CARMINA BURANA, Sat., May 27, 2017

On Saturday, May 27, 2017 at 7:30 PM, the VOCA Chorus of Toronto presented ‘CARMINA BURANA’ at Eastminster United Church in Toronto.

We started the evening with the jubilant Kenyan water song, Kawouno Wan Gi Pi, by Vivian Anyango and Vivian Aluoch, arranged by Vancouver composer Brian Tate, featuring guest percussionists, TorQ Percussion Quartet (Richard Burrows, Adam Campbell, Jamie Drake and Daniel Morphy). This was followed by the Ontario premiere of Ottawa composer Elise Letourneau’s gorgeous, jazz-inspired work, My Symphony.  Our audience and choristers were then treated to a solo set by TorQ, opening with two African-inspired works, Wash and Earth, both by Daniel Morphy. TorQ then performed the world premiere of Daniel Morphy’s two marimba arrangement of the renowned composer Ola Gjeilo’s opening movement of his celebrated Sunrise Mass, The Spheres.  (*This arrangement was specifically requested by Mr Gjeilo.)  Our opening set concluded with the exquisite closing movement of Ola Gjeilo’s “Sunrise Mass”, “The Ground”, featuring Elizabeth Acker, piano, and TorQ Percussion Quartet, premiering Richard Burrows’ marimba/xylophone arrangement of The Ground’s string quartet parts.

During the second portion of our program, we presented a full concert version of Carl Orff’s monumental masterwork, “Carmina Burana” (Orff’s own chamber arrangement for 2 pianos and percussion), possibly the most popular major choral work of the 20th Century.

We featured some of Canada’s finest professional singers (soprano Elizabeth Polese, baritone Michael Nyby and tenor Christopher Mayell), percussionists (TorQ Percussion Quartet) and pianists (Elizabeth Acker, Shawn Grenke), as well as our ‘youth ensemble’: a group of talented vocal music students from the Claude Watson School for the Arts (Saba Blyden-Taylor, Erica Eng, Julia Lapena and Katelyn Watts). The house erupted with an immediate, lengthy – and raucous! – standing ovation at the end of our performance of this legendary work.


On Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 7:30 PM, the VOCA Chorus of Toronto presented ‘THE GREAT CANADIAN CHOIRBOOK’ at Eastminster United Church.

Guest Artists: Cherie Maracle, vocalist; Michael Occhipinti, guitar; Rob Clutton, bass; Jamie Drake, percussion; special guest, James Gordon, vocalist, guitar

The evening opened with an official welcome from the federal government by Toronto Danforth MP, Julie Dabrusin, followed by a performance of “O Canada”, sung in Mohawk by Six Nations actor/singer, Cherie Maracle. Ms. Maracle then performed two powerful indigenous songs: an Obijway “Gathering Song”, and “The Woman’s Honour Song”, by Jennifer Kreisberg.

The choral portion of our evening began with B.C. world music composer, arranger and musician, Ed Henderson’s buoyant version of “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In”.  We then performed B.C. composer Stephen Chatman’s stunning setting of Shakespeare’s famous “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind”, followed by “Les Draveurs de la Gatineau”, an arrangement by Stephen Hatfield for choir and piano.  Our performance of Ron Smail‘s choral arrangement of Wade Hemsworth’s “Log Driver’s Waltz”, featuring soprano lead Kelsey Taylor, was followed by Stan Rogers’ legendary and powerful ballad, “Northwest Passage”, also arranged by Ron Smail.  Two compelling choral arrangements by musician Beth Hanson of Toronto-born singer-songwriter Jane Sibbery‘s music followed: the poignant “Love Is Everything”, and “The Valley”, Siberry’s tender ballad, which featured our sopranos and altos.  After our carol sing, we performed artistic director Jenny Crober’s arrangement of Guelph singer-songwriter James Gordon‘s legendary “Frobisher Bay”, a ballad much-loved by our choir, featuring soloist Tonatiuh Abrego. We concluded our first half with a world premiere: the uplifting “Fall and Rise”, written by James Gordon as a tribute to the power of community.

We were thrilled to present another world premiere to open the second half of our concert: renowned jazz guitarist Michael Occhipinti’s arrangement (his first for choir) of Bruce Cockburn’s “Waiting For A Miracle”, featuring soloists Judy MacDougallChrissy Doig and Tonatiuh Abrego.  Our next selection, Ottawa composer Elise Letourneau‘s award-winning “Peace Prayer”, a tribute to the great Ray Charles, was performed with piano, guitar, bass and drums. Our tenors and basses then performed the chant-like “Yuletide Fires” by B.C. choral director, Diane Loomer. We performed Kingston composer, Mark Sirett’s plaintive setting of “Un Canadien Errant” (also known as “Un Acadien Errant”), written by Antoine Gerin-Lajoie in 1842 about the pain of exile. Another Acadian selection about the longing for home followed: the poignant “Le Voyageur”, by Angèle and Albert Arsenault, recorded by PEI’s Barachois. This ballad was arranged and performed (voice, accordion) for our concert by Jacques Arsenault.  Elise Letourneau‘s kitchen-party setting of Confederation poet William Wilfrid Campbell’s poem, “A Canadian Folk Song” picked up the mood. After our audience sing-along, we performed the soulful Pentatonix choral arrangement of Montreal-born Leonard Cohen‘s iconic “Hallelujah”.  “River”, by one of Canada’s most legendary songwriters, Joni Mitchell, is another truly iconic ode – to both heartbreak and to winter in Canada.  Our performance of Jenny Crober‘s choral arrangement of another iconic ode, “River”, by one of Canada’s most legendary songwriters, Joni Mitchell, featured soloist Jenny Sardone.  Our entire ‘cast’ finished off this celebratory evening with the renowned composer and organist, Paul Halley’s “Song For Canada”, a rousing anthem in praise of the beauty of our country.