Arts and Entertainment

Elmer Iseler Singers’ 45th season begins with “Celestial Light”

October 26, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

There are so many wonders in choral music. Lydia Adams, conductor and artistic director of the Juno Award-winning Elmer Iseler Singers (EIS), loves to talk about the complexities and richness of the music. 

The Citizen had the chance to interview her just before a rehearsal this week and for her to give us some of the details of the EIS’s three upcoming concerts this season. The theme of the season is “A Constellation of Radiant Choral Light.”

The first of these is coming up this weekend on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 4:00 p.m. at Eglington St. George United Church in Toronto. This full program begins with Eleanor Daley’s composition for Psalm 100, “O Be Joyful in the Lord.” Ms. Daley’s choral compositions are known and sung around the world. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2022.

Within the body of the concert comes music from William Byrd and the Sharon Fragments music by John Beckwith. As a historical note, conductor Adams explained these were adapted by a breakaway group from Quakers in about 1800 because they were interested in music. There is a temple in Sharon just north of Newmarket. This music is about the value of peace and equality.

In the first half, “We are celebrating Elanor Daley, William Byrd and John Beckwith. I worked with him and Eleanor as conductor,” she said. “He passed away last year.”

“A Psalm Cycle” by Sid Robinovitch, which he dedicated to EIS, is five psalms. This is its World Premiere at this concert, a collection contrasting between enjoying and reflections. For this very first performance, the composer will attend. 

Of the program’s music, the Requiem in the second half, by Gabriel Fauré (France, 1845-1924), she said, “This music is dominated by [as he put it] ‘from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.’

“A real human connection,” Ms. Adams noted.

Paul Winkelman is a soloist for this concert only. Owen Phillipson is the second soloist for the Requiem.

For the finale of the Oct. 28 concert, “We sing that and finish the program with Srul Irvine Glick’s ‘The Hour has Come,’ a wonderful call for peace in the world.”

Of the six composers celebrated in this concert, four are Canadians, world-renowned for their lifelong dedication to fine choral music and their respect and admiration for the EIS.

Following the theme of “A Constellation of Radiant Choral Light,” the second concert is “Messiah” on Dec. 8, at Yorkminster Baptist Church, in Toronto.

“A wonderful setting for this great work,” said Ms. Adams.

Three choirs are presenting Handel’s powerful music. The EIS is joined by the fabulous Amadeus Choir, celebrating its 50 years. Lydia Adams was the conductor of the Amadeus Choir for many years. Kathleen Allan is now its artistic and executive director. 

The Viva Chamber Singers, founded and conducted by Carol Ratzlaff, join this wonderful evening of familiar yet fresh performance of the much loved “Messiah.”

Ms. Adams reflected, “I see so many choirs recently. What I’m loving is seeing so many young people come in. Right now, there’s flourishing of choirs. It’s a positive thing that takes them out of themselves. Something really positive to the world.” 

The final concert, “Triple Choir Splendour Sonic Light,” is set in the spring, on Apr. 20, 2024, at 4:00 p.m., once again at the Eglington St. George United Church in Toronto.

The EIS joins forces with the Viva Chamber Singer and, as part of their educational mentorship, the newly formed Chroma Vocal Ensemble, Mitchell Pady, conductor.

This concert will feature the “spectacular” performance of “Mass for Double Choir” by Frank Martin. Included also are Eleanor Daley’s “Prayer for Peace” and “Grandmother Moon” by Peter Togeni.

Said Lydia Adams, “There’s so many different types of choirs, collective singing rooted in diverse social practices. Whether you call it a choir or a community group, it celebrates shared values and experience and gives the opportunity for cultural ideas and exchanges.” 

For tickets to one of all the concerts of this EIS 45th Anniversary Season, go to

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