THE SCOOP | Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Finds Its New Artistic Director, Finally

By Michael Vincent on May 31, 2021

Jean-Sébastien Vallée, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Artistic Director
Jean-Sébastien Vallée (Photo: Tam Lan Truong)

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMC) has named Jean-Sébastien Vallée as its new conductor. The announcement, made Monday night, ends TMC’s three-year search for an artistic director.

Based in Montreal, Vallée will join TMC Associate Conductor Simon Rivard starting June 1, 2021.

Plans for the 2021-22 season are also underway, with hints if Brahms’ Requiem, Festival of Carols with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO), Sacred Music for a Sacred Space concert with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and a new commission by Odawa First Nation composer Barbara Croall.

“It is a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of Sir Ernest MacMillan, Elmer Iseler and all the esteemed Canadian musicians who led TMC over the past two centuries,” writes Vallée in a press release statement. “Further, I look forward to working with the TMC’s choral artists to write a new chapter in the choir’s history – a chapter where musical excellence is rooted in accessible, inclusive and diverse artistic initiatives.”

As the house-choir for the Toronto Symphony, the TSO’s Gustavo Gimeno wished him well. “I am pleased to offer a heartfelt welcome to Jean-Sébastien Vallée, who I know will continue to evolve the choral art form, enrich the TSO audience experience and serve Toronto music lovers.”

Who is Jean-Sébastien Vallée?

  • Director of Choral Studies at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University
  • Conductor of the acclaimed Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal
  • Music Director of the Ottawa Choral Society (concluding with the 2021/22 season)
  • Former Director of Choral Studies at California State University in Los Angeles and was on the choral faculty of the University of Redland
  • Advocate for contemporary music

Why this matters

The naming of Vallée marks the end of a particularly turbulent period for the choir.  In 2018, TMC’s Noel Edison resigned in disgrace after Ludwig Van went public with sexual misconduct allegations against Edison. He was also dismissed from his role at The Elora Festival Singers.  The TMC was quick to act, pressing forward with the help of well-known early music scholar and conductor David Fallis who graciously step in to cover for the abrupt departure. Edison has since started his own choir, called the Edison Singers. The chamber choir has been active online since 2020, but judging from the view counts on their YouTube channel, they have yet to make an impact.

Meanwhile, the TMC’s was hard at work on an extensive international search for a new Artistic Director. The search was originally planned to last two years but was delayed by the pandemic. Board Chair Denny Young stated, we were fiercely determined that TMC would emerge from the pandemic with a renewed energy and passion for choral music, and we knew that to achieve that goal we had to conclude the appointment without further delay.”

The TMC will release complete details for the 2021-22 season, including the date for Vallée’s conducting debut as Artistic Director, this summer.

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Michael Vincent
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