VOCA Chorus of Toronto, founded as The East York Choir in 1986 by Stephanie Piercey-Beames, is a mixed-voice, auditioned ensemble which performs an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary music, including several premieres of arrangements by our artistic director and conductor, Jenny Crober, often in collaboration with other artists and ensembles. The Mozart Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, and Vivaldi’s Gloria are among the larger works the choir has performed with orchestra or instrumental ensembles. Our season consists of two concerts, as well as performances at benefits and community events. Our very talented and versatile accompanist is Elizabeth Acker.
VOCA Chorus of Toronto has been honoured and delighted to share the stage with a wide variety of wonderful musicians (and some of Canada’s finest performers): jazz guitarist, Michael Occhipinti; Latin band, Cassava; jazz bassist, Rob Clutton; the Talisker Players orchestra; soprano, Jennie Such; mezzo soprano, Vilma Indra Vitols; baritone, Alexander Dobson; and tenor, James McLennan; National Ballet principal flutist, Les Allt; percussionists/drummers, Ray Dillard, Nick Coulter, Jamie Drake, Larry Graves and Fulé Badoe; storyteller/dancer, Adwoa Badoe; guitarists, Charlie Roby and Paul Bartlett; classical harpist, Lori Gemmell; klezmer clarinetist, Jonno Lightstone; and several renowned Celtic musicians, including Loretto Reid, Sharlene Wallace, Anne Lederman, Rose Bolton and October Browne.
Our choir and conductor, Jenny Crober, along with renowned conductors, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor and Mark Sirett and their ensembles, were featured in a nationwide broadcast on CBC Radio’s “The World at Six” on Christmas Eve, 2007, in a program devoted to the appeal of community choirs.
We were also thrilled to be featured in a broadcast on CBC Radio’s Vinyl Cafe, with Stuart McLean in early January, 2009. They played Donna Rhodenizer’s beautiful The Love of the Sea, a favourite of the choir. The composer heard the radio broadcast from her home in Nova Scotia, and sent a lovely note of appreciation and congratulations.
VOCA Chorus of Toronto has had the great pleasure and privilege of working with several renowned clinicians, including B.C. composer, Stephen Hatfield; Tafelmusik Chamber Choir Artistic Director, Ivars Taurins; Nathaniel Dett Chorale’s Brainerd Blyden-Taylor; Toronto Masque Theatre’s Artistic Director, Larry Beckwith; soprano, Jennie Such; and jazz composer/performer/producer, Dylan Bell.
The choir has also had the privilege of premiering a number of arrangements by our artistic director, Jenny Crober. 2007 saw the premiere of her arrangement of Gordon Lightfoot’s Song for a Winter’s Night, which featured soloists, Lindy Pinto and Pamela Maxwell-Steele, and guitarists Paul Bartlett and Charlie Roby. We were so thankful to the late and legendary Red Shea, one of Gordon Lightfoot’s favourite lead guitarists, for his very generous help with the guitar accompaniment. In 2008, our choir premiered Jenny’s arrangement of Zachary Richard’s riveting Dans le Nord Canadien, which featured Chi Chi Godin, soloist, Charlie Roby, guitar and Ray Dillard, percussion. Our Celtic Spirit concert (June 2009) included premieres of Ms. Crober’s arrangements of two traditional Irish songs: The Star of the County Down (for tenors and basses) and She Moved Through the Fair, an SATB arrangement featuring tin whistle (Loretto Reid), uillean pipes (Ray Caldwell), Celtic harp (Sharlene Wallace) and tenor soloist (Andrew Haji). In 2009, her arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s River was premiered, featuring SATB choir and soloist (Jenny Sardone) with piano (Elizabeth Acker) and guitar (Michael Occhipinti) accompaniment.
In 2011, we celebrated our 25th anniversary with two wonderful concerts. In June, we performed Carl Orff’s legendary choral work Carmina Burana, with soloists Eve- Lyn de la Haye, soprano, Alexander Dobson, baritone, and James McLennan, tenor; percussionists, Ray Dillard, Andrew Morris, Dean Pomeroy, Julia Cleveland, and Craig Snowden; pianist, Shawn Grenke; and members of the High Park Choirs
Chamber Choir, Allegria (Zimfira Poloz, Conductor). The second half presented an eclectic ‘anthology’ of favourites from past concerts, featuring African, Celtic, classical, jazz, and musical theatre selections.
And in December, we concluded our celebration of our 25th year with a wonderful selection of Christmas, Hanukkah and winter-themed music, including our first commissioned work, Winter Solstice, by celebrated B.C. composer Stephen Hatfield. Our special guest that evening was the founder of the East York Choir, Stephanie Piercey-Beames, of Gatineau, Quebec. She performed several pieces, including the Magnificat For Turning by another celebrated composer, Donald Patriquin of Eastman, Quebec, who we were thrilled to welcome as a guest in the audience. Other guest artists included Ray Dillard, percussion; Les Allt, flute, tin whistle, Irish flute; Charlie Roby, guitar, bouzouki; and Wendy Solomon, cello. Our performance was met with a spontaneous, rousing and lengthy standing ovation that evening!