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PREVIEW | Live Painting, Two Choirs Perform Handel’s Messiah At St. James Cathedral

By Anya Wassenberg on December 7, 2023

St. James Cathedral and choirs (Photo courtesy of St. James Cathedral)
St. James Cathedral and choirs (Photo courtesy of St. James Cathedral)

With two choirs, four soloists, and one painter, St. James Cathedral’s version of Handel’s Messiah will appeal to the eyes as well as the ears. The performance takes place on December 15, with the Choir of St. James Cathedral and the Chapel Choir of Trinity College, University of Toronto, along with the 14-member Orchestra of St. James under conductor Thomas W. D. Bell.

In addition to the more than 50 members of the two choirs, the soloists include: soprano Anna Kwiatkowska; mezzo-soprano Christina Stelmacovich; tenor Jacob Abrahamse and bass-baritone Dion Mazerolle.

Artist Hope Flynn will be painting live during the performance, inspired by the oratorio as it is sung. The work will be auctioned with a reserve price of $200.


One will paint, four will sing, and one will conduct the performance.

Artist Hope Flynn

Artist, muralist and illustrator Hope Flynn graduated from OCAD University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree specializing in Drawing and Painting in 2018. She is the recipient of several grants and awards that recognize her work, with a special interest in painting animals (inspired by a dear departed dog), murals and public art, and live painting. Her work appears in many private collections across the globe.

Samples of her work:

The work of painter Hope Flynn (Photo courtesy of the artist)
The work of painter Hope Flynn (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Soprano Anna Kwiatkowska

A violist as well as an operatic soprano, Anna is a native of Poland, and graduated from the Music Academy in Lodz. There, she earned a MMus in viola, voice, and acting performance. She went on to continue her studies at the University of California in Los Angeles, CA (UCLA, Faculty of Opera Performance). Her performance repertoire includes a variety of roles, such as Tytania in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (UCLA), Rosina in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Seviglia, Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Sandrina in La Cecchina by Piccini (Musiakademie Rheinsberg). Alongside her work as a soloist, she has a longstanding interest in choral singing. In addition to international appearances, she has appeared with Opera Atelier, Gryphon Trio, Tafelmusik Choir, Toronto Chamber Choir and St. James Cathedral Choir.

Mezzo-Soprano Christina Stelmacovich

Toronto native Christina Stelmacovich has brought home prizes from several international vocal competitions, and has performed in North America, Mexico and Europe. As a soloist, she has appeared with the City of Birmingham Choir and the Renaissance Singers of England, The Elora Singers, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Tafelmusik Baroque Choir and Orchestra, Early Music Vancouver, Early Music Voices of Calgary, the Grand Philharmonic Choir of Kitchener and the New World Orchestra of Mexico City. She is currently also a member of the Elora Singers, and when not performing works as the Manager of the Elora Festival and Singers.

Tenor Jacob Abrahamse

Jacob Abrahamse made his operatic debut by creating the starring role of the Holy Child in the Dora-award-winning premiere of R. Murray Schafer’s opera, The Children’s Crusade. He joins the Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Singer this season in an internationally recognized programme. His 2023/24 performing season includes Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata with BrottOpera, and as the tenor soloist in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s presentation of Bach’s Mass in B Minor at Koerner Hall. He’ll be performing in a second Messiah with the TSO in a benefit concert for the United Way, and as the tenor soloist in two versions of Mozart’s Requiem, one with the Toronto Beach Chorale and Orchestra, and another with the Mississauga Chamber Singers and Orchestra.

Bass-Baritone Dion Mazerolle

Acadian baritone Dion Mazerolle is a former member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. He recently made his debut as Golaud in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, created by the Barbe & Doucet design team at the Teatri di Piacenza in Italy, and also as le Roi de Trèfle in Prokofiev’s opera L’Amour
des trois oranges with Opera National de Lorraine in Nancy, France. Upcoming roles in 2024 include Osman in Rameau’s Les Indes Galante, with Nouvel Opéra Métropolitain/Festival Classica, Carmina Burana with the Guelph Chamber Choir, Haydn’s Creation with Galileo Orchestre and Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse (Boismortier) with Ensemble Caprice, among others.

Conductor Thomas Bell

Church musician, composer, and teacher Thomas Bell began his music education as a boy chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, England. Along with singing in the choir, he played piano, violin and flute. He went on to study the flute at Durham University, and he subsequently taught music in Oxford and London. He also began to direct professional choral and instrumental ensembles, specializing in early music. He immigrated to Toronto, where he’s been based for some three decades. He directed the award-winning 150-voice Mississauga Children’s Choir for 16 years, and toured with them across Canada and abroad. He is currently Director of Music and Organist at Trinity College, University of Toronto, and at St. James Cathedral, Toronto.

St. James Cathedral Music

The venerable downtown cathedral offers weekly recitals on their restored 5,100 pipe organ, and on May 11, look for a performance of Bach Magnificat to help out the St. James food bank. The concert takes as its inspiration one of the lines from Magnificat: He hath filled the hungry with good things. The performance will also feature settings of the Magnificat by Polish composer Maciej Zielinski.

More information and tickets to their December 15 performance of Handel’s Messiah [HERE].

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