The Canadian Fiddle Tune Project

by Christopher Verrette, violinist

One of the ways Tafelmusik is commemorating the Canadian Sesquicentennial is through the Canadian Fiddle Tune Project. In conjunction with Alison Mackay’s Visions and Voyages concert program, students from the Etobicoke School of the Arts and the Suzuki program at the Miles Nadal JCC are learning a compilation of fiddle tunes from different traditions as well as some baroque pieces by both English and French composers. The students are being coached on the fiddle tunes by Anne Lederman, and by myself on the baroque music. We will all come together to perform them on stage at the Jeanne Lamon Hall right after the Sunday performance of Visions and Voyages, February 26.

The Fiddler, by Cornelius Krieghoff

The Miles Nadal JCC is a vital part of the Bloor/Spadina neighbourhood and Bloor Street Cultural Corridor. The music programs there are connected with Tafelmusik in another way: one of the longtime teachers there is Gretchen Paxson, who is married to oboist John Abberger, and many children of Tafelmusik players have participated over the years, including my own daughter. It is thus a familiar place to visit, although I only recently noticed a detail that underscores the importance of music to its activities and mission: there is a plaque honouring Leonard Bernstein in the main lobby.

It is a longer trip for me to visit the Etobicoke School -and the Grade 9’s rehearse early!- but it is always rewarding to be able to introduce what we do to another generation of musicians and music lovers, and to personally see and hear the thriving musical scene they have there. It will be a festive event when all the students come to our venue to perform the pieces with members of the orchestra.

It is always great to get young people in our audience, and the students will attend our Friday night show, but it is even better to engage with them in the act of making music together. I am particularly interested to hear what Anne does with these fiddle tunes; she has a wide repertoire and fluency in numerous styles and traditions. The students are making a big commitment by learning all the music from memory. We hope the short performance will contribute to our collective sense of the diverse influences that make up Canadian music and culture in this special year.

Hear the results of the Canadian Fiddle Tune project on Sunday, right after the concert, at approximately 5:30pm in Jeanne Lamon Hall.

Don’t miss our remaining shows – best availability is Thu – Sat! Click here for more information.

Get to Know Alison Mackay, double bassist


Alison Mackay has played violone and double bass with Tafelmusik since 1979, and is active in the creation of multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural programming for the orchestra including Tales of Two Cities, The Galileo Project and Visions & Voyages: Canada 1663-1763, making its world premiere February 22, 2017.

What was your first music gig?

When I was in high school I played the second and third movements of the Bach D-Minor Harpsichord Concerto (on piano) with the community orchestra conducted by my teacher, Clifford Poole. (Leslie Kinton played the fi rst movement.)

What is an example of something that has inspired you?

I had a lightning-bolt moment attending a midnight tour of the Great Mosque of Cordóba in Spain. We were 20 visitors in the huge, darkened, dramatically-lit building, which now is part mosque, part Catholic cathedral. We walked from place to place guided by a narrator speaking through earphones in Spanish, English, French, or Japanese … The fascinating narration was accompanied on the soundtrack with beautifully performed music, perfectly chosen for each epoch being discussed. There we were, a group of 20 people from around the world with diff erent languages and backgrounds, being educated and transported by a beautiful cultural experience that was completely scholarly but also completely accessible.

What are the last three recordings you’ve listened to?

When I’m planning for a special project I get obsessed with the music and how it will overlap with the narration and images. I’ve been listening to the chaconne, earthquake music, and passepieds from the opera Sémélé over and over — I’m afraid that by now David [husband David Fallis] knows the music as well as I do.

What is your favourite thing to do in Toronto during your free time?

Close to home I love to work in the garden. We have a small garden at the front of the house and a small one in the back. At some point we decided to leave the front to me and the back to David. I love colourful hybrid plants and he favours native species. This way we don’t need to negotiate! On the other hand we can agree on the beauty of the High Park Sakuras — 2,000 flowering cherry trees donated by the government of Japan to thank Toronto for its harbouring of Japanese-Canadian refugees after World War II. There is a “bud and blossom watch” website that tells you when the trees will be in their glory and we like to make a pilgrimage to see them every spring.

