Heliconian Choir and Orchestra

Choir Musicians

Sarah John

Sarah John, conductor

Sarah John, a native of British Columbia, studied at the University of Victoria, completing a Bachelor of Music (Voice), and a Master's degree in Performance (Conducting). She has studied with some of North America's most distinguished conductors and teachers, including Jerry Blackstone, Dale Warland, William Weinert, Joseph Flummerfelt, Gustav Meier, George Corwin, and Elmer Iseler. Sarah was awarded a Canada Council Grant for her work with the Windsor Symphony, having spent a year as Apprentice Conductor and two years as Assistant Conductor. Sarah co-founded the Echo Women's Choir in Toronto, which she led for two years. In 2006, Sarah founded Vespera Ensemble, a contemporary women's choir. She appeared as guest conductor with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra in 2010 and 2011. Sarah is a co-founder and the conductor of the Heliconian Choir and Orchestra.

Jacqueline Leung

Jacqueline Leung, piano

Born in Rexdale, Ontario, Jacqueline Leung graduated with a Master's degree in piano performance from McGill University. She has performed at the International Holland Sessions, Toronto Summer Academy Festival, and Orford Arts Centre, and in Germany and China. She was a two-time national finalist for the TD Canada Trust Music Competitions. In 2007, she was the youngest delegate invited to present her paper on 20th century pianist, Alfred Cortot’s edition of Frederic Chopin’s Fourth Ballade at the Folk conference held at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Jacqueline has organized events benefiting Save Darfur Canada and The Montreal Heart of the City Piano Program. The MHC Benefit Concert and Silent Auction attracted media coverage from CTV and an interview on CKUT radio. In Toronto, she volunteered for the Yonge Street Mission’s inner-city piano program organized by MusicBox Children’s Charity. In April 2010, Global TV filmed a segment at YSM featuring Jacqueline on their Making a Difference program. Jacqueline currently teaches piano privately at The Hawthorn School for Girls in North York and at The Bishop Strachan School for girls in Toronto. This past summer, she taught at Belvoir Terrace, a fine and performing arts camp for girls in Massachusetts. Jacqueline performs with various chamber music ensembles, and is the pianist for the Unity Church of Truth, and an active performer in the Toronto community.

Olga Tylman

Olga Tylman, mezzo-soprano soloist

Olga Tylman, mezzo-soprano, holds a Master's degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Western Ontario, where she won the school's top performance scholarship. She has performed the roles of Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte (UWO Opera), Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (Halifax Summer Opera Workshop), Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo (Opera Nova Scotia), and Elettra in Idomeneo (Opera Nova Scotia). She has been guest soloist in concerts with the Northumberland Orchestra and Choir (Port Hope), St. Paul's Cathedral Choir (London, ON), and Mississauga Choral Society. Olga is currently active as a professional soloist and chorister with groups including the Elora Festival Singers, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and St. James Cathedral Choir.

Jaye Marsh Graham

Jaye Marsh Graham, flute

Flutist Jaye Marsh Graham is known for her spectacular sound and creativity that comes through in her versatile playing. An active freelancer and experienced orchestral musician, Jaye is currently Principal Flute with Kindred Spirits Orchestra and co-Principal with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra. She has appeared as a soloist with numerous ensembles including the Hart House Chamber Orchestra, and has performed with orchestras including Orchestra Toronto, Etobicoke Philharmonic, the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, Hart House Symphony, Civic Light Opera, and Sudbury Symphony. Jaye has created a number of unique recitals, including one dedicated to the wind works of Francis Poulenc, which was the inaugural concert of the Heliconian Club's concert series, Music in the Heart of Yorkville. She also actively performs with the flute/guitar duo, Celebration Duo. A new recital is in the works for the Heliconian concert series, which will feature a new commission for two flutes. Jaye holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Performance from the University of Toronto. Her teachers include Camille Watts, Douglas Stewart, and Christine Little, and she has performed in master classes of Per Øen, Peter Lloyd and Julius Baker.

