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PREVIEW | The Orpheus Choir Explores The Jewels Of French Choral Repertoire

By Anya Wassenberg on February 28, 2024

Orpheus Choir of Toronto (Photo courtesy of Orpheus Choir)
Orpheus Choir of Toronto (Photo courtesy of Orpheus Choir)

French style, and the work of French composers from across the globe, is the focus of the next concert for the Orpheus Choir. The concert spotlights Francis Poulenc’s beloved Gloria in a program that also includes works by French, French-Canadian, and Haitian composers.

Poulenc’s Gloria — Jewels of the French Repertoire takes place March 9 in Toronto’s Grace Church On-the-Hill.

Here’s a look at the composers and soloists.

French Repertoire

Poulenc: Gloria

Poulenc is arguably best known today for the quirky beauty of his choral works. Originally scored for a large orchestra along with chorus and soprano soloist, the performance uses the power of the organ balanced against that of the choir. A soprano leads the third movement with a dramatic solo.

The piece was composed in 1959 in six movements, and according to Poulenc, he’d already thought of it earlier while writing Dialogues des Carmélites. It’s characterized by its emotional range, among other aspects, which run from playful to powerful. For the Laudamus Te section, he was said to be inspired by watching a group of nuns play soccer.


The work of other French composers is also on the program.

Maurice Ravel

Ravel needs no introduction to classical music lovers. He left a legacy of piano and chamber music, two piano concertos, ballet music, two operas and eight song cycles, many of which are counted among the more challenging pieces in the classical repertoire. Although he’s typically described an an impressionist today, he rejected that term during his lifetime. His song cycles and operas are among his least performed works.

Lili Boulanger

French composer Marie-Juliette Olga “Lili” Boulanger was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome composition prize. The younger sister of renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger, she was a child prodigy, and tagged along at Nadia’s piano lessons. She had collapsed due to illness during her first try at the Prix de Rome in 1912. The following year, she’d win it based on a cantata titled Faust et Helene. She continued to compose, and Arthur Honneger was said to be influenced by her work.

Marie-Claire Saindon

With a Franco-Ontarian background, composer Marie-Claire Saindon is currently based in Montréal. She is composer-in-residence for Choeur Adleisia, and teaches Irish fiddling. Her work includes choral, chamber, and orchestral commissions, along with film and multimedia scores. Commissioners include l’Orchestre Métropolitain, Elektra Women’s Choir, and the 2019 Women’s/SSAA Choirs Competition Consortium of the American Choral Directors Association, among others. She is the recipient of several prizes in composition including the 2013 SOCAN Young Composers’ National Awards in the vocal category.

Sydney Guillaume

A native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sydney Guillaume is currently based in Portland, Oregon. The composer and conductor is known in particular for his choral works, many of them written to poetry by his father Gabriel T. Guillaume. In 2016, he was inducted into the 1804 List of Haitian-American Change Makers. His compositions have been performed by choirs around the world, including the Grammy-award nominated Seraphic Fire, the Westminster Chorus, the University of Miami Frost Chorale, and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, among others. Sydney also frequently composes music for film.

L: Soprano Midori Marsh; R: Organist Stephen Boda
L: Soprano Midori Marsh; R: Organist Stephen Boda (Photos courtesy of the artists)

The Soloists

Soprano Midori Marsh

American-Canadian soprano Midori Marsh received her Bachelors of Music at Wilfrid Laurier, and her Masters of Music in Opera at the University of Toronto. In 2019, she she won first prize and audience choice award at the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage competition.

Along with working with the COC, Midori has performed with Tapestry Opera, Against the Grain Theatre, the TSO, and the National Arts Centre, among others. In 2022, she was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for her portrayal of Papagena in the COC’s production of The Magic Flute.

Organist Stephen Boda

Stephen Boda is the Principal Organist at the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto, and regularly performs concerts in the area. Stephen earned a a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto, a Master of Music degree from Yale University, and a diploma in organ performance from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. He is the 2016 winner of the Howard Fairclough Organ Competition, among several awards, including the Robert Baker Scholarship through Yale University, the Schulich Scholarship through McGill University and the Arthur Redsell Scholarship through the University of Toronto.

  • More information and tickets to the concert available [HERE].

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