New Ears review Festival of Carols 2015

Christmas may not yet be white, but at least we’re starting the season right A New Ears review by Helen Androlia. It’s an unfortunate truth that when you work in advertising (as I do) that Christmas actually starts in July, as that’s really when you begin planning for the season. So, as December finally rolls around, you can imagine it can be a challenge to muster up some festive cheer. My companion, too, had told me earlier about the garland she had purchased in an attempt to make her home a little more merry and bright, only to have it fall two feet short – an apt metaphor for both of our moods, if you would, and compounded by the still-conspicuously green landscaping of our meeting spot. Fortunately, we were about to step into Yorkminster Park Baptist Church for an evening with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for their Festival of Carols, which we felt certain would keeping our encroaching Scroogery at bay, and we couldn’t have been more correct. From the very beginning, heralded by the iconic pa-rum-pa-pum-pum of “The Little Drummer Boy,” the performance explored every mood of the season. There were bright, cheerful Christmas classics, punctuated with bold brass interludes that were arranged with enough distinction to perk up your ears, but not so much as to render them unfamiliar. There were thoughtful, meditative hymns that explored the more spiritual side of the season filled with lush, layered vocals. Of course, there were also some moments of audience participation – largely expected when you attend an evening filled with carols – and while they took away a little from the choral performances, they certainly were fun. Then again, how could the rest of us compete with the power of the choir? We all may have the numbers, but certainly not the talent. The curation of the evening’s songs was nearly flawless, with one exception; the penultimate performance, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, felt a little out of place with its a capella styling. The choir is at its strongest when they are either highlighting groups or united as a whole, and the layered approach caused their beautiful voices to become overshadowed by the church’s organ, which was a strange choice for accompaniment, given its volume, power, and the presence of a brass band. In an evening filled with fine performances, two in particular stood out. The second
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Categories: 2015-2016 Season, Media Reviews, and New Ears Project.

Messiah on Messiah turns out even

Michael Vincent, Musical Toronto and The Toronto Star. Toronto boasts over 30 Messiah’s performed across the city, and perhaps with the exception of New York City, makes Toronto Messiah Central. While there are a wide variety of offerings, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Tafelmusik remain the two standbys. Without being too competitive, it’s always fun to compare them.
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Categories: 2015-2016 Season and Media Reviews.

Big, fat Messiah

John Gilks, operaramblings. Sir Andrew Davis is in town conducting his own orchestration of Handel’s Messiah. In the modern world this is probably as close as it gets to Sir Malcolm Sargent and the Huddersfield Choral Society. He conducts the TSO with brass and woodwinds that Handel never saw and lots of percussion including snare drum, sleigh bells, tambourines and marimba. He also has the not inconsiderable heft of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
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Categories: 2015-2016 Season and Media Reviews.

Toronto theatres offer three unique versions of Handel’s Messiah

Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail. Davis’s Messiah will be one of three quite different versions of the perennial favourite presented in Toronto next week, a bit shy of the 20 or so in the New York metropolitan area that the unfortunate junior critic for the New York Times is routinely assigned to review every season, but quite a bouquet nonetheless. The three Messiahs show the extreme versatility and adaptability of this amazing work, which has been pushed and pulled into innumerable, sometimes unrecognizable shapes over its two-and-a-half-century existence, but which manages to escape whole and healthy every time.
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Categories: 2015-2016 Season and Media Reviews.

A Fond Farewell to a Familiar Face

Returning to rehearsal for the first time after the summer break, choristers missed a familiar face. Longtime TMC volunteer registrar Eleanor Kunycia has retired, and to some it feels a bit like the end of an era.
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Categories: Voice.

Fall 2015 Voices from the Choir

What is most important to you about the TMC community? Passion, dedication, professionalism.
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Categories: Fall 2015 and Voice.