Gina Min

Gina Min, harp

Gina Min began playing the piano at age six. When she discovered the harp on her first day of high school in Toronto, she became immediately captivated. She went on to study with Maureen McKay, then attended the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, and currently belongs to the prestigious studio of the world-renowned harpist Judy Loman. She has received scholarships from the Toronto Harp Society and the Kiwanis Festival of Music, and has performed in masterclasses of Rita Costanzi, Elizabeth Hainen, and the legendary Russian harpist, Natalia Shamayeva. Her recent performances include collaborations with VIVA! Youth Singers, NYCO Symphony Orchestra and the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Alain Trudel. In April 2011, she will enjoy the privilege of giving the world premiere performance of Ad Astra, a piece written for the harp by Canadian composer Dean Burry and commissioned by the Canadian Music Centre, at the Royal Conservatory of Music. When away from the harp, Gina is part of the Critical Care team as a Respiratory Therapist at a downtown Toronto hospital. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Toronto.

Alison Hodsman

Alison Hodsman, soprano 1

Born in London, Ontario, Alison Hodsman received a Bachelor of Music degree and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Western Ontario. Her performance credits include musical theatre, choral singing, and solo work. Alison has always enjoyed singing in choirs, and finds inspiration in making music with others, whether as a teacher or singer. Alison has had the opportunity to participate in many festivals, courses and competitions, including the Kaleid Choral Festival (Woodstock, ON), VoiceCare Impact Course (St. John University, MN), and the 2010 NATS Ontario Chapter Auditions (first place). She has had the privilege to work with many distinguished conductors, teachers, and coaches, including Mei Lee, Jennifer Moir (Project Sing!), Jeff Smallman, Kathy Armstrong, Sarah Quartel, Timothy Vernon, Susan Eichhorn-Young, Joel Katz, Rajaton, Rika Cohen, Elaine Kopman, Babette Lightner, John Cooksey, Axel Theimer, and Oszkar Morzsa. Most recently, Alison prepared the roles of Amor (Paride ed Elena, Gluck) and Adele (Die Fledermaus, Strauss) as part of the Royal Conservatory Opera Scene Study Program, and performed in the chorus for La Clemenza di Tito. In June 2009, Alison completed the three-year training course to become a Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique. She continues to build her private practice teaching voice and the Alexander Technique, offering private lessons, workshops and presentations in Toronto and throughout the GTA.

Maria Piazza

Maria Piazza, soprano 1

Soprano Maria Piazza is noted by the Croyden Gazette in London, England, as being "a Soprano with a glorious voice and commanding stage presence ... projecting power without harshness and passion without histrionics." A concert, opera, and recording artist, Maria trained at York University, Toronto where she gained an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in music performance and composition. Maria has extensive vocal training, both at home and abroad. While resident in London, she performed in staged operas, in concert and recital, working alongside coaches such as Phillip Thomas of the English National Opera and Margaret Lobo of the Otakar Kraus Foundation, and with directors Lynn Binstock and Bill Banks-Jones of the English National Opera. Maria is one of the founding members of Echo Women's Choir. She also performs in other mediums of vocal expression, including improvisation. She has produced a series of four performances which reinterpret the emotional and tragic aspects of traditional opera through a sensitive weaving of narration, movement and intentional sounding. Her desire is to bridge the gap between the new and the old worlds, bringing the magnitude of opera openly forward in an approachable manner to reach all ages.

Tova Kardonne

Tova Kardonne, soprano 1

Tova Kardonne's formative choral experiences and her Conservatory training in viola and piano fed early on into a passion for classical, as well as African, South Indian, Brazilian, Eastern European folk, and Klezmer music. She studied vocal jazz, composition and arranging at Humber College, benefiting from the instruction of Shannon Gunn, Christine Duncan, Pat LaBarbera, Kirk MacDonald, John MacLeod and Don Palmer. Tova's compositions have toured the United States and Europe as part of the Vox Novus 60X60 project. Her compositions have scored film installation and accompanied works of theatre, dance, and performance art in Toronto and internationally. As a vocalist, she has shared the stage with Dave Douglas, Ravi Naimpalli, Bill McBirnie, and Christine Duncan. Her original a cappella performance has been included in every Nuit Blanche since 2007, including her large-scale live choral performance installation, Sound Forest. She has led Klezmer bands and the Samba Elegua tambourim section, and plays in a Brazilian music duo with multi-instrumentalist Amy Medvick. Tova sings her original compositions with The Thing Is, her 8-piece Balkan-Jazz fusion band, at such venues as The Rex and Trane Studio, and makes guest appearances singing her originals with Christian Overton's Composers' Collective Big Band. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto with majors in French Linguistics and Philosophy and a minor in Mathematics.

