Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Little magic fiddler' inspiration to many

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A musical prodigy whose moves were chronicled on the front pages of the Winnipeg Free Press in the 1930s and '40s has died.

Donna Grescoe died Friday in Richmond, B.C., at 84 following a six-month battle with cancer, said her sister, Lorraine Grescoe, who had lived next door to her sister since 1988.

"Donna came here for a holiday, and she loved it so much when the house next door to me went up for sale, I asked if she wanted to buy it and she said 'Yes, immediately,' " Lorraine, 76, said over the phone Wednesday.

Donna Grescoe was born in Winnipeg in 1927 and began playing the violin when she was five. By the time she was eight, she had appeared in a vaudeville show at Winnipeg's Beach Theatre, according to her bio in The Canadian Encyclopedia and confirmed by her sister.

In 1938, Grescoe received a $5,000 scholarship from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and moved there to study music. Much of the trip was funded by a trust established following a fundraising concert in Winnipeg.

She continued her studies in New York and made the news for recitals at The Town Hall on Feb. 3, 1947, and Carnegie Hall a year later.

"Not only is she already a mistress of her instrument, but she had a sure sense of style and her interpretations gave promise of still deeper insight into the future," wrote New York Times critic Ross Parmenter of The Town Hall performance.

Grescoe spent more than 10 years in New York, where she studied and used it as a home base for national tours. During a job in a resort, she met her future husband, Bjorn Gullichsen. In 1951, Canadian children's author Lyn Cook wrote a book about Grescoe's life called The Little Magic Fiddler.

She performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in September 1955, after the television host discovered her at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Grescoe was a soloist for most of her career but also played with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra following her move back to Winnipeg in the 1960s with her husband and son. She became a music teacher and was a founding member of the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts in 1984, where she taught until moving to Richmond. The conservatory awards an annual scholarship in her name for junior string students in grades 1-4.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2012 A2

History

Updated on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 10:17 AM CDT: Corrects date.

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