Association of Canadian Choral Condutors

Association of Canadian Choral Condutors

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pax Christi Chorale Celebrates 25 Years

Photo by Betsy Moss
Pax Christi Chorale launches its 25th anniversary season this October with rarely-heard masterpieces for choir and orchestra, joined by the youth choir and exceptional vocal soloists.

Pax Christi Chorale was first led by Dr. Robert Loewen, later by Lee Bartel and then John Ford.  In 1996, the baton was handed over to Stephanie Martin, who has been the Artistic Director of the choir ever since. Pax Christi Chorale was founded by Dr. Loewen, current President Emily Burgetz and Ron Sawatsky, inspired by the success of a choir assembled for the Toronto celebration of the 1986 Bicentennial of Mennonites in Canada.  Some of the original 35 singers are still in the choir today.

From Ms. Martin’s first season as Artistic Director, she raised the bar and challenged the choir with its first performances with orchestra, which included Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem and Benjamin Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb. The choir has steadily added to its oratorio repertoire, enriching Toronto choral music lovers with memorable performances and gaining a reputation as one of Canada’s finest oratorio choirs.
The upcoming season is no different.  In October, Pax Christi Chorale and Pax Christi Youth Choir (led by Lynn Janes) will perform the Salieri Mass in D-Major, first as guest artists of the Barrie Music Festival and the following day at the choir’s home venue of Grace Church on-the-Hill in Toronto.  Featured soloists will be soprano Melanie Conly, mezzo-soprano Nina Scott-Stoddard, tenor Graham Thomson and baritone Benjamin Covey.  The concert will also include several works by Salieri’s famous nemesis Mozart.

During the Christmas season, the choir will once again join forces with the Gallery Choir of the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene to present The Children’s Messiah, now in its third year.  An abridged version of Handel’s masterwork, with both professional musicians and student musicians, this informal performance is designed especially for young children in a setting that welcomes their presence.

The December concert will feature Britten’s Saint Nicolas with tenor James McLean, duo pianists Bruce Ubukata and Stephen Ralls of The Aldeburgh Connection, the Havergal College girls’ choir and boy soloists from the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus.  The choir and orchestra will give the world première performance of a new work by Stephanie Martin, composed during her recent sabbatical.

Supporters of Pax Christi Chorale are invited to attend the choir’s annual fundraiser in late January, which will be held in the stunning surroundings of the private Canadian art collection of the law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.  The event will feature another world première performance of a new composition by Stephanie Martin – String Quartet No. 1 – performed by the Windermere String Quartet.

The crowning glory of the season will be a performance of Elgar’s The Kingdom at Toronto’s magnificent Koerner Hall. This important work has not been heard by Toronto audiences in over 25 years and will feature British baritone sensation and Elgar specialist Roderick Williams, who will make his Canadian début in the role of St. Peter.  Canadian soloists soprano Shannon Mercer, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, tenor Keith Klassen complete this fabulous quartet.

Stephanie Martin is an Elgar enthusiast.  She has the distinction of being the first woman in Canada to conduct a full performance of Dream of Gerontius and is an honorary member of the Elgar Society.  Pax Christi Chorale performed Elgar’s The Music Makers on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, and is thrilled to now be bringing The Kingdom to Toronto audiences.

As Pax Christi Chorale reflects on 25 years of great oratorio singing, it is amazing to follow the choir as it has grown to over 90 singers, including a youth choir, and to embrace not only members of the Mennonite community, but also singers from different faith traditions, all sharing a love of great choral singing and doing so with passion, conviction and heart!

“Under Stephanie Martin’s sure guiding hand, Pax Christi Chorale continues to move from strength to strength.  Given Stephanie’s imaginative programming, Toronto audiences are being exposed to a broad spectrum of excellent choral music.  Best wishes to this remarkable choir as it enters its second quarter century!”
Howard Dyck, CM
Conductor and Pax Christi Chorale Honorary Patron

Article by Laura Adlers, General Manager.

For more information about Pax Christi Chorale’s 2011-2012 concert season, visit

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