2018-19 Season

Britten War Requiem

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem: A monumental commemoration of the WWI Armistice, November 11, 1918

David Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews.

Amid the ominous chimes cutting through the languid sounds of lower strings and percussion, came the words of the Latin mass for the dead, “Requiem aeterna”. The unmistakable musical reference to  death and destruction was palpable. As the intensity of the orchestra and voices increased to a climactic cry of pain, an angelic choir of children sang out a prayerful warning “Te decet hymnus…”

Such was the beginning of the powerful War Requiem by Benjamin Britten. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Children’s Chorus, over 300 performers in all, came together for a monumental production of Britten’s 1962 masterpiece of remembrance of the horrors of war. Conducted by Bramwell Tovey, it featured soloists well-prepared for their roles, each having performed it with major orchestras and choirs recently. Indeed, the vision of Britten in having Russian, German and English soloists share the same stage was brought to fruition in this performance, something Britten himself couldn’t quite accomplish for the work’s première when soprano Galina Vishnevskaya couldn’t get an exit permit from the U.S.S.R. In last night’s performance it was the Russian soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya, British tenor Toby Spence, and Canadian/German baritone Russell Braun.
.... The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for its part had some exemplary moments of great drama as well as reflective singing. The a cappella singing of “Pie Jesu Domine” was riveting.  “Libera me” with tenor drum and rumbles from the slow march of the bass drum began as a sorrowful lament that built to a frightening vision of judgment by fire. 

Britten War Requiem

Toronto Symphony Remembers With A Moving Tribute To The Wastes Of War

Stephan Bonfield, ludwig Van Toronto.

Britten’s War Requiem: Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children’s Chorus, and soloists. Bramwell Tovey, conductor. Roy Thomson Hall. Nov, 8. Repeats Nov. 10.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presented its annual Remembrance Day concert Thursday night at Roy Thomson Hall and, as always befits these solemn occasions, gave another moving tribute to those lost in a century of war and senseless conflicts.

Last year it was Jeffrey Ryan’s immensely successful and evocative Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, but its model might well have been Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, a pacifist’s prime exponent of music mourning the casualties of young lives lost amid the senseless wastes of war.

Thus, with this year being the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of the Great War, it was an excellent choice to perform Britten’s masterful six-movement setting of the traditional Latin Requiem text and Wilfred Owen’s eight poems that Britten used to commemorate the man who died one week before the official armistice took effect.

Owen’s writings, by his own admission, were less concerned with inherent poetic quality (they are brilliant regardless) and were rather more reflective about the war itself.  Owen superimposed his own deeply personal faith upon his psychologically harrowing experiences, and his extant writings inspired Britten’s polished and eruptive score, abounding with sumptuous depictions of Owen’s inner state as proxy for our collective horrified response to war’s ludicrous devastations.


TMC announces winner of 2018 Choral Composition Prize

Edmonton choral singer and composer Russell Wilkinson is the winner of the TMC’s 2018 Debbie Fleming Prize for Choral Composition.

The fourth annual TMC Choral Composition Competition received 19 entries from across Canada. The winner of this competition receives the $1000 Debbie Fleming Prize for Choral Composition and their work is performed by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in concert.

The 2018 competition asked emerging composers to submit a sacred or secular work for the Christmas season. Submissions were reviewed by the jury of TMC Interim Conductor David Fallis, Festival of Carols guest conductor Howard Dyck, and TMC Associate Conductor Ezra Burke.

The winner was There Is No Rose by Russell Wilkinson.  Russ is a retired lawyer living in Edmonton. Over the last 40 years he has sung with Greystone Singers (U. of S.), Edmonton Opera Chorus, Pro Coro Canada, I Coristi Chamber Choir and Da Camera Singers. Choral composition is a relatively recent endeavour which he hopes to continue in his retirement.


Toronto Mendelssohn Choir rings in the Christmas season with its annual Festival of Carols on two nights – Tuesday, Dec 4 and Wednesday, Dec 5

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir welcomes the holiday season with a concert of Yuletide favourites combined with some new discoveries. The Choir will be led by guest conductor Howard Dyck and will be joined by the Toronto Youth Choir (Matthew Otto, conductor), the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army (John Lam, bandmaster), and Michael Bloss on organ.

Conductor Howard Dyck has put together a program that brings together music of celebration and music for contemplation. It’s also a program that acknowledges some choral greats, including Healey Willan, while also featuring works by contemporary composers. The Choir will open with Healey Willan’s Hodie, Christus natus est. And later in the program the Choir will perform the world premiere of Toronto composer Stephanie Martin’s An Earthly Tree which was commissioned by St. John Cantius Church in Chicago as homage to Healey Willan in this year commemorating 50 years since his death. According to composer Stephanie Martin, “An Earthly Tree entwines the well-known Gregorian Christmas chant Hodie Christus natus est in 21st-century harmonies.”

Sir Andrew Davis, TMC, TSO

TSO Lets Berlioz Do The Talking In Season Opener

Paul Robinson, ludwig van Toronto. Then came a rarity: an excerpt from Berlioz’ Lélio, ou Le retour a la vie (The Return to Life), a sequel to the Symphonie fantastique. Lélio is a mishmash of music and declamation and not among the composer’s masterpieces. Sir Andrew chose to give us just one musical excerpt, a Fantasy on Shakespeare’s The Tempest for chorus and orchestra. As usual with Berlioz’s orchestral music, the instrumentation was clever and original. But even with an impressive Toronto Mendelssohn Choir on hand, this brief excerpt seemed too long for the quality of its inspiration.


TMC announces 2018-19 Season and appointment of David Fallis as Interim Conductor

Acclaimed Toronto conductor David Fallis has been named as Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Interim Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons. “David brings to the TMC a life-long passion for choral music, incredible conducting experience, and a wide-ranging knowledge of choral repertoire and creative programming," commented TMC Executive Director Cynthia Hawkins.  "We are thrilled to work under the leadership of such an accomplished musician over the next two seasons while the TMC carries out an international search for our new artistic director.”  

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s 2018/19 season starts with performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Fall, including Benjamin Britten’s compelling War Requiem in a concert that commemorates 100 years since the conclusion of the First World War. The TMC’s own concert season begins in early December with Festival of Carols, the Choir’s annual joyous welcome to the season.  Then in January, a Free Community Concert will focus on the music of great composers from Canada and the United States. In February the TMC, with orchestra, will perform two great 18th century choral-orchestral masterpieces by Handel and Haydn. The season concludes with Sacred Music for a Sacred Space in April with a program that brings together two rich choral traditions: the French subtlety of Messiaen, Poulenc and Martin, and the mystical traditions of Eastern Europe and Russia.