Jenny Crober: Artistic Director, Conductor
JENNY CROBER, B.Mus., B.Ed. (UWO) has been a collaborative pianist, coach and teacher for over 40 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, including Norwegian/NYC-based composer/pianist Ola Gjeilo, British conductor/composer Bob Chilcott, and Canadian composers Andrew Balfour, Sarah Quartel, Matthew Emery, Elise Letourneau, Stephen Chapman and Stephen Hatfield.
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 and composed for the vocal jazz sextet “Union Station” (heard on CBC Radio), 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.
Jenny has been invited to conduct several choral workshops, including Toronto Mendelssohn Choir ‘Singsation’ events, and choral/orchestral CAMMAC Readings.
For several summers, Jenny has conducted choirs, 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 numerous ensembles, including the Elmer Iseler Singers, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Young Voices Toronto, the Bach Children’s Chorus, CAMMAC, the Riverdale Youth Singers, and the Orillia Vocal Ensemble. This season, she is also enjoying her role as guest director of the Achill Choral Society in Orangeville, Ontario.
She was a member of the Claude Watson voice and piano audition panel for several seasons, and is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach there and at Rosedale Heights School for the Arts. She has been the pianist/coach for several TDSB massed choir projects, and for numerous public schools, including Frankland Community School.
She was honoured to co-conduct a mass choir of singers (including numerous VOCA Chorus members) from several 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 assemble a group of choristers (from both VOCA and Achill, as part of a massed choir in conjunction with DCINY) to perform his major work, “Dreamweaver” with full orchestra and the composer at the piano – at Carnegie Hall in April 2018. VOCA was thrilled and honoured to then perform the Canadian Premiere of this stunning choral/orchestral work by Mr. Gjeilo at their May 2018 “Dreamsongs” concert.
In April 2020, Jenny and Jamie Drake co-produced VOCA’s first virtual choir video, Morten Lauridsen’s Sure On This Shining Night, which resulted in a glowing review in a Mirvish Productions newsletter and currently has over 6,400 views. In April 2022, she and VOCA were thrilled to present their long-awaited “Star Songs” concert at Eastminster United, featuring guests Shawn Grenke, organ, Colleen Allen, soprano sax and Jamie Drake, percussion, which included a World Premiere of Anang (A Star) by celebrated Cree composer, Andrew Balfour. Anang will be published by Cypress Music Publications, and VOCA’s concert recording will be the composition’s official sound file on the website. She is also thrilled that VOCA has been invited to perform as part of Roy Thomson Hall’s 2020 Noon hour Choir & Organ Concert Series, an event which has been rescheduled for Friday, April 28, 2023.
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.
Noelle Slaney: Soprano Lead, Soloist
Both on and off stage, soprano NOELLE SLANEY is unapologetically herself. Born and raised in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, she is an active performer of opera and concert repertoire and strives to challenge the way people think about the world in every performance. Praised for her “lovely, rich tone” and “enviable coloratura”, Noelle was one of eight finalists in the Canadian Opera Company Centre Stage Competition in 2018, and was awarded second place in the vocal category of the Federation of Music Festivals’ National Competition in 2016.
Recent highlights include Laurie Moss in “The Tenderland“, Berta in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia“, and Mme Silberklang in “Der Schauspieldirektor” (University of Toronto Opera), as well as Carlotta in the Atlantic Canadian debut of “Phantom of the Opera” (Opera on the Avalon). A lover of contemporary music projects, she has added her voice to performances of excerpts of R. Murray Schafer’s “Wolf Music” and “Patria IV” (Octatonic Decadence), Escape Room and Disobedience (University of Toronto Opera Student Composer Collective), and “A Window to a Dream: beloved operatic arias and choruses performed for the first time in Farsi” (Cultural Interchange – 360).
Noelle is an interdisciplinary artist and can often be found powerlifting at the gym. Bridging the gap between vocal pedagogy and kinesiology has been an obsession of hers for the past few years, and has led her to find success in both her individual practice and her private teaching. Noelle holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in vocal performance from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Master’s degree in Opera from the University of Toronto.