What’s your favourite restaurant in Toronto?

I love the Persian cooking and the beautiful atmosphere at Pomegranate Restaurant on College Street. There are so many different flavours in each dish, and the walls are decorated with colourful ceramic tiles and textiles. We have celebrated many special occasions there with family and friends.

Where is your own, personal, oasis in Toronto?

When the weather gets really cold I love to go to the greenhouse at Allan Gardens to soak up the warmth, humidity, and scented, lush greenery and blossoms. It is wonderful for a visit at any time — open every day of the year from 10–5, and it’s free!

You have a night off — what do you do?

We have a group of eight friends who have had dinner together once a month for over 30 years. Finding the evenings for those get-togethers is a challenge since David and I are so rarely free on the same night. Luckily our friends are patient and flexible!

What is your great ambition?

To have my bicycle lock last as long as I ride my bike. I am still using the lock from
my locker at Jarvis Collegiate, and if I ever have to memorize a new combination I will be lost.

Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?

I see myself living close enough to Bloor and Spadina to be able to waddle to the
library, the grocery store, the Hot Docs cinema, and of course Trinity-St. Paul’s for everything that happens there, including Tafelmusik concerts! I look forward to sitting with all the people I have come to know and love in the audience, listening together to all the people I have come to know and love on stage.


Lightning Round

Apple or PC?  Apple all the way.

Starbucks or Tim Hortons?   Tim Hortons! I think Tim Hortons has transformed the social fabric of communities in Canada.

Cat or dog?  Cat

City or country life? Ten months in the city, two months in the country.

Hockey or baseball?  Hockey

Batman or Superman?  Superman

TTC or “anything else that gets me to my destination”?  Bicycle!

Favourite season?  Autumn

Favourite instrument?  The cello

Old or new?  Old

Tidy or cluttered desk?  Clutter! Even the floor around my music stand at Tafelmusik rehearsals is always covered in stuff.

See Alison perform in her brand-new multimedia program Visions & Visions, featuring narrator Ryan Cunningham from Native Earth Performing Arts, and choreographer and dancer, Brian Solomon, at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre from February 22-26, 2017. Tickets are available here.


Behind the Musik: Visions & Voyages

Here are the official program notes for Visions & Voyages

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

By Alison Mackay

Visions and Voyages is Tafelmusik’s contribution to the national activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation in 1867. In order to feature some of the most beautiful music in our core repertoire, we have chosen to explore the century between 1663, when Quebec was established by Louis XIV as a royal province of France, and 1763, when North America came under the control of the British crown.

A new & accurate map of the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton, St. John and Anticosta; together with the neighbouring countries of Nova Scotia, Canada, &c. Emanuel Bowen [London, W. Innys, 1752]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.
A new & accurate map of the islands of Newfoundland, Cape Breton, St. John and Anticosta; together with the neighbouring countries of Nova Scotia, Canada, &c. Emanuel Bowen [London, W. Innys, 1752]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.
This century saw the flowering of secular music by Purcell, Handel, Lully, Marais, and Rameau, much of it written for monarchs who gained prosperity and prestige from their Canadian colonies. Instrumental works by these composers provide the musical portion of Visions and Voyages.

Diaries, letters, archival records, ships’ manifests, account books, and religious mission reports called “Relations” provide rich details about life in Canada at this time, and much of the material for the spoken narration of the concert is taken from them. These sources often reveal a dark picture of European attitudes to the first inhabitants of Canada, and set the stage for the crushing of Native cultures and the establishment of residential schools which came with Confederation and the establishment of the Indian Act.

visions-program-notes-ruffo-croppedSeeking an expression of life in Canada before European contact, we have turned to the beautiful writing of the poet and scholar Armand Garnet Ruffo (photo, left), a band member of the Fox Lake Chapleau Cree First Nation and a citizen of the Ojibwe nation. Prof. Ruffo teaches at Queen’s University, where he is Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous literature, and we are deeply grateful for his permission to use an excerpt from his poem Old Story.

