Brooklyn Trio collection

Accession Number

    SMI-ARCH 2005-003

Dates of Creation

    [ca. 1945-1946, ca. 1950, ca. 1960-1970, ca. 1972]; Copied 2004-2005

Physical Description

    6 compact disks (ca. 2 hr.), 1 reel-to-reel tape (ca. 72 min.), 2 photographs

Administrative History

    The Brooklyn Trio was a three-man singing group from the Brooklyn area of Prince Edward Island that performed together for just over fifty years. The members of the Trio, which included John “Johnny” Bears (13 September 1911 - 29 October 1997) of Brooklyn, Willard Bruce (6 March 1912 - 29 September 1986) of Brooklyn, and Malcolm “Mack” Munro (26 February 1907 - 28 July 1978) of Whim Road, began performing together in 1927. The group, which at that time included Lloyd Nicholson, performed as a quartet for about a year. When Nicholson moved to the United States, the group became known as the Brooklyn Trio. Their first performance was of the hymn “Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me” which they sang at a young people’s Christian Endeavour gathering at Kilmuir Hall.

    The Brooklyn Trio traveled all across PEI, often by horse and sleigh in the winter, performing in churches, concerts, benefits, weddings, and funerals. Their services were always in demand and they performed regularly throughout the year. Funerals held particular importance for the Trio and they felt a strong sense of duty to perform at such events whenever they were asked, sometimes performing at an average of one or two funerals a month. The Brooklyn Trio generally performed without an accompanyist, a tradition which began in their early days when they often had trouble securing an organ player and were unable to bring their own. They practiced frequently, usually at Munro’s home on Whim Road in the early years and then rotating between the homes of the three members. Bears sang first tenor and usually took lead vocals, Munro sang second tenor, and Bruce sang second bass.

    One of the highlights for the group was their annual performance at the Burns Scottish Concert in Montague, a tradition they started in 1931 and continued throughout their career.  In 1936, the Brooklyn Trio participated in the local CFCY radio station’s “Amateur Night,” earning themselves the first place prize. The Brooklyn Trio also received high marks and great praise from the Toronto adjudicator David Oucheterlony when they performed at the 1949 Music Festival. Another favorite performance was when the group sang at the 100th anniversary of New Dominion Church and were then invited to celebrate the occasion at the home of Walter Shaw, Premier of PEI.

    The Trio had an extensive repertoire of sacred and secular music, but despite their widespread popularity they never produced a commercial recording. Bears, however, did record two solo albums of popular hymns entitled Amazing Grace and Beyond the Sunset. The last public performance of the Brooklyn Trio was of the hymn “Beyond the Sunset” which they sang at the funeral of their good friend John K. MacDonald at Hillcreast United Church in Montague in April of 1978. The Trio retired later that year with the death of Munro on 28 July at the age of 71. Munro was buried in Valleyfield Cemetery. Bears continued to sing and perform on his own after the Trio retired, and in February of 1984 his dedication and significant contribution to Island music was honoured by the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Scottish Festival. Bruce died in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on 29 September 1986 and was buried in the Caledonia Presbyterian Cemetery. Bears, the last surviving member of the Brooklyn Trio, passed away 29 October 1997 and was buried at the Brooklyn Cemetery.

Scope and Content

    The collection consists of one reel-to-reel tape and several other recordings of the Brooklyn Trio (ca. 1950, ca. 1972) copied onto compact disks from three reel-to-reel audio tapes, two 78 rpm vinyl records and one eight-track tape. Most of the songs on the recordings are hymns and have been identified. Also included in the recordings are examples of Gaelic singing and a Lenny Gallant song entitled “Song for Lea Crane.” The collection also includes two photographs of the Brooklyn Trio (ca. 1945-1946 and ca. 1961-1962) and a copy of a CBC radio broadcast by Marion Bruce about the Brooklyn Trio (ca. 1991).

Source of Titles

    Title based on contents of the collection

Restrictions on Access


Terms Governing Use and Reproduction


Finding Aids


General Notes

    More information about the Brooklyn Trio can be found in the following newspaper articles (available on microfilm at Robertson Library Special Collections):
        “Brooklyn Trio is Honoured” (Guardian 23 February 1966: 13);
        Gail Curray, “Brooklyn Trio Honoured for Years of Service in Song” (Eastern Graphic 30 May 1979: 3);
        “Honour Brooklyn Trio” (Eastern Graphic 23 February 1966: 5);
        Neil A. Matheson, “Brooklyn Trio Recall History” (Guardian 26 September 1968: 16);
        “Thank You” (Eastern Graphic 30 May 1979: 13);
        “Trinity Men’s Association Honours Brooklyn Trio” (Guardian 22 February 1966: 5).

    Some information about Johnny Bears and his long career with the Brooklyn Trio can be located through the PEI Special Collections card catalogue under the heading BIOGRAPHY — BEARS, JOHNNY.

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