Birthday Series

Singers | Voice Students | Instrumentalists | The String Quartet | The Artistic Director

Singers

 
Allison Arends
Allison Arends
Lyric Coloratura Soprano, Allison Cecilia Arends, is noted as having a voice that is "stunningly beautiful, [which] she uses… with intelligence and great sensitivity." Previously featured on the cover of WholeNote Magazine, she is active both in opera and concert. She has been engaged by the symphony orchestras of Saskatoon, Regina, and Victoria, Cathedral Bluffs, Opera Atelier, Chorus Niagara, Toronto Philharmonia, Soundstreams, Tryptych, Saskatoon Opera, the Aldeburgh Connection, the Wagner Society, the Arts and Letters Club, Opera IS, and the UofT New Music Festival. Awards include being named a Laureate of the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques, third place in the Spazio Musica International Competition, a scholarship through the Canadian Aldeburgh Foundation, the Hnatyshyn Foundation Governor General's Award for Classical Voice, a Senior Award through the B.C. Arts Council, and an Encouragement Award through the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Allison completed a Master's Degree at the University of Toronto Opera School and continues private study with Mary Morrison. Future performances include Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare) with the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy; Musetta (La Boheme) with the Highlands Opera Studio; Beethoven's 9th with the Toronto Philharmonia; and recitals with Peter Tiefenbach, Donna Williams, and Amanda Johnston in Barrie, Calgary, and Toronto, respectively. She has also been engaged by the Women's Musical Club of Winnipeg and Barrie's Colours of Music Festival for performances in fall 2011. She is thrilled to be joining Calgary Opera next year for their Emerging Artist Program, where she will perform Despina (Cosi fan tutte) and Dortchen Wild (The Brothers Grimm), cover Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor), and perform in the world premiere of Bramwell Tovey's The Inventor. Website
 
Barbara Fris
Barbara Fris
Soprano Barbara Fris was declared "one of Toronto’s most artistic, creative and inspiring women" by the Luminato Festival in 2008. She made her professional opera début in 1984 as Clorinda (La Cenerentola) with the Calgary Opera, and attracted national attention in 1988 as a Canadian winner at the 3rd Annual International Luciano Pavarotti Voice Competition (Philadelphia Opera). In 1989, she was the Grand Prize Winner at the International Bel Canto Foundation Voice Competition (Chicago, Illinois). She has appeared with the Canadian Opera Company, Calgary Opera, Edmonton Opera, Opera Theatre of Alberta, and Manitoba Opera, throughout Europe, and in the United States. She was honoured to participate in a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the opening of Science North (Sudbury). As Guest Artist at the City of Toronto's "International Year of the Senior Citizen" event, her outdoor concert attracted a capacity crowd at Nathan Phillips Square where 15,000+ listeners heard her critically-acclaimed Mimi from La Bohème. She has been heard on national CBC radio and television broadcasts and on CTV, CITY, Rogers Cable Vision and Global television networks. In 2009, she celebrated her 25th anniversary since her professional opera début and as an alumna of University of Toronto Faculty of Music Opera Division at Walter Hall in aid of Oxfam Canada. In 2009-2010 she toured Elora, Halton Hills, Kleinburg, Sibbald’s Point, Simcoe County and Toronto, performing Strauss' Four Last Songs, Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, and favourite opera heroines. Barbara organizes and appears at fund-raising concerts for charitable organizations including the Canadian and American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Adsum House for Women & Children (Halifax), OXFAM Canada, and the Toronto Heliconian Club. She is in demand as a vocal clinician and teaches voice privately as part of her commitment to helping young Canadian singers. Website
 
Christopher Wilson
Christopher Wilson
Bass-baritone Christopher Wilson studied under Patricia Kern at the Opera Division of the University of Toronto, under William Neil at McGill University, and also holds his Master's degree in Opera from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Selected professional theatre credits include Drayton Entertainment, Ross Petty Productions (Elgin Theatre), Disney Cruise Lines, the National Arts Centre, Huron Country Playhouse, the Stratford Festival, and the Charlottetown Festival. He also performed in the ABC Disney movie musical, The Music Man with Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth, released to DVD in North America. Selected classical performing credits include El Dancairo in Carmen (Royal Opera Canada), Don Alfonso in Cosi fan Tutte (Pellegrini Opera), Bottom in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Montreal and Toronto premiere), and The Mikado (Pacific Opera). Concert repertoire includes Bach's St. John's Passion, Mozart's Requiem, and a noon-hour recital at St Martin-in-the-Fields (Trafalgar Square, London, England). Christopher has sung extensively with many professional choral ensembles including the Studio Musique Ancienne de Montreal, and was a founding member of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, having appeared onstage with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and soprano Kathleen Battle. He is the Artistic Producer of Da Capo Productions, producing professional musical theatre and providing community arts outreach programs for youth and children in the city of Toronto. Website
 