Lillian Brooks: Alto Lead, Soloist
Mezzo-soprano LILLIAN BROOKS, praised for her “legato, lyric sound” (Ludwig van Toronto), and “easy handling of coloratura” (Schmopera), has appeared in many operatic roles and as an oratorio soloist throughout Canada.
Her past operatic roles include Bradamante in “Alcina“, Third Lady in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, Flora in “La Traviata”, Fenena in “Nabucco“, and Cherubino in “Le nozze di Figaro”. Lillian enjoyed two exciting years with Calgary Opera as a member of their McPhee Artist Development Program during their 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons. She appeared as The Mother in “Amahl and the Night Visitors”, Hansel in “Hansel & Gretel”, and was scheduled to perform the role of Béatrice in “Béatrice et Bénédict“, which was cancelled due to Covid-19.
During the triumphant return to live theatre in 2021/22, Lillian performed as a soloist with Chorus Niagara, Opera in Concert, Toronto Operetta Theatre, and Toronto City Opera. This season, Lillian will make her Brott Music Festival debut as a soloist in their beloved annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah”. She will join INNERchamber in Stratford, ON for a performance of Mahler’s “Rückert-Lieder” arranged for chamber ensemble in February 2023. lillianbrooksmezzo.com
David Walsh: 1st Tenor Lead, Soloist
DAVID WALSH, a native of Toronto, recently finished his Diploma of Opera Performance at the University of Toronto with Honours, after finishing his Bachelor of Music in Performance there in 2020.
While at U of T Opera, he made his role debut as Martin in Aaron Copland’s “The Tenderland” in Spring 2022. In Fall 2021, he made his role debut as Count Almaviva in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia“.
Since graduation, David has participated in a wide range of vocal performances. A highlight of 2022 was when he was asked to perform as the tenor soloist in Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with Chorus Niagara, directed by Robert Cooper. In Fall 2022, he will be singing with the Canadian Opera Company Chorus in both Bizet’s Carmen and Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman“.
As well as being passionate about singing, David is also an avid cyclist. This form of transportation is the way he practices a lot of his repertoire. So, if you ever see a blur of red hair and hear some Rossini or Fauré on the downtown streets of Toronto, you have most likely encountered David Walsh.
Kevin Mulligan: 2nd Tenor Lead, Soloist
KEVIN MULLIGAN is a Toronto-based musician, hailing from Kamloops, British Columbia. He is a versatile artist, working as a tenor, accompanist, educator, and composer.
His singing and acting have taken him to stages across the provinces, from solo, chamber, and cabaret concerts, to productions of “Les Misérables” (WCT) and “Le Comte Ory” (DAM Opera). Equally comfortable performing multiple genres, Kevin has worked in masterclasses with crossover artists, including soprano Cindy Townsend and Elaine Overholt, and pedagogues such as Scott McCoy. He has also premiered dozens of contemporary classical works by Canadian composers. Kevin’s own compositions have been performed across North America by many emerging professional artists and by professional ensembles, including Women on the Verge, the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Toronto Opera Division and Wind Symphony.
Kevin is a co-founder and Program Director of the Marigold Music Program, providing holistic music education to Toronto’s marginalized youth. As an educator, he is proud to be on Faculty at the Kamloops Interior Summer School of Music where he teaches youth K-12 in areas of musical theatre, choir, and piano. Kevin holds a BMus. in Composition and Voice and a MMus. in Composition (specializing in Voice Pedagogy) from the University of Toronto Faculty of Music.
James Coole-Stevenson: 1st Bass Lead, Soloist
At the age of 23, baritone JAMES COOLE-STEVENSON has impressed audiences with his vocal maturity, musicality and dynamic performing range. His performance history includes Demitrius in Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a participant in the Opera NUOVA performance program, where he also played the role of Clerval in the premier of Andrew Ager’s “Frankenstein“. As the lead in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” with the University of Ottawa, James was praised for his contemporary and thoughtful portrayal of the lascivious adulterer. He continued to develop his stage skills in Harry Somers’ “Louis Riel” as a chorus member at the National Arts Centre, Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” as Antonio with the University of Ottawa, chorus member in Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci“, and the role of Superintendent in Massenet’s “Cendrillon“.
