John Francis Oscar Arpin (3 December 1936 - 8 November 2007) was a jazz performer, composer, music producer, teacher and collector of historical sheet music.
Born Port McNicoll, Ontario to Marie Emelda (Melda) Bertrant and Elie Regis Arpin, he began taking lessons at the age of four and was composing his own music by the age of seven. During his childhood, Arpin competed in the Midland Music Festival as well as local community concerts and events. In 1950 he purchased his first opera score, the piano version for Puccini’s Tosca for five dollars, which was the genesis of his immense and wide-ranging music collection. He completed his solo performer’s degree (ARCT) and graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music at the age of 16 in 1955. He pursued a degree at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music while living at St. Michael’s Cathedral School and teaching theory, harmony, counterpoint and form.
In 1958 Arpin made a 45-rpm recording for Topping Records. Arpin auditioned in 1959 for the Leo Ramanelli Orchestra, which performed at the King Edward Hotel. He performed there for three years. He became a regular performer at Toronto’s nightclubs during the 1960s, including The Park Plaza Hotel, The Waldorf, Sutton Place’s Stop 33, The Ports of Call, The Hyatt Regency, Mr. Tony’s Place, The Prince Hotel and others. Arpin began receiving work on CBC television shows in 1960 and he would become the music director on several shows, including the King Ganam Show and River Inn, a Diamond Lil act with Vanda King at the Skyline Hotel.
Encouraged by Bob Darch, Arpin became absorbed by the history and performance of ragtime. This obsession with the jazz form led to Arpin collecting historical sheet music from the early twentieth century, although he also collected sheet music for orchestral, opera, popular music and other jazz forms.
Arpin was partner of recording label Arpeggio Records, along with Gerry Buck, which they founded in 1964. He managed and produced the work of several performers and groups including albums by The Hickorys, Jim and Don Haggart, Donna Ramsay, The Allan Sisters, Toby Lark, Lynne Jones and others.
A prolific performer and recording artist, particularly of ragtime, Arpin released numerous studio and live albums, including: Recordings include: Concert in Ragtime (1965); The Other Side of Ragtime ( 1966),
Harmony (1969 with Bill Turner, Jack Zaza, Mickey Shannon), Jazzology (1970), (Barroom to Baroque: The Piano of John Arpin (1971), Love and Maple Syrup: The Piano of John Arpin Plays Gordon Lightfoot (1972), a recording with Paul Fortier and Dean Macdonald for CBC in 1973, John Arpin, Jazz Solo Piano (1975), John Arpin - Direct to Disc (1975), I Write the Songs (1977), a single Do It Standing Up/ As Time Goes By (1983), John Arpin Plays His Anne Murray Favourites (1985), John Arpin: Music from the Movies (1985), Rags to Riches (with Catherine Wilson, 1986), Somebody Loves Me: Romantic Gershwin for Piano (1986, re-released in 1991 and 1995 under different titles), Ragtime Beatles (1986), From Kern to Sondheim: Great American Theatre Songs (1987), John Arpin Plays Joe Lamb (1987), Glad Rags and Sad Rags (1987) Creole Rags Played by John Arpin - New Orleans Music The Day Before Jazz (1987), Scott Joplin: Greatest Hits (1988), You Keep Coming Back Like a Song: A Salute to Irving Berlin (1988), Lullabies (1988 with Maureen Forrester), Meet Me in St. Louis: America’s Favourite Turn-of-the-Century Song Hits (1989 with Maureen Forrester, Glyn Evans and the Fanfare Palm Court Ensemble), Forgotten Dreams Volume 1 (1989 for Toronto Alzheimer’s Society), Kings of Ragtime: Ragtime Piano’s Greatest Hits (1989), Cakewalk: The Virtuoso Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1989), Broadway Baroque: Baroque Improvisations of Broadway Masterpieces (1989), Bach Meets Rodgers and Hammerstein: Variations in the Style of J.S. Bach (1990), Wishing Upon a Star and Other Childhood Favourites (1990), Champaign Rags: The Classic Rags of Joseph Lamb (1990), Scott Joplin: King of Ragtime (1990), Forgotten Dreams Vol. II (1991 for Toronto Alzheimer’s Society), Scott Joplin Classic Rags (1992), Best of the Honky-Tonk Piano (1992), Jalousie: The John Arpin Palm Court Trio (1992), Someone to Watch Over Me (1992), The French Connection (1992), Spirituals, 200 Yeas of African-American Spirituals (1993 with William Warfield), My Romance (1994), , The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (1994), Christmas with John Arpin (1994), A Time for Love: The Artistry of John Arpin (1994), Ragtime Rarities: Scott Joplin (1995), Fourth International “Unicom” Boehm Ragtime and Jazz Meeting ‘95 (1995), My Favourite Requests (1996), The Complete Piano Music of Scott Joplin (a four-CD set in 1996), Arpin at the Opera (1996), Joplin- The Greatest Hits (1997 - re-released in 2004 under different title), Romance at the Movies 1998),
Ragtime on Broadway (1997), Blue Gardenia: The Latin American Music of Hal Isbitz (1998), Greates Hits of Al Jolson 1998), Hits of the ‘50s Unchained Melody (a four-CD set in 1998), The Things I Love (2000, Fly Me to the Moon (2002), Over The Rainbow (2002), Wine and Roses (2002), Getting to Know You (2002), Halfway to the Stars (2002), On The Street Where You LIve (2002), Some Enchanted Evening (2002), The Best of John Arpin: Put on A Happy Face and Any Dream Will Do (both 2005), One Lucky Piano (2007).
Arpin passed away 8 November 2007 in Toronto, Ontario.