Get to Know Alison Mackay, double bassist

visions-get-to-know-alison

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-bolt

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.

 

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.

Welcoming Elisa Citterio to the Tafel family

Elisa Citterio, Music Director Designate. Photography: Monica Cordiviola
Elisa Citterio, Music Director Designate. Photography: Monica Cordiviola

By Julia Wedman, violin

Julia Wedman, violin. Photography: Sian Richards
Julia Wedman, violin. Photography: Sian Richards

One cloudy October morning in 2012, the orchestra met for our monthly meeting to catch up on any news from our staff, review marketing and finance reports, offer advice on new projects in the works, etc. The meeting was business as usual until Jeanne Lamon, our long-time Music Director, requested the orchestra’s presence a little longer. Without much ado, she announced big news – she was retiring from her position as Music Director of Tafelmusik. For the first time ever in an orchestra meeting, the room was completely silent. I saw tears running down one of the other orchestra members’ faces, and felt them hot on my own cheeks. Finally someone, I think it was John Abberger, articulated “This news has left us speechless.” We knew in the backs of our minds that this day was coming, but on that October day, we felt the news was shocking and sudden. We weren’t ready. I think Jeanne was a little surprised by our reaction, but luckily she knew us well enough that she had brought prosecco to the meeting! We did our best to enthusiastically toast her leadership and new life, even though it was only 11:00 in the morning.

Over the next little while, we began the search for a new Music Director. The organization gathered together to choose an eleven-member “search committee” to oversee the whole process, which included musicians, staff, board members, and trusted advisors. Based on input from the whole organization, the search committee put together a job listing which encompassed Tafelmusik’s core values, “deal-breakers,” and hopes for the future. The orchestra mobilized and pored over recordings, YouTube videos, and websites of hundreds of baroque musicians to choose a small number of the most beloved to recommend that the search committee invite to perform with us as potential candidates for the MD position. The search committee painstakingly read and listened to many applications from talented musicians living all over the world.

Over the next two years, I had the opportunity, as one of the musicians on the search committee, to have a first-hand view of the search process. I saw how the orchestra grew and changed as we worked with each wonderful guest director. I saw how our feelings of despair over the news of Jeanne’s retirement changed to acceptance and support for her new lifestyle and our new relationship with her. For us it was wonderful to have such a long process. We needed it. We became more flexible as a group, we became more open to new ideas, we became less reliant on Jeanne and more self-sufficient as a group. And as time passed, as a member of the search committee, I became less mystified by the orchestra’s evaluations and audience comments after our weeks with guest directors, and more able to see what were the needs of this unique group of musicians and its dedicated staff members, board members, volunteers, and audience members.

Elisa Citterio, Music Director Designate. Photography: Monica Cordiviola
Elisa Citterio, Music Director Designate. Photography: Monica Cordiviola

One of the last guest musicians to be invited to be part of the search for a new Music Director came about due to a hole in our schedule. We had a concert in November 2015 with no director. We also happened to have just hired a new violist from Italy, Stefano Marcocchi. I remember talking to him one day backstage before a performance at Koerner Hall, describing all of the things I thought Tafelmusik was looking for in a new Music Director. The name that came first and foremost to his mind was a name we hadn’t heard before – Elisa Citterio. He sent us an incredibly beautiful live recording of Elisa directing Corelli concerti grossi, and we were excited to discover an amazing new violinist!

Elisa came from Milan that November to play with us, and I was immediately struck by her incredible violin playing, her warm and vibrant personality, her confidence, her super-efficient rehearsal style, and her high level of attention to detail. Her style is a little different than ours – she uses a very sharp articulation (great for the new acoustics in Jeanne Lamon Hall at Trinity St. Paul’s), and she loves the extreme dynamics typical of both historical and contemporary Italian musicians playing baroque music. That first week, it took the orchestra a few days to gel with her musically, but by the end of the week, everyone was having a wonderful time playing together. We loved her positive energy, her flawless technique, her creative ideas, and the way the music grew and changed every day, coming to life in different ways in each concert. The moment I will never forget that week was about three minutes into the first concert. The orchestra was feeling stressed (first-concert jitters) and I looked up at Elisa – she had a big beautiful smile on her face that said to me, “This is exactly the place I am supposed to be right now. I love this!” It was inspiring.