David Playfair
David Playfair
Baritone David Playfair completed undergraduate and Master's degrees in Voice Performance at University of Toronto, is a Ph.D. candidate in Vocal Pedagogy at University of Iowa, and currently teaches voice at Brandon University. His 30-year performance career includes over 70 productions in theatres across Canada and the U.S., including performances of leading roles in the Toronto and touring companies of The Phantom of the Opera, at the renowned Stratford and Shaw Festivals in Ontario, with Opera Atelier and Opera Ora in Toronto, at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C., and on Broadway. While Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2004-2006, David was a regular soloist with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, including performances as Morales in Carmen, as a soloist in Finzi’s In Terra Pax, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. He played Fredrik in A Little Night Music, Falke in Die Fledermaus, and Don Alfonso in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte for the Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre in Iowa City. Equally at home with art song and oratorio, he has sung with many orchestras and chamber ensembles in concert and recital on radio (CBC and CJRT), including the Toronto Consort, Tafelmusik, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. David was a soloist with the Penderecki String Quartet at the Clear Lake Chamber Music Festival. Recently he performed recitals for the Regina Musical Club and the Brandon University Pro-Series and was seen in the musical Strike! in Winnipeg. An enthusiastic champion and interpreter of contemporary music, David has performed many new works and continues to be an advocate of new music. He will perform the Canadian premiere of Lori Laitman’s Holocaust 1944, Richard Pearson-Thomas’s song cycle, Far Off, and has commissioned new works of Canadian composers Jocelyn Morlock and Ian McAndrew. Website
 
Erin Bardua
Erin Bardua
Soprano Erin Bardua, born in Vancouver, has been praised for her "brilliant-toned voice, agile and strong, yet warm and relaxed." She began her singing career in Winnipeg, and has performed across Canada from coast to coast. Erin made her professional operatic debut with Pacific Opera Victoria. Her operatic roles include Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff, and Antonia in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. She has also created leading roles in two new Canadian operas, Christopher Donison's Eyes on the Mountain (with the Victoria Conservatory of Music Opera Studio) and Andrew Ager's Frankenstein. Also an accomplished concert soloist, Erin is a skilled interpreter of Handel's perennial favourite, the Messiah. She is an alumna of various training programs, including the Dramatic Integration (Contemporary Opera and Song) program at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute. Erin and a group of other adventurous opera singers began clown training in 2003 with mentor Sue Morrison. Since then, Erin has continued her training and participated in the co-creation of a clown opera, which premiered in 2007. Erin recently completed a Master's degree in Voice Performance at the University of Toronto. Website
 
Julia Morgan
Julia Morgan
Mezzo-soprano Julia Morgan completed a Bachelor of Music in voice performance at University of Victoria and an Opera Diploma at University of Toronto. She also studied and performed at the Franz Schubert Institut in Baden bei Wien, Austria; Opera as Theatre at the Banff Centre for the Arts; Opera Nuova; Highlands Opera Studio; and the Mahler and Strauss Program of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program in Aldeburgh, England. She has performed Handel's Messiah, Vivaldi's Gloria and Haydn's Salve Regina with the Prima Youth Choir and Victoria Chamber Orchestra; Mendelssohn's Elijah and selections from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the University of Victoria Orchestra; Stravinsky's Les Noces with the Victoria Chamber Singers; Elgar's The Music Makers with the Toronto Choral Society; and the world premiere of In the Trail of the Wind, In the Shadow of God by Canadian composer Imant Raminsh at the International Bach Festival. Operatic roles have included Rosine with Highlands Opera Studio, Mustardseed and Second Woman at The Banff Centre, Announcer with TrypTych, and Hansel in Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel with Saskatoon Opera. Much of her recital work has centred on German lieder. She has performed in the Theatre am Steg, the Festsaal des Congress Casino Baden, Castello di Verrazzano and the Four Seasons Centre. This fall, Julia will release a CD of German lieder with pianist Amanda Johnston, with whom she will do a recital tour of British Columbia and the Southern United States in January 2011. She looks forward to performing the title role in Bizet's Carmen with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre in August 2010, and Mozart's Coronation Mass with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra at the Glenn Gould Studio in 2011. Website
 
