The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s Good Friday 2015 concert of spiritual, meditative music begins with music by the popular Englishman Sir John Tavener (1944 –2013). He was trained traditionally at the Royal Academy of Music, and as his life and career developed, Tavener’s character and music became more spiritual and contemplative, eventually leading him to turn to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977. Song for Athene was written in 1993 as a tribute to a young family friend of Tavener’s named Athene who died in a cycling accident. Athene’s love of acting and of the music of the Orthodox Church led the composer to combine words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet with words from the Orthodox funeral service. The work became part of popular culture after it was performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.
Toronto, 1894: the last horse-drawn streetcar made its run in Toronto; Massey Hall was built; and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir was founded, presenting its
first concert in 1895. Throughout its 120-year history, and under the leadership of seven renowned conductors, the Choir has been acclaimed for its stunning performances of major choral repertoire and for its important role in the life of choral music in Canada.