The second time we met Elisa (September 2016) was a much different experience, especially for Elisa! This time she and her partner Mirko brought their two-month-old daughter Olivia. Elisa was playing the very first concerts after her first child was born! We were stunned that in the face of utter exhaustion, Elisa still brought the same boundless energy and joy for the music with her. The rehearsals were organized and efficient, her ideas and cues were clear, creative, and easy to follow, and I don’t think I heard one out-of-tune note from her during the entire rehearsal period and concerts! No matter how tired she seemed offstage, the minute she stepped in front of the orchestra, she had all of the energy in the world for us. We had a lot of fun playing those concerts with her, and many of us remarked how fresh Handel’s Water Music (a piece we have played many times) felt under her direction. For an orchestra that plays as many concerts as we do (we have performed The Galileo Project over 70 times), the ability to keep music fresh and alive is essential.

At the beginning of the process, violinist Tom Georgi said to the orchestra at one of our many meetings, “We are going to see lots of people, and in the end, we are all going to agree.” To my complete surprise, he was right. We saw a lot of people, and in the end were in complete agreement that Elisa was the person with whom we saw ourselves building a wonderful musical life. We were thrilled when we found out that the rest of the search committee agreed with us. They too saw the special qualities, both personal and musical, that make Elisa an ideal person for this position. We were even more thrilled when Elisa accepted our offer to become the new music director of Tafelmusik!!!

This process has been long but fruitful. We have had the luxury of time to find new ways of doing things, and forge new friendships with some of the baroque world’s brightest stars. We all love Jeanne Lamon, and she continues to be such a valued part of this organization. We needed time to get used to her having a different role in Tafelmusik, and time to open our minds to change. Finally I feel like now we are ready to begin a new era, which will be different in countless ways, but similar in the ways that we hold so dear ­­– Tafelmusik will continue to make great music together to the highest level with boundless energy and joy. I feel so lucky to be part of a group like this and I look forward to all of us developing a close new relationship with our wonderful new Music Director, Elisa Citterio.

Get to know Elisa – Read her biography, discography and more at tafelmusik.org/ElisaCitterio

Get to know the Messiah soloists

Our Messiah and Sing-Along Messiah concerts will feature an amazing cast of soloists with soprano Amanda Forsythe and mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó making their Tafelmusik debut, and Tafelmusik favourites tenor Colin Balzer, and baritone Tyler Duncan. We sent them a few questions and here is what they had to say:

Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo-soprano), Colin Balzer (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone)
Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo-soprano), Colin Balzer (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone)

How did you come to decide to sing?

Amanda Forsythe
Amanda Forsythe

Amanda Forsythe: I’ve enjoyed singing since I was a child, when I sang in choirs and local theatrical productions. I studied voice and piano in high school, and began college as a biology major with a strong interest in music. It turns out I was better at singing than science!

Krisztina Szabó: I started singing as a child, spending six years in the Toronto Children’s Chorus, and loved it, but never considered it a “career choice” when deciding what to major in at university.  So, I entered the University of Western Ontario with aspirations of being a music teacher, as a piano major. But I wanted to keep singing, so I started taking voice lessons on the side with Dr. Darryl Edwards, who now teaches at the University of Toronto. The more I sang, the more I loved it—it felt natural, like the truest expression of who I am. Then I got a couple of roles—in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, as well as the opera that the university put on, and I caught the performing bug. So, I ditched the Education track and decided to pursue post-graduate programs in Voice Performance … and the rest is history.

Colin Balzer: When I entered grade 11, I had the good fortune to have a choir director who had just returned from finishing his masters in conducting. He was burning with inspiration and ideas, and it was contagious. Up until then I had never sung in a choir but had played various instruments. Under his direction and encouragement, I began to realize that I might have more to say musically as a vocalist than an instrumentalist.

Tyler Duncan: When I was little I would make up songs while playing with Lego. My Nana, who was a big fan of Sibelius, noticed that I made up some lovely songs and was usually in tune. She suggested I join a choir. From then on, there really wasn’t much else in life that I wanted to do.

What was your first music gig?

AF: My first paid job was singing backup vocals to Joey Lawrence on a Romper Room record when I was eight years old. I got $40 for that gig!

