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Harry Hyman "Hy" BLOOM's Obituary on Ottawa Citizen

If you were a musician, OR a public figure, in the Ottawa regions during the 50's, 60's, 70's, and even 80's, you were likely dealing with Hy Bloom at some point. His Soundmaster amps, that he designed and built still command respect and fetch good prices.

When I was working downtown, I would pop into his shop from time to time, picking up the odd small item, a tube, a plug-in solid-state rectifier. He still showed up to the shop every day until he was 90 or 91, when he was expropriated from the building, and his health was finally low enough to send him to a care facility. But until then, you could regularly see him seated in a comfy chair by the window, smoking a cigar, and reading the paper or a trade mag. A conversation with Hy would usually impart some wisdom about audio gear, in addition to a few dismissive comments about what did and didn't matter when it came to amplifiers. The whole gang from Songbird/Spaceman showed up for his 90th birthday party, as did many others who had come to know him and work with him. Hy apparently had a huge stash of master tapes of various musicians from the region that he had recorded. Purportedly, some of Bruce Cockburn's first recordings are in that stash.
 

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Some addition information. Mr. Bloom certainly lived an accomplished, full life.

OTTAWA CITIZEN — When asbestos was discovered during the course of an investigation into a blaze last June in a downtown building where his audio shop was located, Hy Bloom, who had been in that MacLaren Street spot for three-and-a-half decades, was given 24 hours to pack up his equipment and get out.

Bloom managed to extend that deadline to three months — he finally shuttered the doors for the last time on Sept. 28 — but the end result was the same, as H.H. Bloom Sound Enterprises, a downtown Ottawa landmark for more than 50 years, ceased operation and disappeared.

If there was good news to be found among the ashes of misfortune, it was that the hundreds of audio recordings that Bloom made over the years, many of them the sole accounts of both small and grand moments in the city’s history, were spared incineration, and are now part of the City of Ottawa Archives, where they’ll hopefully be kept safe forever.

“I was Ottawa-born and -bred,” he says. “I love Ottawa, and the best legacy I had to leave Ottawa was my archives.”

Best known for the 30,000 Soundmaster amplifiers he built and sold over the years, Bloom was also an expert sound technician who was often called upon to provide public address systems for various events — meetings, protests, conventions and concerts, for example. Whenever possible, Bloom recorded those events.

“I realized I was recording history — not many people were doing that then.”

Over the years, Bloom had tried in vain to find an archive or library willing to take care of his collection, and frequently worried that it might simply end up being thrown out with the trash following his death.

“It’s our first major acquisition of sound recordings that the Archives has received,” says city archivist Theresa Sorel, who organized the procurement of Bloom’s recordings last month.

“The collection is significant,” she adds. “It’s a pretty thorough snapshot of Ottawa. And there’s something about hearing these voices — it brings a person to life.”

Included in the Bloom vault is a Johnny Cash concert from 1963, and another by local bandleader Champ Champagne. A recording of poet Irving Layton is there, as is the “Voice of Doom” Lorne Greene narrating the Victory Loan drive campaigns that were broadcast from a car throughout the streets of Ottawa. Campaign speeches by Pierre Trudeau are among the trove, while a 15-year-old Alanis Morissette singing O Canada on Parliament Hill has been preserved. So, too, has Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Danny Ducharme’s rendition of Rockin’ Reindeer in 1959, and residents at the last Rockcliffe town hall meeting before amalgamation complaining about garbage pickup. When Princess Diana opened the new Ottawa police station in 1983, and when, in 1976, Ottawa mayor Lorry Greenberg was honoured at a celebrity roast, Bloom was there with his tape recorders.

A music fan with perfect pitch, Bloom also recorded numerous bands in clubs in Bermuda and the Bahamas in the 1950s.

Other recordings in the library will have to wait until archivists can properly listen to them to determine exactly what’s there: “Nepean High School, 1967” reads one tape reel, while four tapes are simply labelled “Eskimo, 1978.”

Bloom is hard-pressed to choose a favourite — “They’re all my children,” he says — but points to a recording of former diplomat Saul Rae — father of politician Bob Rae — singing at the 1949 May Court Ball as a highlight. The song, penned by Rae and titled Some Day, Wait and See, is a humorous and sometimes prescient ditty about the future of Ottawa: “Some day we’ll have a capital, the plans are now on paper/ So don’t get in a flap at all, leave that to Mr. Greber/ They’ll move the Union Station, for it’s too near the hotel/ So when you have to take a train, you’ll need a bus as well.”

Apart from donating his aural history to the City archives, Bloom also gave away much of his equipment — some to the City Archives and more to a fellow sound technician — and put most of his many tools and whatnot in plastic storage boxes in the basement of his Hunt Club home, with the intention of someday organizing them. He has also considered that he might like to mentor someone interested in following in his footsteps, but says he won’t set up shop for himself again in a new location.

“But I miss the work,” he says. “I miss the people. It’s too quiet here.”
 

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Thanks for that, Dave. The municipal archives aren't far from me. I should drop by once I retire and see if they need a hand cataloging stuff. That would be great to listen to a tape with some ambiguous marking on the reel and discover some incident or recording of historical significance.
 
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