The RUC choir is a chamber ensemble of professional and skilled amateur singers, versatile across many musics, who generously and passionately, offer their gifts to the weekly liturgical music of the church service. Whether pursuing active performing careers or engaged in other professional pursuits during the week, the members of this 25-voice ensemble come together on Sunday mornings with a common and collaborative goal: to contribute to the spiritual life of the congregation as well as to each other, through the power of singing that speaks to the soul.
Please enjoy these sample tracks of the choir:
About the sample tracks:
Notes by Wayne Strongman CM, Director of Music
May it be
lyrics and music by Bri-anne Swan
Soloist with guitar and Choir
We are very blessed at RUC to have a number of celebrated musicians as members of the congregation. Singer-songwriter Bri-anne Swan performs regularly within the liturgy. For the Advent Season, she has composed this contemporary poetic response, based upon the Song of Mary (Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55). After a verse of story narrative to set the scene of Mary’s wonderment at the news that she is to bear a Child, the refrain becomes an ostinato chorus, echoed by the choir and picked up by the congregation, as a backdrop to Mary’s Song. Bri-anne is the singer and guitarist, accompanied by the choir.
O Quanta Qualia, Op. 394
Hymn-Anthem for All Saints Day, arr. Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Choir and organ
In 1956, at the tender age of 76 years, Healey Willan was dubbed “the Dean of Canadian composers”. He was indeed, the first Canadian composer to earn a substantial living from commissions and royalties, including a piece commissioned for the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Of over 800 compositions for organ, opera, symphony, and vocal solo, his greatest output was liturgical choral music. O Quanta Qualia (O what their Joy) is a fine example of Willan’s compositional technique, employing the harmonies of Brahms and Wagner in the rich organ interludes while maintaining a purist 16th C. approach to the choral writing, including a faux-bourdon verse (melody in the tenor). Given his stature in Canada, his academic achievements and international reputation, Willan was a formidable presence in any room. Fortunately for those closest to him, he had a wicked sense of humour, as evidenced by his self-declared genealogy: “English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption.”
An interesting historical footnote is that Willan was Organist at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Bloor Street from 1913 to 1921. Undoubtedly he was integral to the 1914 installation of their new Casavant Frères organ, Opus 590, which was at that time the largest instrument in Canada. Concurrently, a few blocks north-east, Casavant was also installing their Opus 591, (a much more modest instrument) at the new Northern Congregationalist Church, which became Rosedale United Church in 1925.
River in Judea
Feldman/Marcus arr. Leavitt
Soprano Solo and Choir with Piano Accompaniment
The versatility of the choir is further displayed in this gospel-style song that originated as a secular piece but has been enthusiastically received by many churches because of the richness of the metaphorical river. Following Christine Hanson’s pulse-setting piano introduction, Laurie Hurst, soprano, leads off with the first verse in her very stylish and personal approach. The full choir, many of whom have operatic training, choose to emulate her distinct style with sincerity and verve. By the end however, no one can resist the urge for a microphone-blowing final chord! This piece is a favourite of our congregation. We perform it with the singers surrounding the congregation, and everyone joins in on the refrain.
Ubi Caritas et Amor (Quatre Motets sur des themes Grégorien, Op. 10)
Maurice Duruflé (1902 – 1986)
Divided A Cappella Choir in 8 parts
One of France’s most distinguished organist composers of the 20th Century, Duruflé’s greatest contribution to organ and choral literature was his adaptation of ancient plainsong to secular harmonies of the modern French school. His most enduring choral opus is Requiem Op. 9, followed closely by the four a cappella motets (Op. 10). Ubi caritas et amor (“Where there is charity and love, God is there”) is for double choir, the plainsong led by the alto section. In this recording, we have chosen to create the stereo affect by employing the Alto section as Choir 1, and the Soprano section as Choir 2 (echo). Each of the male divisions are also divided.
traditional African American Spiritual arr. Jack O’Holloran
A Cappella Choir
Employing the “call-answer” technique of African tradition, this stirring Spiritual casts the men as the questioner, and the women as having the answer (perceptive arranger!). Other technical virtues include the basses imitating pizzicato string bass, and section solos for character quotations. Two verses draw on characters from the Bible (Nicodemus & Samson) who are cited as examples of the power of witnessing to the Lord. The women lead the exultant cheer: “There’s another witness!” followed by the men in imitation, again all voice parts divided so there are 8 vocal lines, culminating in a jubilant cry in the major key.