KS: My first paid music gig ever was as soloist/section leader for a church choir in London while going to school. But my “big break” was being accepted into the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio programme. My first role at the COC was playing “Clothilde” in Norma. At the time, everyone kept telling me that it was Joan Sutherland’s first role, too … no pressure there!

CB: Oddly enough, my first professional job as a soloist was a Sing-along Messiah with a community choir in Fort Langley, BC.

TD: Playing trombone in a Brass Quintet. We played Christmas carols in Victoria BC. We were TERRIBLE. My first professional singing gig was Monteverdi madrigals for Early Music Vancouver. Colin Balzer was the tenor soloist.  It is wonderful that we are still singing together a couple of decades later.

What is your “guilty pleasure” music to listen to?

AF: I really enjoy listening to Broadway musicals, and my 6-year-old is keeping me current on today’s pop music.

KS: Some of my friends make fun of me, but I listen to pop music—the latest hits—and can sing along with most of the songs on the radio. I listen until the fact that they are mindless and repetitive starts to get to me, at which point I put on CBC Radio.

Colin Balzer
Colin Balzer

CB: Take 6. I finally had the opportunity to hear them live after being a fan for many years. They are as stunning live as they are on their recordings.

TD: Jazz, funk, and (intelligent) rap music.

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

AF: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Handel’s Aci e Galatea, and Alison Krauss singing I’ll Fly Away.

KS: Well, I was preparing for a concert, so I was listening to a Hungarian singer, Magda Kalmár, singing some Lehár operetta. Also, Katalin Karády singing some ‘50s Hungarian lounge music.

CB: Nature Boy, Lucky Luke, and Bad (sung by The Real Group, live from Japan)

TD: The Rainbow Connection, The Bare Necessities, and the theme song from Paw Patrol — I have a toddler …

Krisztina Szabó
Krisztina Szabó

What is your favourite thing to do on a day off?

AF: I’ve got two small boys at home, so there aren’t really any “days off.”  When I’m travelling without them, I enjoy being a tourist in new cities and catching up on reading.

KS: Sleep and Netflix. And sleep. And more Netflix. And then sleep again.

CB: Living in Germany, the opportunity to see a movie without subtitles or overdubbing is sometimes hard to pass up. I also love finding local independent coffee roasters and cafés.

TD: Spend time with my son: he is very cute.

What is the most challenging aspect of singing Messiah for you?  

AF: Technically, “Rejoice greatly” is the only tricky piece for soprano—the rest is just about spinning your most gorgeous sound and connecting with the moving texts. But every conductor likes to allocate the arias differently, and sometimes you get to sing something new—this year I get to take a crack at the arioso “Behold and see,” which is a first for me!

KS: For me, “But who may abide” is the most challenging aria of the night, because of where the coloratura lies. It’s a great aria and I want to do it justice!

CB: The challenge (which I love) is to try and make it fresh every time. Can I go deeper into the text? Does a particular ornament still make sense both musically and rhetorically? My interpretation needs to be a living, breathing, and growing thing, to leave no room for auto pilot or routine.

TD: Trying not to sing along with the choir the whole time! The most wonderful challenging aspect is keeping the music fresh each year, not relying on the way it was sung last season, but finding new things in the music to bring out.

What Messiah part do you especially look forward to?

Tyler Duncan
Tyler Duncan

AF: I love the silence just before the final two “amens,” after you’ve been somewhat hypnotized by the extended “Amen” fugue. It always comes as a shock.

KS: It may sound cliché, but I absolutely love when the “Hallelujah” chorus is sung, particularly when the soloists and audience get to join in the fun. There is nothing quite like a room full of people raising their voices together singing that chorus!

CB: I always love the passion sequence of recitatives and arias. It’s a huge turning point in the piece. This is the Messiah at its most serious, its most accusatory, until that wonderful moment where the music and text shifts to “But thou didst not leave his soul in hell.” From there on out it’s a wonderful and celebratory rising action that continues to gain momentum right up until the end of the piece.

TD: The viola part.


Hear our wonderful guest soloists perform in Messiah at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre, from Dec 14-17, 2016. Tickets are available here. Join in the singing at the 30th anniversary of Sing-Along Messiah at Massey Hall, Dec 18.