Michelle Simmons
Michelle Simmons
Mezzo-soprano Michelle Simmons, a native of Newfoundland, is a graduate of the Master of Music Vocal Performance program at the University of Toronto, where she studied with soprano Lorna MacDonald. Since relocating to Toronto, she has sung in the choruses of Toronto Operetta Theatre and Opera in Concert. She made her Toronto stage debut in the role of Soeur Mathilde in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites. Other opera roles include Sesto in Handel's Julius Caesar, Lisetta in Haydn's Voyage to the Moon, and Third Lady in Mozart's Magic Flute. During the summer of 2010, she performed the role of Minerva in Offenbach's Orphee aux Enfers in the south of France. Michelle has participated in master classes in association with the Franco American Vocal Academy (FAVA), Summer Opera Lyric Theatre of Toronto (SOLT), the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS), and the University of Toronto. She has coached with such renowned artists as Martin Isepp, Sir Thomas Allen, Stuart Hamilton, Liz Upchurch, Bo Skovhus and Catherine Robbin. Presently, she is the alto soloist at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto, and studies with distinguished bass-baritone, Gary Relyea.
 
Maria Thorburn
Maria Thorburn
Soprano Maria Thorburn has performed leading roles at Shaw Festival, Atlantic Theatre Festival, Grant Theatre, Massey Hall, St. Lawrence Centre, and Ford Centre. Maria worked with Yoshi Oida (Japanese NOH Theatre) and David Perry (Restoration Theatre) in Toronto and London, England. Maria has also performed with Opera in Concert, Arbor Oak Trio, Kingston Symphony, Kingston Summer Festival, Fanfare Theatrical Productions and Lovers and Madmen as well as many operas, oratorios, recitals and concerts. She has performed at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England (recorded by the BBC), toured Canada for Jeunesses Musicales (recorded by the CBC), toured Latvia and Sweden including performing at the Riga 800 commemorating the capital city's 800th anniversary to over 50,000 people, and performed the role of Pamina in The Magic of Love (an updated Magic Flute for which she recorded a double CD). Maria has many awards in singing, acting and dancing from Canada and the U.S. as well as commercial/TV credits.
 
Martha Spence
Martha Spence
Mezzo-soprano Martha Spence is a native of Toronto. As an actor and singer she divides her performance loyalties between theatre and music, appearing with various Toronto companies. She was delighted to take part in the first Atelier S International Summer Academy in 2008 in Querétaro, Mexico where she performed the role of Frugula in Puccini's Il Tabarro at the historic Teatro de la República. Some favourite roles include: Jo in Mark Alamo's Little Women, Dame Quickly in Falstaff, Nicklausse in Tales of Hoffmann, Jane in Happy End, Gianetta in L'Elisir D'Amore and Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro. Her ensemble credits include Carmen with Opera Mississauga, Leoncavello's La Boheme with Opera York and several productions with Toronto Operetta Theatre. Her concert credits include Pergolesi's Stabat Mater with Atelier S and 2008's opera gala concert with Counterpoint Community Orchestra. In May 2009, she had the pleasure of being the alto soloist in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 for Counterpoint Orchestra's 25th Anniversary Concert at the MacMillan Theatre. In January 2010, she reprised her role in a remount of Conrad at the George Ignatieff Theatre, first produced in October 2009. In March 2010, she was the alto soloist in Mozart's Coronation Mass at Jubilee United Church. She currently studies with Stuart Graham and Thomas Schilling.
 
Paul Williamson
Paul Williamson
Tenor Paul Williamson has "a startlingly rich voice" (Edmonton Journal) and is now taking his place on the operatic and concert stages of Canada. He completed a Bachelor of Music degree at Houghton College School of Music in New York, a Master's degree in Opera Performance at State Glinka Conservatoire of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and an Artist Diploma at University of Manitoba. Fluent in Russian, Paul appeared as the Czar with Toronto's Opera in Concert in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden in April 2008. The Globe and Mail declared "High tenor Paul Williamson, as the czar, had some ecstatic moments; his springtime aria was a high point," while Opera Canada's review stated, "lyric tenor Paul Williamson impressed as the czar." As an opera apprentice with the University of Manitoba, Paul performed the role of Wilhelm in school tours of Dean Burry’s popular The Brothers Grimm. In the University of Toronto Opera Diploma program, he starred as Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, where Opera Canada reviewed him as "a very pleasing tenor with Italianate colour, lovely phrasing and even the requisite sob" who can "play with his voice for nuance and has lots of power when needed." He recently starred as Umberto in Rossini's La Donna del Lago with Opera in Concert. Oratorio performances include Bruckner's Te Deum (University of Toronto), Britten's Saint Nicolas Cantata (Tryptych), and the Beethoven Mass in C (MasterWorks of Oakville). In February 2010, he appeared in recital for the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region. Paul recently placed second in the Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition in New York. Website
 
