Antonio and his wife Adine lived at 214 Cobourg St. between 1938 and 1957 (they had lived at 535 Besserer St. for at least ten years before that). Antonio worked as a translator for the Department of Public Works until 1946 while Adine was a music teacher and accompanist. In 1928, Antonio and Adine Tremblay invested $340 to bring Canadian tenor Edward Johnson to Ottawa. He played to a sell-out crowd of 1743 spectators at the Old Russell Theatre and Les Concerts Tremblay/Tremblay Concerts was born.
Between 1929 and 1961, the Tremblays, with the help of their daughter Suzanne, brought some of the world’s greatest performing artists to Ottawa, including opera singer Nellie Melba; pianists Arthur Rubinstein and Sergei Rachmaninoff; violinist Fritz Kreisler; chamber music, symphony orchestras, ballets and choirs. At a time when Ottawa lacked a formal concert hall and did not appear on any regular musical circuit, the Tremblays presented “for years, … the most popular entertainment in the capital”.
The concerts were held at a number of venues, starting at the Russell Theatre, moving to Glebe Collegiate after the Russell was demolished before finally settling on the Capitol Theatre. In 1961, Antonio Tremblay retired but the company he had created remained active for another decade before it declared bankruptcy, partly as a result of competition from the newly-created National Arts Centre.
As impresario, Tremblay was responsible for selecting musical acts, meeting artists arriving at Union Station, booking venues, advertising concerts, selling subscriptions, handling cancellations and managing unforeseen events (like the time a bird was trapped in the theatre at a Paul Robeson concert). It is said that the Tremblays even lent their drawing room for rehearsals.Throughout, there were many hard years when financial success hung in the balance.
The Tremblays received the Order of Canada in 1974, the first couple to be so honoured, “ in recognition of [their] contribution to the artistic and cultural life of Ottawa for more than forty years”.
The house at 214 Cobourg St. was built in 1900. Other residents have included Wilson Southam, managing director of the Ottawa Citizen, who lived there between 1900 and 1908 (his son Hamilton was the founding director of the National Arts Centre and a prime fund-raiser for the Canadian War Museum.
22 July 2011
Ottawa Journal 19 October 1968 Tremblay Concerts starts 40thseason
Ottawa Journal 25 March 1971 NAC blamed for Tremblay collapse