Members of the choir:
Kristine has performed across Canada, the USA and England in operas, oratorios, concerts, and musical theatre productions. She performed principal roles in productions with The Canadian Opera Company, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Opera Ora, Calgary Opera, The Guelph Spring Festival, and The Sharon Festival as well as appearing in concerts with Tapestry Singers of Toronto.
Her most extended role was as ‘Madame Giry’ in the Live Entertainment production of The Phantom of the Opera which toured Canada as well as Hawaii and Alaska. She appeared in The Mikado at the National Arts Centre, in the award-winning production of A Little Night Music with The Canadian Stage in Toronto, and in the Macdonald-Mirvish Production of H.M.S. Pinafore at the Royal Alex Theatre. She also appeared in productions of The Sound of Music both in Calgary and in Hamilton. In the world of musical theatre, she performed leading roles with Young People’s Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Huron Country Playhouse, The Globe Theatre, and on tour in the U.S.A.
With her trio “The Ginger Group” Kristine recorded a CD of Canadian folk songs and toured Canada with the show they created called “Canadian Treasures”.
Scott started in music as a boy soprano at St James Orillia under Albert Greer, followed by many years in musical theatre, jazz choirs, professional acting, and roles in opera productions with companies such as Opera in Concert, Toronto Operetta Theatre, and Opera Anonymous. Great memories include a madcap adaptation of Sophocles’ The Clouds together with Laurie Hurst and Rod Campbell, Thomas’ Hamlet the Opera in French with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre, and Ramiro in L’Heure Espagnol with Op Anon.
Other recent credits include singing in the ensemble of Kevin Mallon’s Juno-nominated Vivaldi CD with Aradia Ensemble with the incomparable Maria Soulis in a leading role. He is thankful to make his living helping creating documentaries, lifestyle, features, and other film projects for CBC, BBC, Discovery Channel, and others. Scott feels blessed to be able to sing for, and be a part of the caring Rosedale community.
Described by Cesky Kultur Magazine (Czech Republic) as “a bright tenor, with a lovely lyrical Mozart voice” Stephen is a young upcoming tenor in the Canadian Opera scene. A member of the Calgary Opera Young Emerging Artist Program for the 2006/2007 season, he made his Calgary Opera debuts as Trevor in John Estacio’s opera Frobisher followed by Spoletta in Tosca. Recent engagements have included Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore, Tamino in Die Zauberfloete, Oronte in Alcina, Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville, and Tanzmeister/Brighella in Ariadne. Mr. Bell performed with the city opera theater Meteske Divadlo Usti Nad Labem, Czech Republic in the 2006-09 seasons, singing such roles as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Lensky in Eugene Onegin, Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte, and Tamino in Die Zauberfloete. Stephen recently performed the role of Gernando in Hadyn’s L’isola Disabitata with the Kevin Mallon and the 13 Strings in Ottawa. For the past 9 seasons, Stephen has been a full-time member of the Canadian Opera Company chorus, and has sung numerous understudy and small roles. In concert work, Stephen has sung the tenor soloist Handel’s Messiah with the Vancouver Bach Choir, the Missisauga Choral Society, and toured with Teplice Radio Orchestra in the Czech Republic. He released two recordings of Estonian Art Song, Kojuigatsus, and Lessons Learned, both with pianist Charles Kipper. Selections from Kojuigatsus were featured in the award winning Estonian documentary feature film “Keepers of the Loom” at Estdocs 2014. Along with Charles Kipper, Stephen has performed for various recital societies featuring Estonian artsong in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, New York, and most recently Estonia.
Peggy Mahon has played leading roles in both plays and musicals on most major stages in Canada, as well as some in the US (Studebaker Theatre in Chicago), Capetown, Hong Kong, and, last year, at the Earl’s Court Theatre in the West End of London.
On TV, she was a leading lady to “Wayne & Shuster” for several years, a regular on “Wind at My Back”, a dozen character voices on “Tales of the Riverbank”, and several other Canadian series. Peggy was recently featured in the film “Dr. Cabbie”.
Peggy recorded many CBC radio dramas, several jazz CDs, and hundreds of “Talking Books” for the CNIB. She currently serves on the boards of ACTRA, AFBS, National Theatre School Alumni Assoc., teaches, and directs (“Marilyn After” won best foreign solo show in NYC).