Trish O'Reilly
Trish O'Reilly
Soprano Trish O'Reilly, a versatile singer and actor, had her early training at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, and at opera workshops in Canada, the US, and the UK. After a season in the Music Theatre Workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Trish's career became increasingly eclectic, from Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro (Courtenay Youth Music Centre) to Lee in Cowgirls (Sudbury Theatre Centre); from experimental theatre pieces at the Fringe (Women in Utero) and SummerWorks (Savage Love) to new Canadian plays at the Blyth Festival (Ballad for a Rumrunner's Daughter; This Year, Next Year). Trish has explored clown, musical theatre, and straight theatre, while continuing to indulge her passion for opera and art song. Favourite roles include Marguerite in Red Noses (Theatre Resource Centre), Lucy Lockitt in The Beggar's Opera (Arbor Oak Trio), Papagena in The Magic Flute (Casey House benefit), Mabel in the Pirates of Penzance (Toronto Gilbert & Sullivan Society), and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Kawartha Summer Theatre). Trish enjoys singing in harmony with the a cappella Renaissance trio, The MadriGALS, and the 40s trio, Rumboogie. She produced and sang in the clown-opera experiment, The Figaro Project, and is currently writing a show featuring popular tunes of the 40s along with real-life stories of women during World War II collected through interviews with neighbours, friends and family. Website
 
Vasil Garvanliev
Vasil Garvanliev
Baritone Vasil Garvanliev began performing professionally at age seven as a pop singer in Macedonia, achieving celebrated status. He moved to Toronto in 2004, completed his music studies at the Glenn Gould School, and pursued graduate study at University of Toronto under Mary Morrison. Vasil, along with Opera Atelier, was recently awarded a CTV BRAVO!Fact grant to make his operatic music video debut as Don Giovanni under the direction of Andrew Gregg. He has appeared in concert with OffCentre Music Salon, the Arts and Letters Club, Opera in Concert, Orpheus Choir, the Glenn Gould School, Stratford Summer Music, the Aldeburgh Connection Discovery Series, and the Bayfield Song Festival. Winning the university's concerto competition brought Vasil the opportunity to sing Mahler's Rückert Lieder in the 09/10 orchestra season. He was also a finalist in the Macedonian Eurosong Festival with his own original composition in February 2007. Operatic roles include Pangloss (Candide), title role (Don Giovanni), Bonafede (Il Mondo della Luna), Ramiro (L'Heure Espagnole), White Cat (L'Enfant et les Sortilèges), and Geronimo (Il Matrimonio Segreto) with University of Toronto's Opera School; Bob (The Old Maid and the Thief), Alcindoro/Benoit (La Boheme), Falke (Die Fledermaus), Tobia Mill (Cambiale di Matrimonio) and title role (Signor Deluso) at Highlands Opera Studio; Antonio (Marriage of Figaro) and Grand Priest (Idomeneo) at Opera Atelier; Papageno (Die Zauberflote) with the MacMillan Singers; Harasta (The Cunning Little Vixen) at Banff Opera Centre; title role (Le Nozze di Figaro) at the Glenn Gould School; and Masetto (Don Giovanni) with the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme at Aldeburgh in England.

Voice Students

 
Andrew Haji
Andrew Haji

Tenor Andrew Haji is a third-year undergraduate student in the Voice Performance program at the University of Toronto, studying with Darryl Edwards. Born in London, Ontario, he has been a member of the Amabile Young Men's Ensemble, Primus, the Renaissance Singers and the East York Choir. This past summer, he attended the first annual Canadian Operatic Arts Academy in London, Ontario, where he performed scenes from Britten's Albert Herring, Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims, and Verdi's Falstaff. He completed his first full operatic role as Cecco in Haydn's Il mondo della luna with the University of Toronto Opera Division.