To represent the exhilarating artistic currents in the Native communities of Canada, we have engaged two of its most exciting young artists, narrator Ryan Cunningham (Artistic Director of Native Earth Theatre Company), and dancer and choreographer Brian Solomon, the creator of two new works set to the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau.

After a portrait of the centuries-old communities living in the territory before European contact, the first half of the concert is devoted to life in New France and to music by French composers. These particular works have never been performed by Tafelmusik before, and include excerpts from the opera Sémélé, by Marin Marais, viola da gamba virtuoso and director of the Paris Opera from 1705 until 1709. Like Handel’s oratorio of the same name, the opera is based on the story of Jupiter and Semele from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One of the most colourful movements is a musical depiction of an earthquake, used in our performance to accompany a seventeenth-century account of the great Charlevoix earthquake of 1663, which had its epicentre in Trois-Rivières and was felt in much of eastern North America.

visions-program-notes-posen-croppedThe stunning images which are projected during the musical earthquake are the work of the Canadian landscape and architectural photographer, Simeon Posen (photo, left), whose photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery in Ottawa, and Gallery Arcturus in Toronto. Preferring the subtlety of black and white, Mr. Posen works with large- and mid-size negative formats, hand-developing the film materials and printing on silver fibre-based papers. We are immensely grateful for his generous sharing of works from his Water portfolio.

The dramatic Charlevoix earthquake was followed a month later by a seismic event in the governance of Canada. Louis XIV dissolved the “Company of New France,” an association of 100 investors who had been granted a monopoly over the fur trade and settlement of the colony in 1627, and declared Quebec to be a royal province under the direct authority of the crown. The architect of the new province was the powerful finance minister of France, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who organized every aspect of French official life to magnify the glory of the young king.

Hoping to increase the French population of the new province in order to foster stability and create a Canadian market for goods manufactured in France, Colbert embarked in 1663 on a ten-year program of recruitment of young women for emigration to Quebec. They became known as “the daughters of the king” (les Filles du Roi), and many Québecois can trace their lineage to these 800 foremothers (as can Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna!).

Vue de Quebec, capitale du Canada. Georges-Louis Le Rouge [Paris, 1755]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
Vue de Quebec, capitale du Canada. Georges-Louis Le Rouge [Paris, 1755]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
In order to foster and exert control over culture, scholarship, and manufacturing, Colbert established the Academy of Sciences, the Paris Observatory, the Gobelins Tapestry works, a Royal Factory for the manufacture of glass and mirrors, and a Royal Academy of Music which soon came under the direction of the Italian-born dancer and composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully.

The theatre of the Palais-Royal, home of the Paris Opera at this time, received a major renovation in 1674, and the work chosen for the grand opening of the new hall was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Alceste, composed in honour of a recent military victory of Louis XIV. Dancing was extremely important in French opera at this time, leaving us with a treasure trove of instrumental music from each of Lully’s theatrical works, including the overture and the dance movements which appear throughout the work.

Dance theorists from Lully’s time divided dances for music theatre into two categories. One type of dance used codified steps and geometric patterns combined in various ways to create new choreographies for the standard minuets, gavottes, and sarabandes which provided moments of music reflection or energetic activity in the unfolding drama of the opera.

Another type of dance was called “expressive” or “imitative,” using newly created movements to imitate the motions of a hammering blacksmith or a rowing boatman. It is known that on several occasions Lully took these special dances away from the more conventional choreographers he normally used. For the chaconne depicting the planting of a palm tree in the middle of the stage in his opera Cadmus & Hermione, for instance, he himself created the steps and figures for the solo dancer and eight men from the corps de ballet. The dance commentator Abbé Dubos, who was intimately acquainted with Lully’s practice, reports that some dances were like “choruses without words,” i.e. dances without formal steps, using movement and gestures to portray strong emotions such as grief. He particularly cites the funeral procession from Alceste, which is performed in our concert to accompany the description of the funeral procession of the famous Huron-Wendat leader and orator Kondiaronck, who died in 1701 during the largest diplomatic gathering in the history of early Canada, the Great Peace of Montreal. At the close of the peace conference, for which a special theatre was built, 1,300 native delegates representing 40 First Nations joined in ceremonial dances and songs with the French delegates. A bonfire was lit and a great ceremonial feast was shared by all.