Robert Missen has been a stalwart member of the tenor section of the Rosedale Choir since 1985. His forty-five-year history as a professional singer has included numerous concerts, tours, recordings and broadcasts as both soloist and chorister with such organizations as the Festival Singers, Elmer Iseler Singers, Tapestry Singers and the Canadian Opera Company. Since 1990 he has largely focussed his attention on a career as an artist manager and promoter for such distinguished Canadian artists as Maureen Forrester, Ben Heppner, Stuart McLean, Michael Burgess, Veronica Tennant, Sylvia Tyson, and The Men of the Deeps. He is delighted to have worked closely with many members of the congregation on numerous special concerts, dinners, and fundraising events.
Catherine Morrow sings first soprano at Rosedale United Church. She serves as guest soloist in many Toronto-area and Muskoka churches, for musical theatre concerts, and was professional soprano with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Elora Festival Singers, and at Temple Sinai. A graduate with a BHons in English and French from University of Toronto’s Trinity College, Catherine has a diploma in French Language and Civilization from la Sorbonne at l’Université de Paris. She studied voice at the Royal Conservatory and at the Conservatoire de Paris.
Married to composer Norman Gabriel Nurmi (now a bass at Rosedale), Catherine and Norman perform occasional cabaret concerts, notably a series of fundraising events for Tapestry Opera, of which they are now Directors Emeritus. Catherine is the grateful recipient of several of Norman’s songs written especially for her range and vocal colour, and she takes great delight in sharing some of them in several recordings, including the Chorona ensemble’s In Bethlehem Tonight, and the solo vocal CDs My Lord What a Morning, All I See is You, and a recording of seasonal songs, A Child Born There, the latter two also featuring renowned violinist Moshe Hammer and pianist Ross Inglis.
Catherine works full-time as Associate Director of Development and as editor for CIJA, a non-profit advocacy organization on behalf of Canada’s Jewish community. She ran a personal event-planning company from home and, in her spare time, continues to edit grants and other written materials for non-profits. Catherine is active as a volunteer in the Toronto arts community. A hobby is creation of hand-painted glassware and she is the proud mother of three beautiful grown daughters.
NORMAN GABRIEL NURMI
In addition to work as a baritone with Canada’s most prominent professional choirs, Norman, a bass at Rosedale United, is a composer working in many genres including love songs, sacred solos, small-ensemble pieces, children’s choruses, and commissioned choral compositions.
Norman’s beautiful carol “In Bethlehem Tonight” was the title track of a Christmas CD featuring several of his own and other Canadian composers’ works performed by the vocal ensemble Chorona and was featured on Lullabies and Carols of Christmas, the recent acclaimed Naxos CD by soprano Monica Whicher and harpist Judy Loman. His work has been commissioned, performed and recorded by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Norman has produced several CDs including My Lord What a Morning, a collection of 14 of his songs as well as All I See is You, and A Child Born There, featuring his wife, and Rosedale United soprano Catherine Morrow, renowned violinist Moshe Hammer, pianist Ross Inglis, and flautist Christopher Lee.
Along with his composing, arranging, and recording, Norman sings and conducts at Toronto-area churches and synagogues, performs with the male pop-quartet The Retro Ramblers, teaches voice and piano, accompanies children’s choirs, and is a musical director for school productions.
Vancouver-born contralto Deborah Overes has made a career in concert, opera, and music theatre. Her diverse repertoire includes a number of comic roles including all the major G&S contralto roles. Her many dramatic roles include Zia Principessa (Suor Angelica) and Baba (The Medium). She has performed with many Canadian companies and internationally with the Wexford Festival Opera and Festival Lyrique International de Belle-Île en Mer. Musical theatre appearances include the Sound of Music for both Mirvish and the Stratford Festival and touring with Phantom of the Opera. Deborah has been lucky enough to sing with her colleagues at Rosedale United for almost 20 years.
David has been singing bass with the Rosedale Choir since 1995. His past amateur experience includes choral singing and musical theatre during his high school years. Since 1995 David has continued to study the bass part through voice training, choir participation, and a personal interest in music which showcases the bass part.
Award winning, Toronto-based musician Louis Simão has been composing, performing and recording as a multi-instrumentalist in a variety of genres for twenty years. 2016 marked the release of his much-anticipated solo album, “A LUZ” (The Light) – a collection of Simão’s own compositions and arrangements that takes the listener on a journey through the sounds of the Portuguese-speaking world as experienced through the life of this first-generation Canadian son of Portuguese immigrants. His cultural background combined with his jazz sensibility and chamber music compositional style come together to create a voice that is at once universal while remaining deeply personal.