 
Brittany Rae
Brittany Rae

Soprano Brittany Rae is a first-year undergraduate student in the voice performance program at the University of Toronto, studying with Elizabeth McDonald. Born in Calgary, Brittany has been pursuing her passion for music since age five. She has won several awards and scholarships performing in the Calgary Kiwanis Music Festival, and was recently named this year's recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Scholarship for the Performing Arts. Brittany is a former member of the Alberta Honour Youth Choir, and is currently a member of U of T's MacMillan Singers. This past June, she performed in the University of Calgary Operetta Company's production of The Island of Tulipitan.

 
Chelsea Van Pelt
Chelsea Van Pelt

Soprano Chelsea Van Pelt is a second-year vocal performance student at the University of Toronto. A student of Dr. Darryl Edwards, she has also worked with Leslie Fagan, Hugh Van Pelt, and coaches Nathalie Doucet-Lalkins and Shannon Hiebert. Performance experience includes Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat, Schubert’s Mass in G, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Karl Jenkins' Mass for Peace, and choir participation in Choral Connection and the University of Toronto MacMillan Singers. In 2006, she participated in the St. Andrews Vocal Techniques Workshop in New Brunswick. Awards include a House of Commons Certificate of Recognition for vocal accomplishments, the St. Thomas Rose Bowl, and scholarships for piano and violin performance.

 
Claire de Sévigné
Claire de Sévigné

Soprano Claire de Sévigné earned her Bachelor's degree in vocal performance at McGill University in 2009. In summer 2009, she worked with renowned teachers at the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, and performed in Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Antonia, cover), Gianni Schicchi (Lauretta, cover), and Suor Angelica (Suor Dolcina) with the Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina. In fall 2009, she began her Master's in opera at the University of Toronto, where she studies with Darryl Edwards and recently sang the roles of Flaminia in Il mondo della luna and Cunegonde in Candide. In summer 2010, Claire will perform the role of Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, in Sulmona at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.

 
Heidi Bjornson
Heidi Bjornson
Mezzo-soprano Heidi Bjornson, originally from British Columbia, is a young singer currently finishing her third year at the University of Toronto, studying with Professor Lorna MacDonald. She has been performing and pursuing her passion for music since the age of four, through a wide variety of genres from jazz to music theatre to opera. Heidi has performed in numerous operas with the Pacific Opera Company, such as Mozart's Idomeneo and Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Most recently, Heidi performed the roles of the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, and Roggiero in Tancredi, with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre.
 
Laura Widgett
Laura Widgett
Soprano Laura Widgett has shown a passion for music since age four, when she performed in Carousel in her home town of Sault Ste. Marie. She began taking voice lessons at the Conservatory of Music at age 12. She has twice won the gold medal for voice at the Ontario Music Festival, and has been a member of the Ontario Youth Choir. Her vocal coaches have included Elaine Overholt, Paula Rockwell, Theresa Thibideau, Marion Harvey, Sandra Graham and Ingemar Korjus. This past summer, Laura put on a concert with all proceeds going to the Canadian Hero Fund, a non-profit organization helping children of fallen soldiers. She is in her second year of vocal performance under the instruction of Dr. Darryl Edwards at the University of Toronto.
 
Lauren Crowther
Lauren Crowther
Soprano Lauren Crowther is a second-year voice performance student at the University of Toronto, studying with Professor Darryl Edwards. A native of Aurora, Ontario, Lauren has won many awards and scholarships at voice competitions including NATS, ORMTA, Kiwanis and the Newmarket Voice Festival. She is a lead soprano in the Metropolitan United Church Festival Choir and a member of the MacMillan Singers, with whom she recently performed Bernstein’s Candide at the University of Toronto. Solo performances have taken her from the Sharon Temple to the Canadian Consulate in San Francisco. In April, Lauren performs Bach’s Mass in B minor with the MacMillan Singers and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
 
Marta Herman
Marta Herman
Mezzo-soprano Marta Herman made her European debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro last summer in Germany, and performed with the Celebrity Symphony Orchestra and gamUT contemporary orchestra. An award recipient of the Canadian Operatic Volunteers Committee, the Canadian Polish Millennium Foundation and the Moniuszko Foundation, she is a graduate student of Mary Morrison at University of Toronto Opera School. Roles include Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, the Secretary in The Consul, and Dritte Dame in Die Zauberflöte. She will attend the International Vocal Arts Institute summer program in Tel Aviv, and will appear with the Guelph Symphony, Kindred Spirits Orchestra, and at Harbourfront Centre.
 
