Voices from the Choir

We asked choristers about their connection to the TMC’s heritage of excellence.

Ngaio Potts, Soprano

Susan Worthington, Alto

Sam Broverman, Tenor

Barry Clegg, Bass

Ngaio Potts, Soprano

Headshot of Ngaio Potts

Soprano Ngaio Potts

How long have you been in the choir?
Two years, but this is actually my second time in the choir. I first joined the choir the same year Noel did and sang with the TMC for four years the first time.

How did you come to join the TMC?  

I always loved the pieces that the TMC was performing and wanted to get back involved in singing great choral works. I was jealous of sitting in the house listening vs. being up there with everyone.

How would you describe your connection to the TMC’s heritage of excellence in choral music?

Being involved in music and part of a choir has always been a big part of my life. I grew up singing in choirs like the Ottawa Youth Choir and the Ontario Regional Youth Choir. I left home to get a music degree, then came to Toronto where I joined the TMC the first time. There is something about singing with the TMC that brings choral music to another level—the professionalism and the speed at which we work is exciting.

How would you describe the TMC’s musical legacy?

The TMC has such a rich history that I feel it has become an institution in the city that we should all be proud to be a part of.

The choir is not only known across Canada but around the world for the caliber of the singing. I think it is important that we work together to keep choral music, and the TMC, going strong for generations to come. Choral music can be inspiring, emotional and powerful; the TMC lets people experience a range of emotions, to be moved by the music. The streaming of selected concerts is helping to get the TMC out there by letting more people nation-wide experience the joy of choral music.

Are there (or have there been) any times when you feel especially connected to a tradition of music making in the TMC? Can you describe those times?  

For me it is the holiday concerts. The festival of carols and the tradition of singing the Messiah with the TSO really make me feel like we are part of something bigger. So many people incorporate those concerts into their family traditions that it is an honour to be able to be small part of that. And I love the Proms concerts.

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Susan Worthington, Alto

Susan Worthington Headshot

Alto Susan Worthington

How long have you been in the choir?

I joined the choir in 1992. I was away for the 2013-14 season, but am delighted to have the privilege of being back in the choir this season.

How did you come to join the TMC?

I had aspired to sing with the TMC through university and the beginnings of my career as an arts manager—but I lived and worked in Hamilton, which really wasn’t such a readily commutable distance as it is now. So, after deciding it was now or never, I auditioned and was accepted, and I commuted to rehearsals and performances from Hamilton before making a move to Toronto almost ten years later.

How would you describe your connection to the TMC’s heritage of excellence in choral music?

My personal connection to the choir’s heritage stems simply from being aware of my own place in its awe inspiring history. The thrill that I have experienced in singing exceptional choral works, both traditional and new, with renowned conductors and soloists, feeds both my mind and my spirit.

How would you describe the TMC’s musical legacy?

I believe that the TMC’s musical legacy has many facets. I often think about all of the choristers, conductors and instrumentalists who have learned about and performed the choral artform under the TMC umbrella, almost since Canada became a country. So many have had wonderful careers in choral music as performers, teachers and conductors, having been inspired and fuelled by their experience in the TMC, sharing their passion for choral excellence in Canada and abroad and inspiring others to participate, as I was inspired by a teacher in my youth. Additionally, the TMC, while being at the forefront of traditional choral music performances in Canada, provides opportunities for living composers to write for the art form, adding works to the Canadian choral catalogue in both quantity and quality.

Are there (or have there been) any times when you feel especially connected to a tradition of music making in the TMC? Can you describe those times?

I feel especially connected when my life experiences coincide with the musical experiences in the choir. Since visiting Coventry Cathedral in the UK, I had always wanted to have the opportunity to sing Britten’s War Requiem, and was thrilled when the work was programmed for the TMC to sing with the TSO. The summer before the performances I travelled to France and visited war memorials there–Vimy, Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval–as well as many Canadian cemeteries. I also visited the grave of Wilfred Owen, whose poetry was used by Britten as text for the work. Singing the work, contextualized by these personal experiences, was profoundly moving both personally and musically. I always try to find these connections to the repertoire that the choir is singing–whether personal or historical, and I hope that the inspiration and emotion that I experience as a singer is also conveyed to our audiences.

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Sam Broverman, Tenor

Sam Broverman Headshot

Tenor Sam Broverman

How long have you been in the choir?