A Word About Our Sponsors

The TMC Community consists of a wide circle of support: choristers, subscribers, audience members, volunteers, donors, staff and Board of Directors all play a role in championing choral music in Canada. Among our donors, a small number of corporate and individual donors make specific programmes and performances possible. In 2015-16, so far, two individuals and one corporation have cast their support behind specific programmes: The Middlefield Group has continued its sponsorship of the Choir’s performance of Messiah with the Toronto Symphony, while a generous anonymous donor and Lloyd and Dorothy Chiotti have sponsored our webcasts of the German Romantics concert and the Festival of Carols, respectively. The Anonymous Sponsor (we’ll call her”Anonymous,” for short) is also a long-standing member of the TMC community. She sang in choirs from the age of 14, and loves choral music, especially Requiems. Because of this love of choral music, she has bought tickets for Toronto Mendelssohn Choir performances every year for “about the past 35 years.”) Being in a position to “give back” to the community, Anonymous has supported the TMC for many years with donations in addition to her annual subscription. It was a conversation with Executive Director Cynthia Hawkins that lead Anonymous to sponsor the German Romantics Livestream: “Cynthia was chatting about how they want to record concerts, and I said ‘I can certainly underwrite that,'” Anonymous recalls. Donors who sponsor programmes tend to have a long history with the TMC. Lloyd Chiotti, who is sponsoring the Festival of Carols Livestream has been associated with the organization for over 17 years, much of that on the Board of Directors. His involvement with the TMC began when he worked for Enbridge (formerly the Consumers Gas Company), and two employees who were also choristers approached him about sponsoring the Choir. Lloyd convinced his company to sponsor Messiah that year, attending for the first time in his life. His Messiah experience made such an impression that Lloyd convinced his company to become the full sponsor of Messiah, a sponsorship it maintained for many years. Lloyd was soon asked to join the Choir’s Board of Directors Lloyd recalls his first TMC performance: I didn’t really know what to expect.  It was Roy Thomson Hall.  I remember the orchestra playing the opening passages with the choir seated in the loft.  Then the entire choir (160 strong at that time), rose to their feet in perfect unison and
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Categories: Fall 2015 and Voice.

From the Executive Director’s Desk – Fall 2015

One of reasons choral singing became and remains a significant part of my life has to do with the deep sense of community that the choral music experience can engender. I believe the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir does this in spades.
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Categories: Executive Directors Desk and Fall 2015.

New Season, New Associate Conductor: Welcome Jennifer!

New Season, New Associate Conductor: Welcome Jennifer! There is a new figure on the TMC podium this year: in September, Jennifer Min-Young Lee took over the position of Associate Conductor for a two-year term. Jennifer is no stranger to the TMC. A former member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir, she also participated in the 2013 Choral Conductors’ Symposium, while studying conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY. In fact, Jennifer says, that she has had the goal of working as the Associate Conductor in mind for a long time, and that this goal is, in fact, what motivated her to apply for the Symposium. “I felt there was a hole in my training,” she says, “And that was the opportunity to work with a bigger ensemble.” The Associate Conductor posting was “a perfect opportunity.” “I can’t really imagine anything more exciting,” Jennifer smiles, praising the TMC’s responsiveness and flexibility. She has found the Choir to be very welcoming, with a refreshing paucity of divas. She is finding that her role as the Associate Conductor provides a “perfect environment” to grow as a musician, and to make music: “I get to see Noel conduct 120-plus singers, and guest conductors as well,” she says. TMC audience members witnessed Jennifer’s lyrical and precise conducting at the German Romantics concert at Koerner Hall. In addition to rehearsing the entire German Romantics programme with the Choir, Jennifer conducted four pieces by Schubert. Noel Edison, Artistic Director of the TMC, says he was “thrilled,” with her performance and is generally “delighted” to be working with Jennifer. “She has a lyrical, precise gesture, and is very sensitive and receptive, but also energetic and enthusiastic,” Noel says. Of course, no artistic endeavour is without challenges: Jennifer says that conducting the sheer number of singers in the TMC is taking some getting used to. The Choir makes a big sound, rehearses in a large room, and contains a lot of singers! But she is getting used to the Choristers and to working with a large group. The TMC is not just large, though! Comprising mostly volunteer singers, the Choir consists of more than 120 singers who come to rehearsal each week (sometimes several times a week!) for the sheer joy of making glorious music. Jennifer is enjoying the passion and positive attitudes that singers bring to rehearsing and performing for enjoyment. Next Article »
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Categories: Fall 2015 and Voice.