A contemporary account of the event also describes the performance of a Te Deum, the ancient church hymn which was given elaborate musical settings by many baroque composers and was often performed during special celebrations. Jean-Baptiste Lully, for instance, composed a Te Deum to celebrate the recovery from surgery of Louis XIV (though the composer tragically died from gangrene after stabbing his foot while conducting the work). The Te Deum in D Major composed by Lully’s contemporary, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, is thought to have been composed in celebration of the French victory over William of Orange at the Battle of Steinkirk in 1692. The lively instrumental prelude, which ends the first half of the concert, has become famous today as theme music for programs on broadcasts of the European Broadcast Union.

Across the channel, England had staked its own claim for large portions of Canadian territory in 1670, when Charles II granted rights over fur trading and mining to his cousin Prince Rupert and “The Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay.” Seeking both the North-West Passage and the higher grades of fur which came from animals living in colder climates, the new company established trading posts at the mouths of the six major rivers flowing into Hudson’s Bay. British ships picked up bales of beaver pelts once a year for the making of felt hats, which had been fashionable since the sixteenth century and were now a necessity for the well-dressed businessmen, soldiers, and aristocrats of Europe.

Three-cornered beaver hat, pictured in Philippe Mercier, Sir Edward Hales, 1744, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Three-cornered beaver hat, pictured in Philippe Mercier, Sir Edward Hales, 1744, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Louis XIV had established a particular fashion for a beaver hat with the brim folded back on three sides and the three-cornered hat was soon being worn across the channel in England. There it was known as the “cocked beaver,” celebrated in music with the popular fiddle tune “Johnny cock thy beaver.” The second half of the concert features a set of variations for violin and continuo on this tune, published in 1685 in John Playford’s collection The Division Violin.

Playford and his son Henry, who ran a music shop located in the Inner Temple area of London and frequented by Samuel Pepys, were the most important music publishers in Restoration England. They enjoyed a close relationship with Henry Purcell, and published many of the works composed for the Stuart monarchs who presided over the English colonization of Canada at this time. The second half of the concert begins with the overture (called a “Symphony”) to Come ye sons of art, the ode which William of Orange, now William III of England, commissioned from Purcell to celebrate the birthday of his wife Queen Mary in 1694. The short symphony is composed in three parts; a stately opening followed by a lively canzona, and a final adagio full of striking dissonances and soulful chord progressions which provide a fitting prelude to the recitation of names of Indigenous communities around Hudson’s Bay, soon to be dominated by English colonists.

The founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company complicated the balance of power among the various constituencies in Canada, and as the decades passed, the British crown looked for ways to cement alliances against the French. In February of 1710, four influential representatives of the Iroquois confederacy (one of them the grandfather of Joseph Brant, founder of the city of Brantford) were invited to visit London at the expense of Queen Anne, who had ascended the British throne after the death of William of Orange. The visit of the ambassadors caused
a sensation in London, and the political and cultural activities of their visit were recorded in newspaper accounts and in a 53-page book published in 1710 called The Four Kings of Canada. After their four-week crossing of the Atlantic they were lodged at an inn called the Two Crowns and Cushions, owned by the upholsterer Thomas Arne. (His son would become the composer Thomas Arne, and his daughter Susannah would become one of Handel’s favourite singers, Mrs. Cibber, for whom he composed the contralto arias in Messiah.)

On April 19, the four visitors were brought from their lodgings by coach to the Palace of St. James for an audience with Queen Anne. They addressed the Queen at length through an interpreter about various political issues, and presented her with a wampum belt. She commanded that the guests be shown the city, and they were taken by barge to Greenwich, where they inspected the astronomical instruments at the Royal Observatory. They dined with the Archbishop of Canterbury, visited the Tower of London, and were taken to St. Paul’s Cathedral to inspect the dome, which was under construction at the time.