A Chat with violinist Cristina Zacharias

Our upcoming concert series A Grand Tour of Italy, which features the Tafelmusik solo concerto debut of our own Cristina Zacharias, transports you to seventeenth century Italy, highlighting Italian composers and the violin. The Italians really embraced the violin — instrument makers, violinists, and composers: some would say this really is where the violin was born.  Cristina took some time to chat with our Marketing Associate, Andrew Eusebio.

Cristina holds a Master of Music degree from McGill University. A core member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra since 2004, she has performed across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and can be heard on over 25 recordings for the ATMA, Analekta, CBC, BIS, Naxos, and Tafelmusik Media labels. Cristina appears annually at the Carmel Bach Festival, where she is the Assistant Principal Second Violin. Cristina is a frequent collaborator, guest soloist, and director with a diverse group of ensembles, and is equally passionate about baroque, classical, and modern repertoire.

cristina_zacharias_sianrichards_2104
Cristina Zacharias, violin. Photo: Sian Richards

Andrew Eusebio: How did you and the violin cross paths and what is it about the violin that audiences love?

Cristinia Zacharias: I started playing violin when I was five. My father had played violin as a child, and it was because of his and my mother’s interest in music that they signed both my three-year-old sister and me up for lessons in a Suzuki violin program. My sister later switched to cello, but I always loved the violin. I think audiences love the same things that that violinists love – the huge variety in sounds. The violin can sing like the voice, or can thrill with speed and virtuosity.

AE: We’ll talk soon about your solo concerto of Vivaldi’s “Le Cetra” but could you shed some light on the other pieces in the program? Are there any you’re particularly looking forward to performing?

CZ: I had the chance to play the Valentini 4-violin concerto many many years ago in Vancouver, and really loved the piece for its originality. I’ve tried a few times to find a way to play it in various concerts but it hasn’t ever happened. I’m very much looking forward to hearing it played by my talented colleagues!

AE: We’re very excited for your Tafelmusik solo concerto debut of Vivaldi’s “La Cetra,” op. 9: Violin Concerto in C Major. Can you talk about this piece and how you prepare for a concerto performance?

CZ: This concerto is the first of a set of twelve in Op. 9 that are all for the violin. You often hear jokes about there being too much similarity between Vivaldi’s many concertos, and I really think these are unwarranted! The more I study Vivaldi’s huge output the more amazed I am by his inventiveness and his wide range of ideas. When I study a Vivaldi concerto closely, I  love to discover how he weaves together his musical ideas. He had the gift of making very complicated structures sound simple. When preparing a concerto performance like this, the process is very similar to how I prepare most music: start with the score and get to know how all the parts interact, then focus on my own part.

AE: What can our audiences expect and discover from this concert and its repertoire?

CZ: I think everyone who hears this concert will come away with a new appreciation for the incredible inventiveness of this period in Italy. All of the composers are so different, and their unique voices offer a vast array of ideas, soundscapes, and originality.

Hear Cristina perform in her Tafelmusik solo concerto debut and join us for A Grand Tour of Italy December 1–4 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, and December 6 at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts. Tickets are available here.

Memories of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir

By Peter Mahon, countertenor

As the longest serving member of the choir (hands up all those who remember me from the 1980s!), I have been asked to write about my memories of the choir over the last 35 years. As you might imagine, there are many from which to choose over that length of time. The problem is to decide which ones to talk about.

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2001
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2001

I could mention the growth and development of the choir from an essentially amateur ensemble with a quartet of paid section leaders to a fully professional group.

There was our first recording in 1987, for Hyperion Records with soprano Emma Kirkby. We recorded in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene … in February, in the freezing cold because the heat was turned off to stop the pipes banging. We were all wearing winter coats, hats, and scarves. Not pleasant, but it was worth it.

Vivaldi Cantatas, Concertos & Magnificat, 1987
Vivaldi Cantatas, Concertos & Magnificat, 1987

There was the incredible expansion of our performance schedule around the same time. I was working in the office and got to witness it first-hand. The demand for tickets was like an avalanche. In very short order we went from two concerts per project to five. We went to Massey Hall for the Sing-Along Messiah for the first time. Our first year we had 1,500 people and of course, now we sell out with scalpers outside the hall.

We have been fortunate to work with many great guest conductors: Gustav Leonhardt, Andrew Parrott, Richard Egarr, Sigiswald Kuijken, Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman, Bruno Weil, and Kent Nagano, to name a few.

