As a conductor, organist, pianist, composer, educator, writer, administrator, and musical statesman, Sir Ernest MacMillan stands as a towering figure in Canada's musical history. His role in the development of music in Canada from the beginning of this century to 1970 was pivotal. He conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for twenty-five years, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for fifteen . He was principal of the Toronto (now Royal) Conservatory of Music and dean of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music. He founded the Canadian Music Council, and the Canadian Music Centre, and was a founding member of the Canada Council. He was also the first president of the Composers, Authors, and Publishers Association of Canada (CAPAC).
Ezra Schabas provides not only the first detailed biography of MacMillan, but also a frank, richly detailed and handsomely illustrated account of the Canadian music scene. He tells of MacMillan's rise in Canada, from his early years as a church organist to his international successes as a guest conductor; from his internment in a German prison camp to the knighthood conferred on him by King George V. As Robertson Davies said of MacMillan, 'It is on the achievements of such men that the culture of a country rests. Their work is not education, but revelation, and there is always about it something of prophetic splendour.'