Alexander Cornelius "Neil" van Allen

January 27, 1929July 15, 2014

VAN ALLEN, Alexander Cornelius “Neil”, age 85, passed away July 15, 2014 at Northwood Centre, in Halifax, NS. Born in Belleville, Ontario, he was the son of the late Karl and Marguerite (Coulter) van Allen.

Neil, L(Mus)Dal, LGSM, FGSM, a concert pianist and Professor of Music, moved from Belleville to Halifax in 1939 when his father was appointed Principal of the School for the Deaf. Neil received his musical education in Halifax, Toronto, and then, with the aid of scholarships from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust and the Halifax Rotary Club, he studied in London and Paris. He settled in London, England, and taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and at Hornsey Art College. In 1962 he received the Silver Medal of London’s “Worshipful Company of Musicians” and the Harriet Cohen Commonwealth Medal. He gave numerous recitals, including at Wigmore Hall, and performed with orchestras in England and Canada, and recorded frequently with BBC and CBC. He was awarded the prestigious Fellowship of the Guildhall School of Music in 1971. In 1977, he moved back to Canada as Professor of Music (piano) at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1992, he and Lorna retired to Nova Scotia, refocusing on his lifelong interest in airplanes, sketching, painting, and model making. He was an accomplished cook with a wonderful sense of humour and loved family gatherings, spending his summers at his and Lorna’s cottage on the North Shore. He will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his wife, Lorna (Roome) van Allen, his sons Cory (Kate) van Allen; Howard (Betsy) van Allen; daughter Karel (Weldon Oxner) van Allen; brother Richard (Karen Lynch) van Allen; grandchildren Rachel, Lexie, Gillian, Christine, Karl, Elizabeth, and Genevieve; great-grandchildren Spencer and Savannah; and nephew Timothy, and niece Samantha.

Cremation has already taken place and a family gathering will be arranged at a later date. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the staff of Northwood - 8C; your care and attention was invaluable. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Northwood Foundation. Online condolences may be sent to


Alexander Cornelius "Neil" van Allen

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Valerie Long

August 16, 2014

I offer my deepest sympathy to Lorna, Kalli and all of the Van Allen family. I was student of his at MUN and I treasure the wonderful memories of Neil's tutelage and friendship.. as I remember his wit, uncanny sense of memory, piano knowledge and repertoire. Most of all, I reflect upon his warmth, guidance and patience, distinguishing him as a genuine, inspiring teacher and friend. He will always be in my heart.

Donald Cook

August 16, 2014

Lorna: Just heard the sad news of Neil's passing. He gave all of us fine music and happy memories. His legacy will live on in the lives of your wonderful children and grandchildren, and in the hundreds of musicians whose careers he helped shaped.
June & Donald Cook

Michelle Rowe Bennett

August 15, 2014

So sad to hear of Mr. Van Allen's passing. I was a piano student of his at Memorial during the 80's. As a shy girl from "around the bay" I relied on his patience, kindness and unwavering support to get me through my undergraduate studies. I still regularly use a lasagna dish he and Lorna gave me for a wedding gift. It will serve as special reminder of my wonderful teacher. RIP

Lori Cooper

August 15, 2014

A kind, wise, wonderful and talented man. Loved my lessons with him at MUN and he wowed us all in master class! Remember his delicious guacamole! Was just speaking of him fondly a few ngts ago with my friend Bill Brennan. My sincere condolences.

Maureen Volk

August 15, 2014

So sorry to hear this sad news. Neil was very kind to me when I first came to teach at Memorial - always supportive and helpful, and a wonderful host. I remember him taking me to Middle Cove beach to catch caplin, after which we all went back to his house and he fried them up for us. He was the epitome of a generous colleague, not to mention a formidable pianist and musician!

Sincere condolences to Lorna and the rest of the family.

Renée Marquis-Antle

August 15, 2014

So sad to hear of Mr. Van Allen's passing. I was one of the first cluster of green innocents at MUN music and as a voice major had no business being on his student list, (since piano was my minor) and yet, there I landed, to my utter joy. Mr. Van Allen, Kalli and I had a trip or two to Auntie Crae's when it first opened and I had the unique opportunity of glimpsing the fine father and the epicurean behind the brilliant pianist as we excitedly chose our cheeses and argued the virtues of Brie over Camembert. Please accept my deepest condolences.

Fanny Davenport

August 15, 2014

Strangely, peter and I were talking about Neil last month as we hiked on a glorious day. We talked of his kindness, his humour and wit and of how much I learnt from him and how enjoyable he made the process. I am so glad to have known him and send you, Lorna and family our heartfelt condolences. He made a huge difference to many of us while at MUN .

Bill Way

August 15, 2014

I too had the privilege of studying piano with "Mr. Van Allen" at MUN and enjoyed learning from him. He had an awesome talent and a great, dry sense of humour. He was also very patient and very giving of his vast knowledge of the instrument and music. I learned alot from him. My condolences to Mrs. Van Allen and her family. Thank you for sharing him with his students.

Heather Barrett

August 15, 2014

I took piano from Mr. VA in the mid-1980s and I was in awe of his talent and knowledge of the instrument. I am happy to know he had a full life outside of his teaching career. The Van Allen family is in my thoughts.

Dave Reid

August 14, 2014

I had the privilege of studying piano with "N.V.A." during my years at MUN School of Music in the early 80's. He never ceased to amaze me with his knowledge of the repertoire, his candour and his wit. More than a few times, the words "you're composing there" meant I was busted in my carelessness at learning a passage with a wrong chord voicing /inversion, or overlooking an accidental etc. NOTHING slipped by his huge ears.. He had so much repertoire at his fingertips, selecting works to learn was never a matter of looking through the library and listening to recordings - he'd simply sit down at the piano and rattle off the openings of masterworks until something grabbed your attention and you chose to take it on.

On one such amazing sampling session, he started playing a Liszt Consolation, hesitated, started again, rolled his eyes and said "wrong key", then continued flawlessly in the original key. To me, that was but one indication of his sheer brilliance as a musician, and how exceptionally he had all this music internalized.

In the Spring of 1982, he attended a performance of Mozart's Requiem in which I performed the famous trombone solo/obbligato in Tuba Mirum. At the post-concert reception, he made a beeline to me, offering the most encouraging, enthusiastic congratulations I received from anyone, ever. At our next lesson, he spent the better part of it encouraging me to follow what I was beginning to suspect was my calling, and offered his full support in my embarking upon the steps which led to my career as a professional trombonist. What that says of what he thought of my pianistic skills, I have little doubt.. But he had a profound impact on my musical development and I am forever in his debt. He saw something special in me as a musician, and his guidance and encouragement to leave the province to reach my potential as a trombonist, when other forces were pulling me back, played a key role in the direction of my life.

RIP Neil. You'll never be forgotten.