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PREVIEW | Community Choral Workshops With The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

By Brian Chang on November 22, 2016


Opportunities for communal singing outside of choir rehearsals are always welcome. Whether at Choir Choir Choir!, karaoke, or singing in church, there’s great fun in showing up and singing. One of the most unique and significant contributions to this communal singing is the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s Singsation Saturdays. (Note, I do sing in the Choir, but we aren’t expected to participate in these Singsations; I usually do because they are fun.)

For six opportunities every year and costing only $10 to participate, Singsation Saturday choral workshops feature guest conductors from across North America. Each Singsation provides a 2 hour intensive on a handful of works or one big one. I don’t know of comparable, regular events like this in the choral ecosystem of Toronto.

Since 1999 these workshops have resulted in over 100 workshops in everything from American Musicals to Rachmaninoff Vespers to Haydn’s Creation to Opera Choruses to Handel’s Coronation Anthems. These have been led by over 50 different Choral leaders including Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, Sandra Horst, Bob Anderson, Ivars Taurins, Ruth Watson Henderson, Karen Burke, David Fallis, and the Choir’s own Noel Edison to name just a few.

Coming up on Saturday, November 26th is the Music of Haydn with Jennifer Min-Young Lee. She is the current Associate Conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and a very experienced music educator. Holding an undergraduate degree in music from Western University and a Masters in Conducting from Eastman, she teaches music at Bur Oak Secondary School in York Region. Lee will lead participants in Haydn’s Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo No 7, commonly known as the Little Organ Mass. She will also lead participants in selections of Aus Des Ramlers Lyrischer Blumenlese.

Lee enjoys the contrast of the two pieces in Haydn’s wide breadth of writing. His work is the hallmark of classical writing and Lee likes that these pieces show “radical improvement over his career.” The Little Organ Mass comes from an earlier period in his career with fewer instruments, and she describes it as “meaningful, simple, and beautiful.” To contrast this she chose selections of the non-religious Aus Des Ramlers Lyrischer Blumenlese. Lee continues with her love of Haydn explaining that the majority of his work was commissioned by patrons; he very rarely wrote anything for himself. These little German songs were unique in their secular inspiration and that he just wrote them because he could. She continues “they are fun and humourous.”  

Singsation draws on average 100 people. Trying to find enough music for that many people can be a challenge. For the Haydn performance, Jennifer visited her alumnus at Eastman College at the University of Rochester to find enough copies to loan for the singsation. These workshops are hosted out of the church hall at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.  

The remaining Singsation Saturdays are:

  • November 26th, 2016, 10:30 a.m., with Jennifer Min-Young Lee featuring the music of Haydn
  • February 11th, 2017, 10:30 a.m., with Xavier Brossard-Ménard featuring Duruflé’s Requiem and Vierne’s Messe Solennelle
  • March 18th, 2017, 10:30 a.m., with Stephanie Martin featuring Elgar’s The Apostles
  • April 8th, 2017, 10:30 a.m., with Karen Burke featuring Gospel Music
  • May 6th, 2017, 10:30 a.m., with Dan Rutzen featuring Chichester Psalms
  • See tmchoir.org for the full list


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