Before the blossoming of the Yorkville music era, there was a vibrant Bohemian café scene in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood from Bloor Street down to the “old village” by the art college. Leading that music scene was Klaas van Graft who serenaded café boulevardiers and was a regular performer at Yorkville’s first coffee house, John Morley’s Village Corner Club at Avenue Road and Pears Avenue. He was one of the driving forces behind the first Mariposa Folk Festival. Klaas founded the iconic Canadian folk trio, The Chanteclairs, with Beverlie (Sammons) Robertson and Allan MacRae, playing coffee houses, concert halls, festivals, arenas and stadiums in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Klaas was the co-founder of Van Entertainment, a booking agency with his partner, Henk van den Berg. The highlight of their work was booking a Canadian tour of The Mills Brothers in addition to other renowned acts. Klaas was the founder of the Mariposa in the Schools Program in Toronto, Master of Ceremonies for “The World’s Biggest Hootenanny Concert held at Maple Leaf Gardens and co-host (with Malka Himel) of the Canada Pavilion at EXPO ‘67. He also was for many years an entertaining Marlboro Man for Expo’s European adventure tours.
Klaas had a vast repertoire in several languages and performed in multiple genres —the Canadian critic, Nathan Cohen considered his voice “one of the finest in Canada.”
At TMA149 Klaas was always a very passionate and involved member, including a long tenure on the TMA149 Board of Directors and Board of Arbitration, also as Chair of the Tariff of Fees committee and a founding developer of Music Performance Trust Fund contributions in the local. Klaas could be found at local events and meetings throughout his 62 years as a member and always gave thoughtful guidance to the local board and its leadership no matter his official position. TMA149 and the entire local, national and international music community will miss Klaas and wishes to recognize his immense contribution.
photo credit: André Pierre