James has appeared as a soloist in numerous sacred works, including Rossini’s “Petit Messe Solonelle”, the Fauré “Requiem“, and Brahms’ “Ein deutsches Requiem” with the Pontiac Enchanté Music Festival. He was also a solo recitalist in Music and Beyond’s Emerging Artist Series, which will be repeated this coming summer. He has won numerous awards, including the 2016 Ottawa Chamber Fest’s Rising Star Award, the Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association’s Provincial Championship Prize, and the Schubert Performance Scholarship every year while he was a student at the University of Ottawa.
James is truly passionate about music, and hopes to pursue a career which integrates his interests in both vocal performance and computer science. Following his graduation from the University of Ottawa in 2021, he began a Master’s degree in Opera at the University of Toronto, where he is currently studying with the world-renowned countertenor Daniel Taylor.
Justin Welsh: 2nd Bass Lead, Soloist (Fall 2022)
British Columbia born baritone JUSTIN WELSH‘s budding singing career has spanned across Canada – from Opera, Oratorio, classical concerts… to everything in between.
His 2021 – 2022 Season has included performances with Tapestry Opera, Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, White Snake Projects, and with the Canadian Opera Company’s digital production of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi”. Justin performed with Pacific Opera Victoria for both digital and in-person productions of Raum’s “The Garden of Alice” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. He was also in the cast of Tapestry Opera’s recent, highly-acclaimed production of Current’s “Gould’s Wall“, which was nominated for several Dora Awards.
Opera career highlights include playing Figaro in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” in Victoria, Queequeg in Heggie’s “Moby Dick” in Calgary, Marcello in Puccini’s “La bohème” in Montreal, Crown in a concert-staged version of “Porgy and Bess“, also in Montreal, and Scarpia in Puccini’s “Tosca” in Haliburton, Ontario. In concert opera, Justin has performed in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni “and “The Magic Flute“, Donizetti’s “Elixir of Love” and Lehar’s “The Merry Widow”.
Oratorio highlights include performances as soloist in Handel’s “Messiah“, Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion“, Verdi’s “Requiem” and Beethoven’s “9th Symphony“.
Justin, who is a Canadian Opera Company Ensemble and Tanglewood Summer Institute Alumni, obtained his Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia. Recently, through his job as a Toronto letter carrier, he created the “Canadian Singing Postie” online.
Parker Clements: 2nd Bass Lead, Soloist (Spring 2023)
Originally from Prince Edward Island, baritone PARKER CLEMENTS graduated with his Master’s in Music in Literature and Performance from the University of Western Ontario. While there, he had the opportunity to perform with the Opera Workshop as Escamillo (“Carmen“, 2017), and Marco (“Gianni Schicchi“, 2016), as well Don Giovanni at l’Accademia Europea dell’Opera (2017).
Since graduating, Parker has appeared as soloist in Handel’s “Messiah” with the Confederation Centre Chorus and members of the PEI Symphony, as well as Brahms’ “Requiem” with Luminous Ensemble (Charlottetown).
After moving to Toronto, he sang the role of The Lecturer in Dominick Argento’s solo baritone opera, “A Water Bird Talk” in a joint project with Opera by Request and Abridged Opera. He also performed in SOPAC’s (Ottawa) production of Menotti’s “The Telephone“.
Parker recently graduated from the University of Toronto Opera Diploma program, having played Bartolo in “Le Nozze du Figaro” and Edmund in the Canadian premiere production of Jonathan Dove’s “Mansfield Park“, based on the novel by Jane Austen.
Parker is also a two-time alumnus of the National Youth Choir of Canada (2014, 2016), working under the direction of Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt and Michael Zaugg.