One of Toronto’s Most Distinguished & Important Choirs
Organist John Sidgwick founded Orpheus in 1964 as an alternative to the traditional choral fare of the day. The choir introduced Toronto audiences to a rich new world of choral music. Now in its 56th year, the Orpheus Choir of Toronto has become one of Toronto’s preeminent choral groups.
After John Sidgwick’s departure in 1970, Orpheus thrived under the leadership of several prominent choral conductors. Orpheus’ past conductors include James Whicher, Lloyd Bradshaw, John Barnum, and Brainerd Blyden-Taylor.
On its 25th anniversary in 1989, Orpheus established the Sidgwick Scholarship Program to honour its founding director. The program enabled Orpheus to support emerging talents who aspire to careers in vocal performance. So began our ongoing commitment to nurturing young talent. Our commitment has expanded to include an annual roster of eight scholarship positions, an apprentice conductor, and a Vocal Apprentice Program to engage talented high school students.
In 2003, Robert Cooper became artistic director and inspired the choir’s renewal and revitalization. Under his direction, Orpheus outgrew its roots as a community choir. After 20 years of fruitful leadership, Robert Cooper stepped down as artistic director.
The Board of Directors is delighted to announce that after an intensive search through the spring of 2023, Thomas Burton will take over the role of artistic director.
Expect Something Different
We have made our mark in the Canadian choral community by championing new and rarely performed choral works and celebrating the ‘Expect Something Different’ experience.
We perform a vast repertoire of sacred and secular music. Performances range from the Renaissance to the 21st century, from the classic to the experimental. Adding to the richness of the choral art form, Orpheus continues to commission new works from Canadian and international composers.
Orpheus 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.
Community Partnership and Collaboration
The Orpheus Choir of Toronto is committed to sharing the gift of music in the community through partnership and collaboration.
Orpheus realizes 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.
We have collaborated with communities in the Toronto area to share their stories with a wider audience. In 2017, we joined with the Vesnivka Choir to commission Larysa Kuzmenko’s The Golden Harvest. The performance was mounted to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada.
A year later, Orpheus marked Latvia’s 100th anniversary by joining hands with Toronto’s Latvian community. Together, they mounted a festival celebrating the work of composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. This culminated in the performance of his Nordic Light Symphony.
Choral Music to Effect Social Change
Finally, as reflected in our Vision Statement, the Orpheus Choir of Toronto regards the choral experience as a way of effecting social change.
Orpheus has an abiding concern for the environment and the effects of the global climate crisis. Mounting works by Leonard Enns, Ten Thousand Rivers of Oil, Orpheus offered an entire concert devoted to the issue of water — This Thirsty Land (2018).
As we passed the 100th anniversary of World War I, we mounted concerts that explored not only the darkness that sometimes emerges in hatred and division, but also the human capacity for resilience and reconciliation — The End of Innocence and Last Light Above the World.
In honour of International Women’s Day, Orpheus created a unique project called Raising Her Voice in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues. We paired emerging composers and poets with established composers and poets. From these relationships, Orpheus commissioned 4 new works by Canadian women and created a new mentorship model.
Our newest presentation, Sound Mind, explores the connections between music and mental health and will be held during Mental Health Week.