Kuijken worked with us in 2002 while the Salt Lake City Olympics were going on. I will always remember the look of puzzlement on his face when he saw everyone on stage smiling near the end of the Sunday afternoon concert. What he could not see was Elly Winer standing at the back of the hall with his hands held up showing the final score of the gold medal hockey game, Canada 5 – USA 2.

After the concert, everyone rushed downstairs to the men’s dressing room. As the guys were undressing, the ladies all barged in to watch the medal presentation on the small b&w television that we had brought in. As the Canadian flag was being raised, in various stages of undress, we sang one of the finest renditions of O Canada that you will ever hear.

For many reasons the choir does not do much touring. However, we have been to Montreal twice recently. First, to sing the Bach B-Minor Mass with the orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano. It was during the month of January and we got to experience the kind of winter that we don’t normally get in Toronto. It was 25 below zero for the entire week. We were very glad that we could walk from the hotel to the hall without going outside.

A couple of years later, Maestro Nagano paid the choir the singular honour of inviting us to take part in the opening concert of Montreal’s new Maison Symphonique in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with OSM and OSM Chorus.

It was quite a change from one of our early tour in the mid-1980s. We went to Michigan to sing two performances of Messiah. In Detroit, we sang in a 2,000-seat hall. The most memorable part of the performance,  and indeed of the tour, was the rapturous applause that we received at the end of the concert from our audience of 23 people. The concert promoters probably should have spent a little more on marketing. We have certainly come a long way since then.

As a new parent in 1981, I would not have imagined that I would still be singing with Tafelmusik in 2016. It has afforded me my favourite memory, namely the pride and pleasure of performing with two of my children and my son-in-law, each of whom has been a member of the choir in recent years.

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir members, 2016/17. L-R: Paul Oros and Joel Allison, bass; Peter Mahon, alto; Daniel Webb, tenor; Meghan Moore, soprano.
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir members, 2016/17. L-R: Paul Oros and Joel Allison, bass; Peter Mahon, countertenor; Daniel Webb, tenor; Meghan Moore, soprano. Photo: Sian Richards

Finally, it has been a great pleasure to get to know many of you through the years and an honour to perform for you. It is always a special moment to walk out on stage at the beginning of a Tafelmusik concert, being greeted with your warm applause and the friendly smiles on so many familiar faces. I look forward to forging more happy memories for all of us in the years to come.

Join us for Let Us All Sing!, November 5-6 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

Some Personal Reflections: Celebrating 35 inspiring years

By Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Director and Founder Ivars Taurins

Choir Director and Founder, Ivars Taurins
Choir Director and Founder, Ivars Taurins

As a young child, listening to my parents’ recordings of Harry Belafonte, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, or Barbra Streisand, I was captivated by the way these singers could express not only the text they were singing, but the meaning and emotion behind individual words. Later, in my teens, I had the same experience listening to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elly Ameling, or Robert Tear.  Still later, I discovered that the technical term for this magic is “word painting.” All of these singers had a way of illuminating the text and its potent emotions with a simplicity and directness that could be overwhelming … this combined with consummate vocal skill, creating sounds that could at once soothe one’s soul or tear it apart.

Music, essentially an abstract form, can stir up concrete emotions within us. Music’s meanderings through time and space can, to quote Nicholas Brady, so “court the ear, strike the heart, and captivate the mind” as to be overwhelmingly palpable. When music is paired with a text it becomes doubly potent.

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2016/17
Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2016/17

Now in my 60th year, and celebrating the 35th anniversary of my collaboration with the remarkable singers of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, I find I am still filled with that same childhood fascination with the fusion of words and music, and how these two elements, in the hands of a great composer, can be melded, moulded, and burnished to a wonderful lustre. I look forward to continuing to share this fascination with you for many years to come.

‘Tis Nature’s voice, thro’ all the moving wood
Of creatures understood:
The universal tongue to none
Of all her num’rous race unknown.
From her it learnt the mighty art
To court the ear or strike the heart,
At once the passions to express and move.
We hear, and straight we grieve or hate, rejoice or love.
In unseen chains it does the fancy bind,
At once it charms the sense and captivates the mind.

Nicholas Brady (from Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1692)


Join us for Let Us All Sing! as we celebrate a milestone in Tafelmusik Chamber Choir’s history – it’s 35th anniversary. November 2-6 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.