I have been in the choir since 1983.

How did you come to join the TMC?

I moved to Toronto from Winnipeg in 1976, but was away from Toronto from 1978 to 1980. I had done a lot of singing in Winnipeg and after I settled in to my job at U of Toronto, I wanted to resume singing and auditioned in 1983. I had worked on the CBC TV show “Hymn Sing” in Winnipeg and knew a few people from that show were in the TMC. I knew it was a great choir, so I auditioned.

How would you describe your connection to the TMC’s heritage of excellence in choral music?  

I have no family connection to the choir, but I had friends in the choir from Winnipeg. I had done a lot of choral singing in Winnipeg and I wanted to continue that with the TMC.

How would you describe the TMC’s musical legacy?

The TMC is universally recognized as the premier large choral group in Canada and is also known around the world. But most people don’t know the long history of the choir. It is a privilege for me to continue to be a member of the choir. When I tell people that I am in the choir, they are usually very impressed because they know about the choir’s reputation. I have been in the choir for about one-quarter of the choir’s existence. I feel that the choir now sounds the best that I have heard it in the time I have been involved. I feel that the great legacy of choral music that the choir has established will continue and grow.

Are there (or have there been) any times when you feel especially connected to a tradition of music making in the TMC? Can you describe those times?

A couple of events stand out. Early in my time with the choir we performed at Carnegie Hall with the TSO (Beethoven’s 9th, an Elgar oratorio–Gerontius, maybe–and Sun by R. Murray Schaefer). The other event was the recording of the Messiah with Kathleen Battle. Of course the ongoing thrill of being able to sing Verdi’s Requiem, Mozart’s Mass, … the list of great choral works goes on and on, and is what makes being and staying the choir so wonderful.

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Barry Clegg, Bass

Portrait of Barry Clegg

Bass Barry Clegg

How long have you been in the choir?

I joined in September 1972, later took a three-year sabbatical while my children were very young, and re-joined for the Roy Thomson Hall opening in 1982. Therefore this is my 40th season!

How did you come to join the TMC?

After singing in an excellent concert choir at university in England, I couldn’t bear to join any lesser choir. I scarcely sang a note for eight years (the French horn was then my main musical interest), till a friend advised me to give the Mendelssohn a try. I went to hear them singing Mahler, signed up for an audition, and was hooked.

How would you describe your connection to the TMC’s heritage of excellence in choral music? 

Naturally I’m proud and delighted to be a TMC member, promoting love of great choral music. Our repertoire includes some of the finest products of Western culture (think B Minor Mass!). Culture is a measure of the mental health of society, and in this sense classical music is much more than mere entertainment.
My mother, who belonged to the Ottawa Choral Society, came to hear the TMC a number of times. My daughters: Alison sang with us for a few years while living in Toronto, and Joni–often sharing the stage in her Toronto Children’s Chorus days–did a season with the Mendelssohn Youth Choir before moving out of town. Leslie, my wife of the last fifteen years, has had a long history as a TMC chorister and volunteer.

How would you describe the TMC’s musical legacy?

The Choir’s legacy lies not only in the joy great music brings to the public ear, but in the example of prolonged excellence. There can be few amateur arts organizations anywhere that demand such commitment and maintain such high standards, decade after decade.
The TMC preserves continuity despite the steady refreshment of singers and conductors joining as others retire–a Niagara River of talent flowing in at one end and the St Lawrence out at the other, while Lake Ontario remains. We are indeed a one-hundred-and-twenty-year-old feature on the cultural map of Canada!

Are there (or have there been) any times when you feel especially connected to a tradition of music making in the TMC? Can you describe those times?

In 1994 I worked as writer and editor for the team that produced the “Centennial book”. This brought me very close to the fascinating personalities and events of the first hundred years of the choir. Producing 22 issues of Mendelssounds in its hard-copy days, and working on the Board of Directors for six seasons cemented my deep personal connection with the choir tradition.

Much as I personally love to sing new and unfamiliar music, it is still wonderful to see the audience thrilled by another TMC performance of the big popular works. Also very special are the occasional historic events, such as the opening of RTH, the retirement of Walter Homburger, and the Queen’s visit. In fact, every year there is at least one concert that alone is worth the work of the whole season!

Which is why I keep on submitting myself to the annual audition …

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