They were also invited to various cultural events, including a performance of Macbeth at which the audience refused to let the play begin until the Canadian kings were seated on the stage for all to see. The newspaper announced a special performance in their honour of William Congreve’s The Old Bachelor, a play for which Henry Purcell had composed an overture and nine movements of instrumental music in 1693. After Purcell’s untimely death at the age of 35 in 1695, several important posthumous editions of his works appeared, including a large anthology of orchestral music published by his widow Frances in 1697. This was the first printed collection devoted exclusively to incidental music for the English stage. Titled A Collection of Ayres composed for the Theatre, it contained suites of overtures, song tunes, and dance movements, including the movements on our program from The Old Bachelor and King Arthur, music that could have been performed in concert versions for the Four Kings of Canada in 1710.

1710 was also the year of the first visit to London of George Frideric Handel, who throughout his life was a great admirer of Purcell’s music. Handel’s first opera for the London stage, Rinaldo, was an immediate success, and he soon entered the employ of Queen Anne and settled in England for the rest of his life. He went on to serve the first two Hanoverian kings: George I, for whom Water Music was written, and George II, for whose coronation Handel composed Zadok the Priest, which has since been used in every English coronation. In 1719 Handel was appointed “Master of the Orchestra” of the Royal Academy of Music, London’s first opera company, and in the following years he composed 31 operas with Italian texts. Scipione, composed in 1726, contains the march now famous as the regimental march of the Grenadier Guards.

The London public began to cool towards Italian opera in the 1740s and Handel began to favour English-language oratorios: works which were less expensive to produce since they didn’t use sets or costumes, but nevertheless provided a stage for Handel’s brilliant dramatic flair. Israel in Egypt (1739) opens with a solemn “symphony” expressing grief over the death of the patriarch Joseph. The music, which is adapted from the 1737 funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, illustrates Handel’s custom of reworking old material for a new context, and we have used it to express a lamentation over the language used by Nicholas Flood Davin in his recommendation of “aggressive civilization,” which laid the groundwork for the establishment of residential schools in Canada.

The Grande Entrée from Alceste (1750) represents yet another type of Handel’s theatrical activity, for it is one of 20 pieces of incidental music composed for a lost play by the Scottish author Tobias Smollett. The rising rockets of sound in the oboes and violins are an unusual effect in the regal processional music which we use to bring King George III on to the scene in our concert, bringing our century of music and Canadian history to a close. Although he came to the throne a year after the composer’s death, the king loved Handel’s music, finding great solace in later life when recovering from bouts of his terrible illness, porphyria, in playing Handel’s music on the harpsichord.

One of George III’s first duties at the beginning of his reign was to oversee Britain’s claim to North America after the end of the Seven Years War. His Royal Proclamation of 1763 set out guidelines for the settlement of Aboriginal lands, explicitly recognizing Aboriginal rights and land titles, and stating that all territory would be considered Aboriginal until ceded by treaty. Though the proclamation has been contravened many times, it is enshrined in Section 25 of the Canadian Constitution, and is still used in treaty negotiation and litigation today.

The final section of the concert is devoted to a weaving together of Armand Garnet Ruffo’s poetry, Brian Solomon’s choreography, and one of the most exquisite pieces of music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, the Entrée of Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred poetry and dance, from the opera Les Boréades. This work was in rehearsal in April of 1763, the final year of our century, when the Palais-Royal theatre burned down. The music, not known to have been performed in Rameau’s lifetime, seems to express perfectly the longing for the vision referred to in the title of our concert — the dream for a better path on which to move forward together as we embark on Canada’s next 150 years.

© A. Mackay 2017

Please go to the Tafelmusik website to see a list of images projected during the concert:

We are grateful to the National Film Board of Canada for permission to use excerpts from Bernard Gosselin’s 1971 film César’s Bark Canoe.

The Tafelmusik Canadian Fiddle Tunes Project

On Sunday, February 26th, between 5:30 and 6:00, immediately after our final performance of Visions and Voyages, the orchestra will be joined onstage by 25 young violinists from Etobicoke School for the Arts and The Suzuki Program at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. For several months the students have been working on eight old fiddle tunes: five from the historical fiddling traditions of French, Scottish, and Aboriginal communities in Canada, and three from sources in Tafelmusik’s repertoire. Canadian fiddle expert Anne Lederman and Tafelmusik’s own Christopher Verrette have joined teachers Gretchen Paxson-Abberger, Rebecca Sancton-Ashworth, and Pamela Bettger in working with the students. Please join us for this short performance demonstrating their hard work in contributing to the activities of Canada 150.


