Origin: Port McNicoll, Ontario, 🇨🇦
John (Francis Oscar) Arpin. Pianist, singer, composer, arranger, b Port McNicoll, near Midland, Ont, 3 Dec 1936, d Toronto 8 Nov 2007; ARCT 1953. John Arpin studied piano locally and 1950-3 at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and began his career in Toronto in 1957. After working with Howard Cable, King Ganam, Leo Romanelli, and Stanley St. John, he undertook a largely solo career 1962-87 as a pianist in Toronto bars and hotel lounges (The Ports of Call, Mr. Tony's, the Windsor Arms and King Edward hotels, Pearcy House, etc). He also was music director 1968-9 for CTV's 'River Inn,' 1969-70 for CTV's 'Diamond Lil,' and, beginning in 1984, for TVO's 'Polka Dot Door.' His song arrangements were heard on recordings by several pop and country performers, including Keath Barrie, the Carlton Showband, Dick Damron, George Hamilton IV, Tommy Hunter, and Roy Payne.
Concurrently Arpin was Canada's foremost ragtime pianist. Introduced to the repertoire ca 1963 by the US pianist Bob Darch, he performed and recorded in Canada and the US, making several appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival and the St. Louis Ragtime Festival during the 1970s and appearing regularly at the Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, beginning in the 1980s. For the Toronto-based Ragtime Society, established in 1962, he served as chairman (later, president) for more than 25 years with a single interruption, played at the annual 'Ragtime Bash,' and 1964-8 edited The Ragtimer. Arpin played ragtime in duet 1984-8 with the pianist Catherine Wilson and conducted the National Ballet of Canada orchestra in Joplin's Elite Syncopations.
John Arpin began a series of monthly performances at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, near Toronto, in 1986 and subsequently became music director of the gallery's weekly concert series. He also was heard in benefit concerts at Roy Thomson Hall and at various summer festivals in programs of ragtime, classics, and early Canadiana. He toured through North America, Europe, and the Orient.
Compositions, Recordings, Awards
Of his own compositions, Arpin recorded Centennial Rag (BMI Canada 1965), Toronto Blues (1965), Cumberland Stroll (1969), and Skelton Key Rag (1987). His Summer Suite (1976) was commissioned by Nexus. Arpin's Suite for Piano, Strings and Percussion, performed by the composer, won a silver medal at the Yamaha International Original Concert Competition in Tokyo in 1982. Arpin also composed Jogging Along, which was used as a theme for CBC radio's 'Morningside' in the late 1970s. His many songs include 'Jenny's Tune,' which was recorded by Maureen Forrester, with whom he appeared on CD and in recital.
Arpin recorded extensively as a solo pianist, and with his own Palm Court Trio and others, such as Doug Riley. His discography extends to over 60 albums, and includes The Complete Piano Music of Scott Joplin (1996, Intersound).
The pianist was the honorary patron of the Georgian Theatre Festival, and in 1998 received the Scott Joplin Award. Eubie Blake called Arpin "the Chopin of ragtime."