported, “The most beautiful and costly piano ever imported to British Columbia has just been received in this city.”

To order your CD or music books please contact the Craigdarroch Castle gift shop or call 250.592.5323.