Nathan Letourneau
Mikhail Shemet
Bass Mikhail Shemet was born in Kazakhstan in 1989. He grew up in Russia, where he studied music since he was six years old, and began to study voice privately at age 15. He came to Canada at age 16, and continued his music studies. He studied with Gary Relyea for two years, and is currently a first-year Voice Performance student at University of Toronto, studying with J. Patrick Raftery. Mikhail performed the role of Dick Deadeye in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore produced by Professor Darryl Edwards, head of the voice department. He performed in the chorus for Opera York's production of Così fan tutte, and also participates in various UofT and community concerts around Toronto.
 
Nathan Letourneau
Nathan Létourneau
Tenor Nathan Létourneau studies with Lorna McDonald as a fourth-year vocal performance student at University of Toronto. Opera roles include Pluton/Aristée in Orphée aux enfers (Franco-American Vocal Academy), Contino Belfiore (Royal Conservatory), Prince Charmant in Massenet's Cendrillon (Opera da Camera), Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard (Montreal West Operatic Society), and Don Curzio in the Marriage of Figaro (University of Alberta). He performed as Cochenille, Andrés and Micah in Les contes d'Hoffmann, and Slow Dusk (Opera NUOVA), and studied at Orford with Michael McMahon. A past member of Opera in Concert chorus, MacMillan Singers, Bach Festival Singers, and Madrigal Singers, he is a Sidgwick scholar with Orpheus Choir.
 
Sarah Parkin
Sarah Parkin
Soprano Sarah Parkin graduated last year with an Honours Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from University of Toronto, and has just finished her first year in the Master's degree in Voice Performance at University of Toronto, studying with Lorna MacDonald. She has performed in small roles and chorus with the University of Toronto Opera Department, and was a featured soloist in Opera Atelier's 2008 production of Mozart's Idomeneo. This summer, Sarah will sing the role of Servilia in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito with the Royal Conservatory Summer Opera program. In the fall, she will travel to the United Kingdom to finish her Master's degree in Solo Performance at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Instrumentalists

 
Ellen Meyer
Ellen Meyer
Pianist Ellen Meyer, a graduate of the piano performance program at the University of Toronto, has frequently appeared as a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist across Canada, in the U.S.A. and in Germany. Her training has included studies with Pierre Souvairan and Jane Coop, and performing in masterclasses at the Banff Centre for the Arts and with Leon Fleischer. She is a founding member of the Riverdale Ensemble, presenting programmes of 19th, 20th and 21st century Romantic music, as well as Ossia, performing on historical keyboards. Recent engagements include collaboration in recital with Ricardo Morales, Principal Clarinettist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a presentation in the Canadian Music Centre's New Music in New Places, showcasing Canadian music from 1840 to 2005. She performed with the Cantores Celestes Women's Chamber Choir as invited participants in Festival 500 in St. John's, Newfoundland. Past credits include touring for Jeunesses Musicales and sharing the concert stage with The Canadian Brass. Ellen's numerous recordings include the recently released Twelve by the Moon-dial with the Riverdale Ensemble, presenting the world premiere of John Ireland's Trio in D, as well as Flute Sketches with flutist Samantha Chang, with whom she performed at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in March 2010. Website
 
Jennifer Moersch
Jennifer Moersch
Cellist Jennifer Moersch, born and raised in Vancouver, earned a Bachelor of Music degree studying with Pamela Highbaugh-Aloni at the University of Victoria and an Artist Diploma studying with Judith Fraser at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Chamber music has always been near and dear to Jennifer’s heart. She has been coached by the Lafayette, Miami and Latino-Americano String Quartets, as well as Paul Katz and the late Rostislav Dubinsky. Jennifer spent five years as cellist of the Vancouver-based Delphinus String Quartet, and is currently a founding member of the Feu Noire String Quartet. She has participated in the Kent/Blossom Music Festival and masterclasses at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and was Principal Cellist of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Jennifer freelances across Ontario. She has played with ensembles including the Thunder Bay Symphony, Orchestra London, Niagara Symphony, National Academy Orchestra, and the Talisker Players. While classically trained, Jennifer enjoys exploring other genres and has recorded with many bands and singer-songwriters including the Canadian Tenors. Jennifer maintains a private teaching studio in Toronto.
 