Jessica Stuart

Jessica Stuart, soprano 2

Originally from Vancouver, BC, Jessica Stuart is an accomplished vocalist, guitarist, koto player and composer who now considers Toronto home. With 17 years of choral experience, Jessica is involved in projects spanning a variety of genres including choral, rock, jazz, musical theatre, free/experimental, hip-hop, and R&B. In addition to a rapidly growing list of recording credits, she is a charismatic performer with considerable touring experience both within Canada and abroad. Jessica was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts Music Touring Grant on behalf of The Jessica Stuart Few, in support of their national CD release tour in spring 2010. Some Canadian performance highlights include Breakfast Television, Winterfolk Festival, CBC Radio 1, Toronto NuJazz Festival, Junction Arts Fest, SoundaXis Festival, Nuit Blanche, Brampton Indie Arts Festival, Chutzpah Festival, and Vancouver’s Theatre Under The Stars.

Linda Meyer

Linda Meyer, soprano 2

Linda Meyer has been a soprano soloist, cantor and music director of church choirs and community theatre for 30 years. Her training is from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. For 15 years, she maintained a busy home studio for voice and piano students. She was music director for Guys and Dolls (Pickering West Hill Music Theatre), Grease, Godspell and The Wizard of Oz (Oshawa Little Theatre), and Nunsense (Scugog Choral Society). Linda was a soloist, then choral director at Dunbarton-Fairport United Church, and choral director at West Hill United Church. Currently, she is the music director of the Bel Canto Singers, and music director/keyboardist at Brookdale United Church in Quebec, where only summer services are held.

Michelle Kyle

Michelle Kyle, soprano 2

Michelle Kyle has sung in Deer Park United Church Chamber Choir conducted by William Wright, Vespera Ensemble conducted by Sarah John, and the University of Vienna chamber choir conducted by Dr. Michaela Maschek. She has performed as a vocal soloist with the Wilfrid Laurier University Baroque Ensemble, and with First United Church chamber choir of professional musicians in Waterloo. Michelle earned a Master's degree in piano performance at McGill University, and a law degree at 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. 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. She is currently a freelance accompanist, the pianist for the Bel Canto Singers conducted by Linda Meyer, a teacher of adult piano students, principal cellist of the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, the founder and Artistic Director of The Birthday Series at Heliconian Hall, and a co-founder and Artistic Director of the Heliconian Choir and Orchestra.

Beverley Liske

Beverley Liske, alto

Beverley Liske has sung in many church choirs since age 10, and sang harmony vocals in a recording for a Milton singer/songwriter. She was raised in a large family with eight children, of which seven still actively perform music. Beverley studied grade 10 piano of the Royal Conservatory of Music, played in a contemporary church band for several years, and played in a contemporary dance band for about 15 years. Currently a law clerk at Torys LLP, she performed in 1996-97 as an alto soloist and choir member in several musical productions directed by Michelle Kyle at the law firm Davies, Ward & Beck.

Jane Michel

Jane Michel, alto

Mezzo-soprano Jane Michel grew up in a seaside town in Essex, England, and has been singing ever since she can remember. She studied singing with Freda Parry, niece of the composer Sir Hubert Parry, whom she credits with giving her a deep and lifelong connection with music. She sang for ten years with London Student Chorale, London Chorale, and the English Concert Singers. She performed regularly in most of the major London concert halls, including Albert Hall, South Bank, Barbican, and St. John’s, Smith Square. She toured extensively in Western and Eastern Europe and the United States, including performances at Lincoln Centre in New York and Kennedy Centre in Washington, and participated in recordings for record, radio and television in London, Amsterdam and Budapest. She also forayed into the world of popular music, taking part in recording backings and live performances for Procul Harum and Mandala Band. Upon arriving in Canada, Jane took a musical pause to work on her own life’s opus of raising three wonderful children. Returning to singing, she studied with Penelope Dale at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She has sung with the Bach Consort Choir and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and with conductors Yannick Nezet Seguin and Jane Glover. She also sings in various Toronto churches as a substitute section leader. Jane also works as a freelance accountant, and enjoys travelling, cooking, French wine, and spending hours in her perennial garden.

Martha Spence

Martha Spence, alto

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.

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