Jenny Crober: Artistic Director, Conductor
JENNY CROBER, B.Mus., B.Ed. (UWO) has been a collaborative pianist, coach and teacher for 39 years. She studied piano with the distinguished pianist, coach and clinician Gwen Beamish MacMillan, and choral conducting with the legendary Deral Johnson. Ensembles she has performed with include the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto Operetta Theatre, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto. She has worked with several noted conductors, including Elmer Iseler, Lydia Adams, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor and Robert Cooper, and with numerous renowned composers; these include: Norwegian/NYC-based composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo, British conductor/composer Bob Chilcott, and Canadian composers Stephen Hatfield, Stephen Chatman, Sarah Quartel and Matthew Emery.
Jenny has had a richly varied career as a professional musician: as a choral conductor, collaborative pianist, choral arranger, choral accompanist, piano teacher, vocal coach, clinician, adjudicator, dance accompanist and composer, chorister and a cappella jazz vocalist. Several of her choral arrangements have been premiered by the VOCA Chorus of Toronto, in collaboration with renowned guest artists, including guitarists Michael Occhipinti and Charlie Roby, and percussionist Ray Dillard, and have been performed by choral ensembles (including the Bach Children’s Chorus) in both Canada and the U.S.
Jenny has also performed with/composed for modern dancers, was a founding member of/composed for the vocal jazz sextet “Union Station” (heard on CBC Radio’s ‘Musical Friends’), and has performed as a back-up vocalist and pianist on several CDs. She was the collaborative pianist on singer Patricia O’Callaghan’s critically-acclaimed classical/cabaret debut CD, “Youkali” (recipient of a “Critic’s Choice” review in Billboard Magazine), and in videos for Bravo TV.
For several summers, Jenny has conducted both children’s and adult choirs, and has coached and accompanied at Lake Field Music Camp, near Peterborough, Ontario. She has been invited to participate in various capacities (guest conductor, coach, rehearsal accompanist and chamber clinician) with several ensembles, including the Elmer Iseler Singers, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Young Voices Toronto (formerly the High Park Choirs of Toronto), the Bach Children’s Chorus, the TDSB Cabaret Ensemble, CAMMAC, the Riverdale Youth Singers and the Orillia Vocal Ensemble.
She has been a member of the Claude Watson (Earl Haig Secondary School) voice and piano audition panel for several seasons, and continues to coach there. She is also a collaborative pianist and vocal coach at Rosedale Heights School for the Arts. Jenny has been the pianist for several TDSB massed choir projects, and presently accompanies the choirs at Frankland Community School.
Jenny has been invited to conduct several workshops, including two Toronto Mendelssohn Choir ‘Singsation’ events, and two choral/orchestral CAMMAC Readings.
She was honoured to co-conduct a mass choir of singers (including several VOCA Chorus members) from six Canadian provinces in a performance of Scott Macmillan’s “Celtic Mass for the Sea” in May 2015 at New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall.
Jenny was also honoured to have been asked by the renowned composer Ola Gjeilo to put together a group of choristers (mostly from VOCA, as part of a massed choir in conjunction with DCINY) to perform two of his major works, “Dreamweaver” and his SATB setting of “Song of The Universal” – with full orchestra and the composer at the piano – at Carnegie Hall in April 2018! VOCA was then thrilled and honoured to perform the Canadian premieres of both of these stunning choral/orchestral works at their May 2018 “Dreamsongs” concert.
She is thrilled that the VOCA Chorus of Toronto has been invited to perform at Roy Thomson Hall as part of its Noon hour Choir & Organ Concert Series. Jenny and VOCA are very much looking forward to presenting their upcoming “Star Songs” concert at RTH and Eastminster United – with guests Shawn Grenke, organ, Colleen Allen, soprano sax and Jamie Drake, percussion, featuring a world premiere by Cree composer, Andrew Balfour – as soon as the pandemic will allow.
Elizabeth Acker: Accompanist
ELIZABETH ACKER received her B.A. from York University. She studied piano with Gladys Angley, Edna Hawkin, Slavka Dimitroff, and James Anagnoson; harpsichord with Michael Kearns; and jazz with Jon Gittens and Frank Falco. She received her BFA from York University in 1980. Versatile in many musical styles, Elizabeth is well known for her work as an accompanist, chamber musician, orchestral pianist, coach, adjudicator, and teacher. She records for Film, TV, Radio, Ballet, and many corporate events.