Conceived, programmed, and scripted by Alison Mackay
Ryan Cunningham, narrator
Brian Solomon, dancer & choreographer
Glenn Davidson, lighting designer
Raha Javanfar, Projections Designer

February 22–26, 2017, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

MARIN MARAIS 1656–1728
Air pour les Thebains et Thebaines – Air pour les Guerriers – Passepieds en musette

Chaconne in F Major for solo harpsichord

Chaconne – 3e air pour les Thebains et Thebaines – Tremblement de terre [Earthquake]

Marche des combattans  – Rondeau pour la fête marine – Loure pour les pêcheurs – Pompe funèbre

Prelude to Te Deum, H.146

Come ye Sons of Art: Symphony
King Arthur: Trumpet tune
Dido & Aeneas: Triumphing dance
The Old Bachelor: March
King Arthur: Chaconne

La Bourse: Ouverture

Johnny cock thy beaver (from The Division Violin)

Alceste: Grande Entrée
Concerto Grosso in D op. 3, no. 6: Allegro
Scipione: March
Israel in Egypt: Symphony

ROBERT DE VISÉE 1655–1732/33
Prelude in G Major, for solo lute

Les Boréades: Entrée de Polymnie
Pygmalion: Contredanse

Visions & Voyages is generously supported by The Pluralism Fund, and by a gift from an anonymous benefactor.

Production Sponsor:




Edition of Marais Sémélé: Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles

Join us for Visions and Voyages from February 22—26, 2017 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

New music for old instruments

by William Norris, Managing Director

Contemporary music and period performance may not, at first sight, be obvious bedfellows. But, it may surprise you to know, it’s an area that Tafelmusik has a track record in. In past years we have worked with composers including Mychael Danna, Emily Doolittle, Christos Hatzis, Ruth Watson Henderson, Grégoire Jeay, Marjan Mozetich, Michael Oesterle, Imant Raminsh, James Rolfe, Jeffrey Ryan, and Linda Catlin Smith to create new works for both choir and orchestra. For a period band that’s not such a bad list!

Of course there is little point in us commissioning new music that could be played by anyone — if that were the case then it would make more sense for composers to work with a modern orchestra. Rather, we prefer to work with composers who are intrigued by the possibilities that period instruments bring. Composers who want to make the most of the different timbres and textures possible with our instruments.

On Wednesday we embarked on a new contemporary music adventure, as we start a new project in association with Musica Reflecta and the Canadian Music Centre. We’re going to be part of an ongoing project called Opus:Testing which gives emerging composers the chance to explore new territory in their writing — in this case that new territory is period instruments. Over the course of two workshops, Opus:Testing provides an open and safe space for artists to explore, collaborate, and create.

Walking through period performance with the composers. Canadian Music Centre
Walking through period performance with the composers. Canadian Music Centre

Four musicians from Tafelmusik will be participating, working with eight composers who have each prepared some musical sketches to work on during tomorrow’s first workshop. Following the workshop, composers can revisit and fine-tune (pardon the pun) their work drawing upon the learnings of the session, before musicians and composers regroup for a second and final workshop.

We’ll be bringing you further blogs charting the progress of the project and are also pleased to be able to tell you that the second workshop (at the Canadian Music Centre, Sunday March 26th at 7:30pm) is open to the public, so do come along to hear what emerges from this new initiative.

Get to Know Cory Knight, tenor


Tenor Cory Knight first joined the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir in the fall of 2010, shortly after participating in the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. In 2012 he moved to Switzerland to pursue a Master’s degree in Historical Performance Practice at the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. He rejoined the Choir upon returning to Toronto, and balances his career in Canada with engagements in Europe. He was recently featured as the Sailor in Opera Atelier’s production of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas.