Julia McFarlane
Julia McFarlane
Violinist Julia McFarlane was born in Kingston, and began her violin studies in the Suzuki method at age five. After being accepted, at age 14, as the youngest member of the National Youth Orchestra, Julia made her solo debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. While pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Performance at McGill University and a Master's degree in Performance at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Julia studied with Mauricio Fuks, Yehonatan Berick, and Herbert Greenberg. She has played in the Kingston Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Les Jeunes Virtuoses, Niagara Symphony Orchestra and Talisker Players. From 2000 to 2003, Julia was Principal Second Violin of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Saskatchewan Chamber Orchestra, and Saskatoon Opera Orchestra, and served as Co-Artistic Director and Co-Concertmaster of Prairie Virtuosi, Saskatchewan's only Baroque and Classical chamber orchestra. Currently, Julia is a member of the violin faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Co-director of the Toronto Suzuki Studio, concertmaster of the NYCO Symphony Orchestra, and an active freelance violinist throughout Toronto and southern Ontario. She lives in Toronto with her husband, daughters and two Tibetan terriers.
 
Karen Kabiri
Karen Kabiri
Double bassist Karen Kabiri was born in Tehran, Iran in a musical family, and came to Canada in the summer of 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in double bass performance from Elmi Karbordi University in Tehran, and an Associate degree in Music from Azad University of Iran in Tehran. Karen began his music career as a double bass player in the Tehran Symphony Orchestra in 1995. He was principal double bass of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra in 2006-2010, the Parsian String Orchestra in 2008-2010, the Noban String Ensemble in 2005-2007, and the Iranian Radio and Television Broadcasting Orchestra in 1996-2009. He played double bass with the Iranian National Orchestra, the Ani Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, the Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra of Germany, and a collaboration of the Iranian National Orchestra and the Geneva Chamber Orchestra sponsored by the United Nations. He has performed in Berlin, Vienna, Rotterdam, Strasbourg, Brussels and Rome. Karen has been a double bass instructor at the Nahavand Higher Education Institute, the Tehran Conservatory for Boys, the Pars Music Institute, the Neda-e- Chang Music School, and Elmi Karbordi University. He also plays jazz, traditional and folklore music, is a skilled songwriter and composer, has worked as a recording artist and as Internal Director of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, and has taught music theory, solfege and music harmony. He currently plays double bass with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra and the Heliconian Orchestra.
 
Lydia Munchinsky
Lydia Munchinsky
Cellist Lydia Munchinsky is a graduate of the Performance Diploma Program of The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Simon Fryer. She was a member of the Veritas Piano Quartet, the school's ensemble in residence, which performed in music festivals across Ontario and was featured on CBC Radio Two's Music Around Us. She also studied cello with Amanda Keesmaat and Julia MacGregor, and piano with Dorothy Jones and Karen Rowell, and has her ARCT in performance for both piano and cello. Lydia grew up near Aylmer, Ontario, and began piano lessons at age four. She began studying cello at age 10, and as a child, performed for Dr. Suzuki at the International Suzuki Conventions in Australia and Korea. After high school, she stayed for a term at Swiss l'Abri, an International Christian Study and Philosophy Centre, where she met her husband, Marty. Lydia currently lives and works as a freelance musician and teacher in Toronto. She has performed in musical theatre productions at Stage West and Theatre Aquarius, and with Kanye West at Much Music. She is a regular member of the Vietnamese DVD productions, Paris by Night, enjoys giving recitals in retirement homes across the city, and recently performed the Haydn D major cello concerto with the Deep River Orchestra. In her spare time, Lydia enjoys painting, playing sports and making ice cream.
 
Qazim Kallushi
Qazim Kallushi
Double bassist Qazim Kallushi completed a Bachelor's degree in double bass from Arts Academy in Tirana (Albania), and went on to play professionally as a symphony musician with the Albanian National TV Orchestra, touring in European countries including Italy, Germany, UK, Switzerland, and Greece. In 2000, he founded Albsounds String Orchestra, an ensemble dedicated to contemporary repertoire, and participated in European music festivals in Bergen (Norway), Belgrade (Serbia), Ioannina (Greece), Varna (Bulgaria), and Sarajevo (BiH). Since arriving in Toronto in 2005, he has been playing with various chamber ensembles and teaching double bass and classical guitar. He has also been Managing Director of the RTSH (Albanian National TV) Symphonic Orchestra, and is currently General Manager of the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra and Masterworks of Oakville. Website

The String Quartet

Our resident string quartet, featuring violinists Catherine Sulem and Gretchen Paxson-Abberger, violist Elizabeth Morris and cellist Michelle Kyle, performs in several Birthday Series concerts each season, and for preview concerts in retirement homes.