Elizabeth’s credits include keyboardist for Phantom of the Opera, Assistant Music Director for the Broadway cast of “Those Were the Days”, Music Director for Tarragon Theatre’s “A Country in her Throat”, appearances on CBC Radio, at Premiere Dance Theatre and at the Glenn Gould Studio. She has performed with the Niagara Symphony, Arraymusic and the Severn Players, premiered contemporary works with the Esprit Orchestra, as well as many recording engagements, including the CD, Magic Breath – Songs for Soprano and Piano by the Canadian composer, Helen Medeweff – Greenberg.
Recently, Elizabeth has been indulging her love of chamber music with summers at the musical retreat, “Heaven”, an affiliation of professional musicians in New York State. She also performs and coaches chamber music at the Vermont Music and Arts Centre, a camp for advanced adult chamber music performers, in Lyndonville, Vermont.
She has taught both Suzuki and traditional methods for over 30 years, and is currently teaching privately.
Elizabeth also teaches yoga and tai chi, and is married to composer, Doug Wilde.
Sonya Harper Nyby: Soprano Lead, Soloist
Canadian-American soprano SONYA HARPER NYBY has performed the roles of Pamina (Die Zauberflöte, The Valley of Toronto with Premier Productions Ottawa, ON; Opera on the Avalon, St. John’s, NL), Susanna (Il segreto di Susanna, Voice Studies at the University of Toronto), La Suora Zelatrice (Suor Angelica, Opera on the Avalon), Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte, European Music Academy in Teplice, Czech Republic), Gianetta (L’elisir d’amore, concert performance in Vancouver, BC), and Vittoria (The Gondoliers, Westben Arts Festival Theatre). Ms. Harper Nyby collaborated with Tom Allen (CBC Radio), Lori Gemmell (principal harpist, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony), and Etsuko Kimura (assistant concertmaster, Toronto Symphony Orchestra) for a dramatic narration of A Child’s Christmas in Wales. She frequently performs chamber music with flautist Tristan Durie, most recently in the Lunchtime Chamber Music series presented by Nine Sparrows Arts Foundation. Her oratorio credits include Gounod’s Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile (Toronto Korean Canadian Choir), Mozart’s Mass in C minor (St. Anne’s Anglican Church), Vivaldi’s Gloria and Pergolesi’s Magnificat (Glenview Presbyterian Church), and she is a frequent soloist with Incontra Vocal Ensemble and The Hedgerow Singers, performing repertoire spanning the choral and operatic genres.
Jennifer Routhier: Alto Lead, Soloist
Praised for her “warm, clear mezzo” (Opera Canada, 2014), JENNIFER ROUTHIER is a rising young mezzo-soprano on the Canadian stage. Opera and musical theatre credits include: Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof (Opera NUOVA), La Badessa in Suor Angelica (COSI), Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites, Cherubino in Le Nozzze di Figaro (Opera by Request), and Imelda in the Canadian staging premier of Verdi’s Oberto (TrypTych Opera). In July 2015, she travelled to France to work with internationally lauded directors Jeanette Aster and Hans Nieuwenhuis at La Roche d’Hys, sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts.
In concert, Jennifer has appeared with the Kingston Symphony, Queen’s Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, performing the Mozart Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, the Vivaldi Magnificat and Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio. She was alto soloist in a recent performance of the Vivaldi Gloria under the direction of renowned British conductor, Paul McCreesh. In May 2015, Jennifer made her New York debut singing Scott MacMillan’s Celtic Mass for the Sea with the Canadian Celtic Choir at Carnegie Hall.
In recital, she has toured with collaborative pianist Helen Becqué, and this January 2017, she will be performing with collaborative pianist and Music Director of MYOpera, Natasha Fransblow.
Ms. Routhier holds an Advanced Certificate in Performance from the University of Toronto and a dual degree in Engineering and Music from Queen’s University. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Voice Performance at the University of Toronto.
