Lois Marshall was internationally regarded as one of the great sopranos of the 20th century. In 1947, at just 22 years old, and at the beginning of her career, she was engaged by Sir Ernest MacMillan as a soprano soloist singing, on three successive nights, the soprano solo work in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s Bach festival.
The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir first performed Handel's Messiah in 1932 under conductor Herbert A Fricker (2nd conductor of the TMC). It has performed Messiah every year since.
Leslie Barcza, barczablog. Toronto is Messiah town, as I’ve joked before. Handel’s most popular Biblical oratorio is everywhere at this time of year.
Tonight I took in the second of six offered this week by the Toronto Symphony, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and soloists under the baton of Johannes Debus, the Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company. We’ve heard him lead operas at Four Seasons Centre, I wondered what he’d be like leading an oratorio down the street with the TSO & TMC.
And in fact it was the cleanest clearest Messiah I’ve heard at Roy Thomson Hall.
Arthur Kaptainis, ludwig Van Toronto. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Handel’s greatest hit every December, generally with a new conductor. Our Messiah maestro this year is both familiar and surprising: Johannes Debus. On Monday, the music director of the Canadian Opera Company oversaw a performance in Roy Thomson Hall that was agreeable in particulars but lacking something in drama.
The stars of the show, numbering about 110, were in the loft. Clearly, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has not lost interest in this annual assignment. “For unto us a Child is born” was exuberant and the stresses of “Let us break their bonds asunder” were spot-on. Sections were perhaps not of exactly equal strength — we all know which letter comes first in SATB — but counterpoint was vigorous and the tone was lucid at all dynamic levels. This great institution seems to be thriving under the interim supervision of David Fallis.
Brian Chang, Choral Scene, The Wholenote. Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO Matthew Loden and I are chatting about the beloved cultural phenomenon that is Messiah in Toronto. Sitting in his office overlooking Roy Thomson Hall, I can see the iconic webbing of the edifice, a physical nest that cradles the music hall. In a few weeks, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and guests, under the baton of Johannes Debus, will present a major six-performance run of Handel and Jennens’ masterpiece.. (Full disclosure: as regular readers of this column know, I sing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and will be on stage for these performances.)
“We live in a very disjointed and fractured time right now. I think that the human condition is to long for a kind of togetherness, to find your place with people,” says Loden, speaking about the need for a space for an event like Messiah. “Increasingly, we keep finding ways to disintegrate relationships. When you have a moment where you can come together collectively and still have an individual experience while feeling the music coming off the stage with a couple thousand other people – that is really powerful.” With these TSO performances alone, 15,000 people will experience the majesty of the most iconic of Toronto classical-music traditions.
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.
David Friend, The Canadian Press
Noel Edison didn't expect to rub shoulders with Lady Gaga when he attended the Grammy Awards for the first time, but the chorus master at the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir couldn't resist the opportunity when it arose.
At the glitzy celebration for the 2010 awards in Los Angeles, Edison found himself standing near the "Bad Romance" singer. So he stuck out his hand and introduced himself.
"(I) said, 'Look, I want to congratulate you — I think you've got a unique sound and a unique approach to this modern-day popular culture,'" he recalls.
"We had a nice chat with her big thugs standing around. We had a little vodka together, so that was fun."
Edison didn't win the Grammy that year, but he'll have another chance on Sunday as he vies for best choral performance with his choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
The Toronto performers share a nomination with British conductor Sir Andrew Davis for his daring take on Handel's "Messiah," which throws in new elements that elevate the composition's theatrical flair.
Arthur Kaptainis, Ludwig Van Toronto.
In the age of sexed-up and dumbed-down Messiahs, it is good to be reminded how utterly self-refreshing Handel’s masterpiece is when addressed by the right personnel under a conductor with something to say. Such were the conditions that prevailed Monday in Roy Thomson Hall, where Matthew Halls led the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and a crack quartet of Canadian soloists in through a performance that could fairly be called electrifying.
John Terauds, Toronto Star. No one expects a stopgap to turn into a masterpiece. But that’s what happened to George Frideric Handel when one of his collaborators, Charles Jennens, handed him some texts to set to music.
Messiah has, since its premiere in Dublin at Easter time 275 years ago, become one of the best-loved pieces of classical music in the English-speaking world. Toronto is no exception, becoming a virtual shrine to Messiah at this time every year.
The city’s two flagship orchestras — the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on modern instruments, and Tafelmusik Orchestra on historical ones — present multiple performances every December. The two-hour oratorio, either in part or whole, is also heard in churches, cathedrals, schools and community concerts from the city core to rural villages.
Paul E. Robinson, Musical Toronto. Handel’s Messiah has been with us for a very long time. A work clearly beloved by millions of people, its presentation is an annual Christmas event in many cities. So why mess with it? People love it the way it is. What moved Sir Andrew Davis to rewrite the piece?