How did you come to decide to sing?
I’ve always been interested in music and fortunately I have parents who are very supportive of that. They signed me up for piano and voice lessons and drove me to all kinds of rehearsals when I was a child. My plan was to be a high school music teacher, but after I finished my teaching degree I thought I’d give this singing thing a try. So I auditioned at the Glenn Gould School and was accepted into the vocal program that year. I met some important professional contacts and mentors through that experience and haven’t looked back since.

What was your first music gig?
I played a sailor at my Kindergarten graduation. It was a big deal. But my first professional gig was with Opera Atelier. I was cast as Telemaco in Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Probably my grandfather, who taught me that no job is as difficult as picking tomatoes. [Cory comes from Leamington, the Tomato Capital of Canada.]

What is your ‘guilty pleasure’ music to listen to?
My grandmother recently gave me her old LPs and I’m currently making my way through them. There’s a Patsy Cline album in there that I just can’t get enough of.

What is your favourite thing to do in Toronto during your free time?
I love walking around the city and discovering little places that I’ve never seen before.

What is your favourite restaurant in Toronto?
Smoke’s Poutinerie.

Where is your own personal oasis in Toronto?
I really enjoy my apartment in the Village. The neighbourhood is so vibrant, and I love the mix of people and general energy. But when I’m not at home, I love Kensington Market, Toronto Island, and wandering the paths in Don Valley.

Are you involved with any clubs/charities in your off-time?
I volunteer as a Youth Mentor through Catholic Children’s Aid Society. Basically I get to hang out with a really cool kid who keeps me up to date on the latest Nerf toys and video games. I’ve also spent most of the past 20 summers working at camp.

You have a night off—what do you do?
I get cozy on my couch with some yummy snacks and watch movies.

Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?
In my 40s.

What words of wisdom would you pass to budding musicians?
Practise, practise, practise. Find joy in everything you do. Follow your instincts. Be patient. And when things get tough just remember that you could be picking tomatoes.

Lightning Roundlightning-bolt

Apple or PC? PC
Starbucks or Tim Hortons? I’m faithful to my small town roots on this one: Timmies.
Cat or dog? Dog
City or country life? A healthy amount of both.
Hockey or baseball? Hockey
Batman or Superman? Depends on which nephew I’m hanging out with.
TTC or “anything else that gets me to my destination”? TTC
Favourite season? Summer
Favourite instrument? I played trombone in high school and university. So, trombone. But I’ve always loved the viola.
Old or new? Old
Tidy or cluttered desk? Tidy

Join us for A Bach Tapestry at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: A Bach Tapestry

Here are the official program notes for A Bach Tapestry

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

By Ivars Taurins

When art galleries present comprehensive exhibitions focusing on a particular artist, we are given the rare and wonderful opportunity to explore and experience that artist through the variety of their techniques, and the development of their expression. Recent exhibitions at the AGO of Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Turner, Michelangelo, or Monet have allowed us a vastly different perspective on these artists and their work than could be gained by viewing just one or two iconic works.

If we consider the mind-staggering output by Johann Sebastian Bach of over 200 cantatas in a 40-year period, we quickly realize that we are familiar with only a handful of them. This is in no part due to their quality — on the contrary, the variety of compositional styles, techniques, invention, and effects is a veritable compendium of everything that can be done within that form. But we creatures of habit tend to gravitate again and again to the most familiar, the most “popular” and iconic works of any composer. On the other hand, we can only have the opportunity to experience these works as a whole if we partake in the kind of pilgrimage that John Eliot Gardiner undertook in 2000, performing all of Bach’s cantatas on a year-long tour that took his musicians throughout Europe, Britain, and even further afield to New York.

With all of this in mind, I have attempted in curating this Bach Tapestry to present Bach’s mastery and genius as a composer by creating an aural gallery of choral movements from his cantatas — many of them rarely heard in concert — and to complement these choruses by interweaving secular instrumental works. We also explore how Bach reused and refashioned his compositions to create new, equally vibrant works, represented in our Bach “gallery” by selections from his Lutheran Mass in G Major, comprised of his reworkings of earlier cantata movements. In this spirit, we have also taken the liberty to refashion Bach’s famous Italian Concerto, originally written for solo harpsichord, to create a “new” concerto for strings.

I hope that our Bach Tapestry will inspire you to further explore for yourselves the remarkable riches to be found in Bach’s oeuvre.

