The CJRT Orchestra was formed in Toronto in 1975 by Paul Robinson for the independent non-commercial educational radio station CJRT-FM. Robinson took over as music director of the station in 1972.

As Arnold Edinborough, a leading columnist at the time for the Financial Post wrote: “The music director of the newly organized station is Paul Robinson, a conductor, musicologist, composer, and player of real capacity. Proof of that was Sunday when we listened to a new symphony orchestra, 40% of whose players are Toronto Symphony, the rest teachers of note in Toronto, such as David Zafer, and Peter Schenkman. Robinson held two rehearsals that day and gave a thoroughly good concert in the evening – all Schumann – with Steven Staryk as soloist.”

CJRT-FM, now defunct, received 70 per cent of its funding from the Ontario government and 30 per cent from private donors. From 1975 through 1989 the orchestra presented an annual subscription series of from six to nine concerts in the Ryerson Theatre, with the exception of 1982-4, when it played orchestra in Massey Hall.

The orchestra programs were usually planned around a theme ('Music of Beethoven,' 'Bach and His Sons,' etc), often contained chamber works as well as orchestral ones, and were preceded by a talk by Robinson. On the day of a concert, CJRT broadcast commercial recordings of music illustrating the same program theme.  The live concerts were recorded for later broadcast.

CJRT Orchestra, consisting of members of the TS (Toronto Symphony) and leading freelance players, varied in size from 25 to 65. Over the course of its existence, it premiered Buczynski's Lyric for Piano and Orchestra (1977) and Schafer's Hymn to Night (1978), and gave the Canadian premiere of Britten's Suite on English Folk Tunes (1979). The orchestra also presented such rarely heard works as Schumann's Violin Concerto (1975), Weber's opera Abu Hassan (concert performance 1976), Arriaga's Symphony in D (1976), and Gounod's Symphony No. 2 (1977). In the fall of 1980 it mounted a festival of the symphonies and concertos of Beethoven. Another season included the complete symphony cycles of Schubert. The 1985-6 season consisted of four all-Mozart concerts. Other compositions premiered by the orchestra included six works for combined jazz and classical orchestras by Applebaum, Rick Wilkins, Ian McDougall, Freedman, and Victor Davies (1984), Morawetz' Clarinet Concerto, An-lun Huang's Symphonic Overture: Tien An Men (1989), David Morgan's Sonata for Chamber Orchestra (1989), James Fusco's Music for An Immortal Beloved (1990), and Walter Buczynski's Lyric VII with Steven Dann as soloist (1991).

In 1986, the Canadian Friends of Finland and CJRT Orchestra presented the Canadian premiere of Sibelius' Kullervo Symphony to a capacity audience at Roy Thomson Hall.

 Each season it presented a 'Canadian Composer Retrospectives' in cooperation with York University, giving concerts devoted to the work of a single composer, including Somers, Morawetz, Schafer, Beckwith, and Glick.

Robert Aitken, Jorge Bolet, Liona Boyd, James Campbell, Jane Coop, Chantal Juillet, Lorand Fenyves, Maureen Forrester, James Galway, Rivka Golani, Peter Katin, Greta Kraus, Antonin Kubálek, Anton Kuerti, James McKay, Arthur Ozolins, Shauna Rolston, Gérard Souzay, Steven Staryk, Janet Stubbs, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Barry Tuckwell, Andras Schiff, Jorg Demus, Elly Ameling, Arlene Auger, Mischa Dichter, and Stephen Kovacevich are among the solo artists who  performed with the orchestra. Guest conductors included Dwight Bennett, Boris Brott, Franz-Paul Decker, Paul Freeman, Brian Jackson, Arpad Joo, Andras Ligeti, and Barry Tuckwell.

Exerpted from Updated for website by MER.

Photographs and Reviews

“If Toronto music buffs were pressed hard to name the conductor who brings home the real symphonic bacon, CJRT Orchestra helmsman Paul Robinson…might well out-pull the Toronto Symphony’s Andrew Davis. While Davis spends more and more time abroad, Robinson gives the people a steady diet of what they love best.”
(Globe & Mail)

CJRT-FM Festival Series Ticket
1983/84 Season at Massey Hall

“For lovers of the underplayed music of Sibelius it was probably the year of all years, affording a chance to hear Paul Robinson and the CJRT Orchestra give the first Canadian performance of the monumental Kullervo Symphony.”
(William Littler, “The Best & Worst of ’86”, Toronto Star)


“Classical music and jazz may not always find happiness cruising the same bars, but they sure can throw quite a party together” (Ronald Hambleton, Toronto Star)

(Photo: left to right) composers Rick Wilkins, Victor Davies, Lou Applebaum, Paul Robinson, Ian McDougall, Ted O’Reilly, Harry Freedman, and Rob McConnell at the Eaton Centre reception following an historic concert at Massey Hall in Toronto in 1984. CJRT had commissioned six new works to be played by the combined forces of the CJRT Orchestra and the Boss Brass. There were three “jazz” composers – Wilkins, McDougall and McConnell – and three “classical” composers – Davies, Applebaum and Freedman. McConnell and Robinson shared the conducting duties. Ted O’Reilly was in charge of jazz programming at CJRT-FM.


Cellist Ofra Harnoy and Paul Robinson in rehearsal for a CJRT Orchestra concert at Ryerson Theater in Toronto.

Contralto Maureen Forrester, Paul Robinson and CJRT Orchestra in rehearsal for Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer.” 

“There may have been more moving interpretations of  Songs of a Wayfarer, possibly by Miss Forrester and others, but I have not heard them...a vocal performance of exceptional beauty and orchestral support that revealed the players and conductor with an impressive grasp of Mahler’s style.”  John Kragland, Globe & Mail

Choral Conductor Matti Hyökki and Paul Robinson in rehearsal for Canadian premiere of the Sibelius Kullervo Symphony at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, 1986.

Paul Robinson and pianist Jörg Demus at
Massey hall rehearsal.