As a sideman, Louis Simão has performed and/or recorded with Nelly Furtado, Dominic Mancuso (2010 JUNO winner), Michael Occhipinti’s Sicilian Jazz Project (2009 JUNO nominee), Kiran Ahluwalia, Luis Mario Ochoa, Justin Rutledge, Guinga, Henrique Cazes, Patricia Cano, Daniela Nardi’s Espresso Manifesto, Sophie Milman, Bill McBirnie, “MARIA SEVERA” at The Shaw Festival, Tapestry New Opera Works, Eliana Cuevas, Aline Morales and Luanda Jones. Described as “utterly unique” (CBC Radio One), he was the winner of the 2007 USA Songwriting Competition in the World Music category with his song, “Fado Torto”. Simão has opened for Cesaria Evora and Celso Machado, shared a night with Brazilian reggae stars Chico Cesar and Rita Ribeiro, toured Portugal (2006); and in 2008, was the invited artist of the Portuguese Consulate and the Instituto Camões at the Festival de Printemps in Azzemour, Morocco. In 2017, he was nominated in 3 separate categories for the 2017 International Portuguese Music Awards (IPMA) and won Song of the Year with his composition “Três Anos” (Simão/Petrilli). In November of 2017, he was named World Solo Artist of the Year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Simão’s diverse skills also have him in demand as a music educator and clinician as well as a panel juror for the Canada Council for the Arts and FACTOR.
Maria Soulis, mezzo soprano, has been active in both Canada and Europe on the operatic and concert stage. After three years as a resident singer with the Regensburg Opera in Germany (1999–2002), she branched out as a freelance artist in theatres throughout Europe. In Canada she has sung with Pacific Opera Victoria, Tapestry Opera, Chorus Niagara, Symphony Nova Scotia, and the Aradia Ensemble, with whom she recorded the JUNO nominated CD, Sacred Music – Volume 4, featuring music of Antonio Vivaldi. An avid recitalist, Maria has an extensive song repertoire that spans the English, French, Spanish, Greek, and German languages.
After two years as a secondary school music teacher in her native London, ON, Susan moved to Toronto to pursue a career in music theatre, whereupon she immediately began singing with the Canadian Opera Company Chorus and various Toronto-area professional choirs. In addition to her role of professional soprano and occasional conductor at Rosedale, Susan is a core member of the Tafelmusik Baroque Chamber Choir. She is a former professional member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Elora Festival Singers, the Elmer Iseler Singers, and the Canadian Opera Company Chorus.
Susan holds a Master of Music in Performance degree with a specialty in Vocal Pedagogy from the University of Toronto. She maintains a busy schedule teaching private voice lessons from her midtown studio where her students also engage in regular master classes and recitals. As a conductor/teacher she currently leads the Preparatory Chorus of the VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto, the youngest of VIVA!’s five choirs. She conducted the Northern Ontario tour of Elijah’s Kite and performances of Sanctuary Song for Tapestry Opera. For Jumblies Theatre, she conducted Juliet Palmer’s Like an Old Tale. She has been an Artist Educator for the Canadian Opera Company and a music teacher in the public school system.
In her career as an arts administrator, Susan is manager of VIVA! Youth Singers, a choral organization for singers age four to adult. Susan formerly held the positions of Managing Editor for Opera Canada magazine and Leadership Legacy Intern for Tapestry Opera.
Jim Thomas is an almost-retired member of the Rosedale United Church choir bass section. In his working life he was a Deputy Minister in the Ontario Government, a labour lawyer, and for the past twenty years, a management consultant working with Executive Teams and Boards of Directors. In his music life, he is a jazz flute player with his own jazz group, TranzitionzJazz, and sings in a community choir, VOCA, as well as in a newly established vocal jazz ensemble, The Jazz Project. Jim has two daughters – one in Toronto and one in Seattle – and four grandchildren. His introduction to Rosedale United Church came through his wonderful neighbour, Fran Deacon.
Julie joined Rosedale United Church in the spring of 1966, and joined the church choir in 1967. Julie has been involved in school, church, and community choirs from the age of 6. She sang with the Hart House Chorus in her university years and with the University of Toronto Symphony Chorus in later years. Currently, Julie conducts the Junior choir at RUC and acts as the Inclusion Consultant with Viva Youth Singers.
Julie taught Core French, Music, and choir at Sunny View Public School for almost 30 years. She still does supply teaching at the school. She was married for ten and a half years, but has been a widow for eight and a half. She volunteers one morning a week at Centennial Infant and Child Centre. Julie loves kids, reading, singing, walking, movies, animals, and making desserts.