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More than 50 years ago Toronto organist and conductor John Sidgwick had a vision of a choral organization with a ‘difference’, and that dream has survived the test of time: today, under Artistic Director Robert Cooper, the Orpheus Choir is one of the most dynamic and pre-eminent choral groups in the country.
The Orpheus Choir has made its mark in the Canadian choral community by championing new and rarely performed choral works and celebrating the ‘Expect Something Different’ experience. It has performed a vast repertoire of sacred and secular music, from the Renaissance to the 21st century, the classic to the experimental. Adding to the richness of the choral art form, it has commissioned new works, including Eric Robertson’s Songs of Remembrance (1985), Imant Raminsh’s Sonnets to Orpheus (1999), Allan Bevan’s No Mortal Business (2011), and Charles Cozens’ Tres Bailes Latinos (2014). Orpheus choir has introduced Toronto audiences to many fascinating and accessible works from the current generation of leading composers such as Ēriks Ešenvalds, György Orbán, Vytautis Miškinis, René Eespere and Urmas Sisask.
A core value of the Orpheus Choir is to share the gift of music in the community through partnership and collaboration. Over the years, Orpheus has realized this value through collaborations with renowned international artists such as Sir David Willcocks, Sir Philip Ledger and John Rutter, Ben Heppner, Mary Lou Fallis, Lois Marshall, Alfred Deller and Adrianne Pieczonka. And through it’s highly esteemed Sidgwick Scholarship Program, the choir has played a part in launching the careers of some of the current generation of fine young singers.
The Folks Behind It All
One of Canada’s foremost choral musicians, Robert Cooper is also Artistic Director of Chorus Niagara, the Opera in Concert Chorus and the newly created Ontario Male Chorus. He taught for several years as a member of the Choral Department, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and has had the honour of conducting the National Youth Choir of Canada, the Ontario Youth Choir (1979, 2007, 2016) and a Celebration of Canadian Choral Music at Carnegie Hall. As a superb choral trainer and conductor, Mr. Cooper has provided strong artistic mentoring to singing youth in the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir as well as the Orpheus Choir Sidgwick Scholars and Vocal Apprentice Programs, influencing over 2000 young adult singers.
In addition to his work with choirs, Mr. Cooper has been involved with the presentation of more than 150 operas and has conducted symphony orchestras in Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Orchestra London, opera companies in Victoria, Ottawa and Winnipeg as well as Toronto Operetta Theatre and Opera in Concert. Mr. Cooper has also guest conducted several Canadian choirs, as well as guest engagements at Festival 500, Kathaumixw, Festival of the Sound, Unisong Choral Festival, Stratford, Guelph and Algoma Festivals, and Thirteen Strings. Acknowledged as an innovative programmer, Mr. Cooper has commissioned and premiered many new works by both Canadian and international composers.
Over his career Mr Cooper has prepared choruses for many international conductors including Helmuth Rilling, Sir David Willcocks, John Rutter, Sir Andrew Davis, Charles Dutoit, and the late Robert Shaw and Elmer Iseler.
Mr Cooper has served on the Jury of the international choral competition Let The Peoples Sing, as well as adjudicating the 2010 World Choral Games in Shaoxing China, the Cincinnati 2012 World Choral Games and the 2016 iteration in Sochi, Russia.
After 31 successful years bringing fine vocal and choral music to all of Canada as Executive Producer of Opera and Choral Music for CBC Radio Two, Mr Cooper now pursues a full-time conducting schedule. He has served as President of both the Choirs Ontario and the Association of Canadian Choral Communities, was on the Board of Chorus America, the Advisory Board of the International Federation of Choral Music and is Canada’s representative on the World Choir Council. Recipient of the St. Catharines’ Trillium Arts Award, Robert Cooper has also received an Honorary Doctorate from Brock University, the Order of Canada as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his significant contribution to the Canadian choral community.
In May 2016, Robert was awarded Choral Canada’s Distinguished Service Award. This prestigious, national award is given in recognition of significant, transformative, and long-term service in building, nurturing and promoting choral music in Canada.
To read more, click Robert Cooper.
IDENTITIES: Glorious And Free
Sunday May 14, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St W
Stand united with the Orpheus Choir in this glorious musical tribute to our Canadian values of respect and inclusion with the Ontario premiere of Larysa Kuzmenko’s The Golden Harvest.
Commemorating the 125th Anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada and their arduous journey to new beginnings, this dramatic oratorio combines with John Estacio’s deeply moving ode to peace, The Houses Stand Not Far Apart, in a grand choral Sesquicentennial celebration honouring the history of courage and perseverance that has built our diverse Canadian culture.
Guests: Renowned vocal artists Andriana Chuchman, soprano and James Westman, bass-baritone, the Vesnivka Choir (Kvitka Kondracki, Artistic Director), the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir, the Orpheus Choir and the Orpheus Concert Orchestra under the direction of Robert Cooper.
To learn more about The Golden Harvest, read Sylvia Hunter’s interview with Larysa Kuzmenko.