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Barbara Pentland

Biographical information

TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameBarbara Lally•Pentland (-Huberman)
Used nameBarbara•Pentland
Born2 January 1912 in Winnipeg, Manitoba (CAN)
Died5 February 2000 in Vancouver, British Columbia (CAN)
NOC Canada


Barbara Pentland was one of the best-known Canadian female composers of the second half of the 20th century. She started her profession fairly young at the age of nine and then studied in Montréal and Paris, against her parents’ wishes. Due to ill health, Pentland débuted as a concert pianist only in 1936. In the same year she received fellowships for the Juilliard School in New York and the Berkshire Music Centre. In 1942 she began teaching music theory and composition at the Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music. She joined the music department of the University of British Columbia in 1949. She resigned from her position in 1963 in frustration over the new structures and standards of the department. In her later life Pentland was awarded honorary doctorates from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and the University of Manitoba, and was named a member of the Order of Canada.

In her early compositions Pentland was in the tradition of the late French romantic school. Under the influence of composers such as Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, and Béla Bartók her music became more and more modern in the 1930s. In the 1950s, she introduced serial techniques into her music and continued to experiment with avant-garde techniques. Her final years were spent in ill health preventing her from composing for almost 10 years.

Her 1948 entry in the vocal section titled Cities was the last song from a cycle that consisted of five songs: Wheat, Forest, Tracks, Mountains, and Cities. The cycle was completed in 1945 and first performed in 1945 in Toronto.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1948 Summer Olympics Art Competitions CAN Barbara Pentland
Music, Vocals, Open (Olympic) AC