As a young man Bach had transcribed many of Vivaldi’s string concertos for solo keyboard. Many years later he published an “Italian Concerto” for solo harpsichord, very much in the style of those early transcriptions. We complete the circle by reimagining the work as concerto for strings, in the style of Vivaldi, and the spirit of Bach.
As a young man Bach had transcribed many of Vivaldi’s string concertos for solo keyboard. Many years later he published an “Italian Concerto” for solo harpsichord, very much in the style of those early transcriptions. We complete the circle by reimagining the work as concerto for strings, in the style of Vivaldi, and the spirit of Bach.


The aim and fundamental reason of all music is none other than to be to the glory of God and the recreation of the spirit.
Johann Sebastian Bach

I need Bach at the beginning of the day almost more than I need food and water.
Pablo Casals

The true spirit of the art is what led him to the great and sublime as the highest object of the art. We owe it to this spirit that Bach’s works do not merely please and delight, like what is merely agreeable in art, but irresistibly carry us away with them; that they do not merely surprise us for a moment, but produce effects that become stronger the more often we hear the works, and the better we become acquainted with them; that the boundless treasure of ideas heaped up in them, even when we have a thousand times considered them, still leaves us something new, which excites our admiration, and often our astonishment; lastly, that even he who is no connoisseur, who knows no more than the musical alphabet, can hardly refrain from admiration when they are well played to him and when he opens his ear and heart to them without prejudice.
Johann Nikolaus Forkel, first biographer of J.S. Bach, from the chapter in the biography, dated 1802, entitled “The Spirit of Bach”

The great J. Seb. Bach used to say: “it must be possible to do anything.” And he would never stand to hear of anything not being feasible. This has always inspired me, with my slight abilities, to accomplish many otherwise difficult things in music, with effort and patience.
Johann Philipp Kirnberger (student of Bach)

Not Brook but Ocean should be his name.
Ludwig van Beethoven [“Bach” in German means “brook”]

In response to hearing Mendelssohn perform Bach:
Again I thought how we are never at an end with Bach, how he seems to grow more profound the oftener he is heard. […] While we listen, it would seem again as if we could only distantly approach him through the understanding of words. The music itself still serves as the best means to bring his works before our senses and to explain them.

Robert Schumann

[Bach is] one of God’s phenomena, clear, but unfathomable.
Carl Friedrich Zelter (teacher of Mendelssohn)

Study Bach: there you will find everything.
Johannes Brahms

I think that if I were required to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, and to listen to or play the music of any one composer during all that time, that composer would almost certainly be Bach. I really can’t think of any other music which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that—its humanity.
Glenn Gould

 Bach was a top harmonist geezer, which is why the jazz cats love him.
Nigel Kennedy, violinst

 Compared with him, we all remain children.
variously attributed to Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

 Bach is not about beauty, it’s about honesty.
Anner Bylsma, cellist


Directed by Ivars Taurins


Chorus “Sei Lob und Ehr” from Cantata 117
Chorus “Aller augen warten” from Cantata 23

Adagio e dolce, for 2 violins & continuo, after BWV 527/2
Geneviève Gilardeau & Christopher Verrette, violins
Allen Whear & Charlotte Nediger, continuo
Chorus “Christum wir wollen loben” from Cantata 121
Chorus “Ihr werdet weinen” from Cantata 103

Sarabande for solo harpsichord, BWV 816
Charlotte Nediger, harpsichord
Kyrie & Gloria, from Mass in G Major, BWV 236
Chorale “Jesu, bleibet meine Freude” from Cantata 147


Chorus “Ach, Gott, wie manches Herzeleid” from Cantata 3

Italian Concerto, after BWV 971
Allegro – Andante – Presto
Julia Wedman & Patricia Ahern, violin soloists

Chorale “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” from Cantata 23
Chorale “Verleih uns Frieden” from Cantata 42
Chorale “Wer hofft” from Cantata 109

Sinfonia to Cantata 196
Chorus “Und wenn die Welt” from Cantata 80
Cum sancto spiritu, from Mass in G Major, BWV 236

Join us for A Bach Tapestry at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.