 
Catherine Sulem
Catherine Sulem
Violinist Catherine Sulem studied at the Conservatoire de Nice and later went on to Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris, where she obtained a Premier Prix in violin and chamber music in the classes of Roland Charmy and Jean Hubeau. She has played many recitals in France, Germany, Israel and Canada, and performed concertos with the French Radio Orchestras and the Israel Sinfonietta, with whom she played as principal first violin for five years. Since her arrival in Toronto in 1990, she has performed in various chamber music groups and local orchestras.
 
Gretchen Paxson
Gretchen Paxson-Abberger
Violinist Gretchen Paxson-Abberger holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Arianna Bronne and Burton Kaplan. She holds her Master's degree in Historical Performance from the Mannes College of Music in New York, studying with Nancy Wilson. She also completed a two-year Long Term Training Certificate in the Suzuki Talent Education method from the School For Strings in New York, studying with Louise Behrend. Gretchen freelances in New York and Toronto, both on modern and period instruments. Orchestral and chamber music work has taken her abroad to Europe, and to Singapore. Currently she performs and records with Rebel Baroque Orchestra and ARTEK ensemble in New York City, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Orchestra, New Streams Symphony Orchestra, Opera Atelier, and Aradia Ensemble in Toronto. Gretchen is the Artistic Director of the Miles Nadal JCC Suzuki Program. In 2005, she founded Thanks to Dr. Suzuki Concert Performances, a charitable organization whose mission is to create community among students and teachers of Toronto area Suzuki schools.
 
Elizabeth Morris
Elizabeth Morris
Violist Elizabeth Morris, originally from Edmonton, holds a Bachelor of Music in performance, having studied privately and at University of Alberta, University of Western Ontario (London), the String Quartet Institute in Kingston, Ontario, and the Banff School of Fine Arts. Her main teachers were Thomas Rolston, Ralph Aldrich and Mark Childs. As a freelance musician, she plays orchestral and chamber music with many orchestras and ensembles including the Talisker Players, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Canadian Opera Company, the Royal Winnipeg and National Ballets, and the Stratford and Shaw Festivals. She is currently principal violist with Orchestra Toronto and the Huronia Symphony. She was also principal violist for the Live Entertainment productions ShowBoat, Sunset Boulevard and Ragtime. She is a founding member of the Gala String Quartet, and also performs chamber music for Intrada Sound, Divertimento and Alchemy and looks forward to performing Imant Raminsh's "Rise Up My Love" with the Oriana Singers. Elizabeth's arrangements for string trio and string quartet have been well received. After a collaboration between the Gala String Quartet and the bluegrass band Whiskey Jack, a patron wrote, "The piece [Ashokan Farewell] arranged by the violist was exquisite." Elizabeth is also active in the visual arts, creating watercolour and pencil crayon miniatures and original computer animations. She co-created and maintains the website for Peacemakers Trust, the Canadian charitable organization dedicated to research and education in conflict transformation and peacebuilding.

The Artistic Director

 
Michelle Kyle
Michelle Kyle
Pianist and cellist Michelle Kyle holds a Bachelor of Music from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Fellowship Diploma from Trinity College of Music, London, England, and a Master's degree in piano performance from McGill University. She began playing piano at age 4, and at 11 she began playing cello and playing piano professionally for several dance studios. Her main piano teachers were Garth Beckett and Tom Plaunt, and she studied accompanying with Marjorie Beckett. As a chamber music pianist, she won top prizes at the National Competitive Festival of Music. As a cellist, she studied with Malcolm Tait and Gisela Depkat, and won first prize at the Edward Johnson Music Competition. She has been music director and pianist for professional musical theatre productions in Montreal and Port Dalhousie, and has performed for 20 years as a cello and piano soloist and chamber musician for weddings and special events throughout Ontario. Michelle also graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School; won university awards for excellence in music, philosophy, law, computer science, and German; worked as a lawyer, web developer, editor, photographer and rock climbing instructor; and rode her bicycle across Canada. Michelle is currently a teacher of adult piano students, a freelance accompanist, the pianist for the Bel Canto Singers, cellist with the Rosewood Piano Trio, principal cellist of the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Artistic Director of the Heliconian Choir and Orchestra. Michelle is the founder, producer, and Artistic Director of The Birthday Series. Website
© 2011 Inter Alia Design Privacy Policy