Jacques Arsenault: 1st Tenor Lead, Soloist
Acadian tenor JACQUES ARSENAULT began his musical career as a virtuoso accordionist before discovering his vocal talents, first as a baritone. He obtained his Master of Music from the U. of Alberta and a Bachelor of Music from the U. of Prince Edward Island, with further studies at the Franz-Schubert-Institut in Austria.
Following his transition to tenor, Jacques made his professional debut in 2015, singing and dancing in the role of Pritschitsch in Edmonton Opera’s The Merry Widow. Jacques joined the cast as Kaspar in Opera Nuova’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, and starred as Archie in Archiebaldo, Cowtown Opera’s raunchy operatic cabaret about the romantic life of the famous comic book character.
Jacques sang Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte and Gastone in La Traviata for Opera on the Avalon, the Gamekeeper in Rusalka and Roy Johnson in The Light in the Piazza with Opera NUOVA, as well as Orphée in Orphée aux enfers, and Léon in Signor Deluso at the U. of Alberta.
Concert performances include Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with Edmonton’s Richard Eaton Singers. Upcoming concerts for Jacques include a recital as part of University of Prince Edward Island’s Recital Series.
In the summer of 2016, Jacques displayed his amazing step-dancing skills portraying several roles in the The Bells of Baddeck in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; this charming music-drama was created by Lorna MacDonald with music by Dean Burry, based on the life of Alexander Graham Bell.
Jacques returned as Archie in sold-out performances of Archiebaldo, presented by Calgary Opera at their 2016 “Opera in the Village” festival.
In 2017, Jacques looks forward to singing the role of The Young Man in Miracle Theatre’s production of The Last Romance in Prince George, B.C.
Lee Clapp: 2nd Tenor Lead, Soloist
Recent stage credits include Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte with the Muskoka Opera Festival and Ufficiale in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera 5.
Lee has also participated in the St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea Opera Workshop and performed at the Berkeley Early Music Festival.
Originally from Kingston, Ontario, he trained with the Cantabile Choirs of Kingston, and has returned in recent years to sing with the Kingston Choral Society and Orchestra Kingston, performing as a soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, as Nanki-poo in ‘The Mikado’, and as a soloist in a Gilbert & Sullivan concert.
Lee, who has been a tenor lead with the VOCA Chorus of Toronto since 2018, has sung with the choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal, is a former Sidgwick Scholar with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and is currently a lead with the choir of Grace Church on-the-Hill.
Janaka Welihinda: 1st Bass Lead, Soloist
Praised for his “clear talent for comic acting” and “clear voice” (Opera Canada, 2015), comic baritone JANAKA WELIHINDA is quickly establishing himself amongst audiences as a captivating young artist with “considerable panache” (Reviews and Views, 2017).
This past season, Mr. Welihinda made his professional debut with Toronto Operetta Theatre as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance. In 2015, Indian River Festival and Stratford Summer Music Festival as Papageno in Brent Krysa’s whimsical adaptation of The Magic Flute. Janaka joined the His other roles have included Claudio in Béatrice et Benedict, Uberto in La Serva Padrona, Bartolo and Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, Frank in Die Fledermaus, Ben in The Telephone, and Gulgielmo and Don Alfonso in Così Fan Tutte, and Harry Easter in the professional Canadian premiere of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. In 2007, Janaka developed the role of Meursault in the world premier of Ian Cherry’s new opera based on the novel by Camus: L’Étranger.
Janaka holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance and Literature from Brandon University and a Masters of Music in Performance and Literature from the University of Western Ontario.
Nicholas Borg: 2nd Bass Lead, Soloist
Baritone NICHOLAS BORG recently completed his Masters in Opera at the University of Toronto with Wendy Nielsen. With UofT Opera, Nicholas portrayed Ben in The Telephone, Hel Helson in Britten’s Paul Bunyan, Sir Joseph Porter in HMS Pinafore and The Man with the Cornet Case in Postcard from Morocco. He recently performed Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia with MYOpera.Other roles include Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Curio in Giulio Cesare, Count in Le nozze di Figaro, Masetto in Don Giovanni,and Simone in Gianni Schicchi.
This summer, Nicholas participated in the St. Andrews Arts Council Opera Workshop and performed the title role in Eugene Onegin for the Muskoka Opera Festival.