Elmer Iseler Singers | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Elmer Iseler Singers

Elmer Iseler Singers. Professional mixed chamber choir founded in 1979 by Elmer Iseler. The choir of 20 to 25 voices gave its debut performance 13 Mar 1979 at St James' Cathedral, Toronto.

Elmer Iseler Singers

Elmer Iseler Singers. Professional mixed chamber choir founded in 1979 by Elmer Iseler. The choir of 20 to 25 voices gave its debut performance 13 Mar 1979 at St James' Cathedral, Toronto. It formed the professional core of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (until 1997), and performed under the direction of Iseler until his death in 1998. Subsequently, Lydia Adams (b 1953), who was the choir's accompanist from 1981, was appointed music director.

The Elmer Iseler Singers began touring in Canada in 1980 and made their US debut tour in 1981, returning in 1983 to perform at the Library of Congress. They have performed an average of 100 engagements a year, many of them broadcast on CBC radio.

The Elmer Iseler Singers, the Vancouver Chamber Choir and the Tudor Singers of Montreal presented their first combined performance at Roy Thomson Hall in 1983, and at the 1985 TriBach Festival in Edmonton these three groups and Pro Coro Canada participated in a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion conducted by Iseler.

In 1984 a cultural exchange was arranged between the Netherlands Chamber Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers involving combined and individual concerts at the 1984 Toronto International Festival and a two-week joint tour of nine Dutch cities in January 1985. The two choirs recorded Serenade in Harmony in Toronto. The Elmer Iseler Singers collaborated also with the Canadian Brass in 1990 on the recording The Christmas Album, and the choir made its Carnegie Hall debut that year as the quintet's special guest.

The choir was awarded the Canadian Music Council's Grand prix du disque in 1984 for Serenade in Harmony; in 1989 for Welcome Yule; and (with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir) in 1988 for Laudate Dominum. The Elmer Iseler Singers have provided music for various television and film productions including the CBC's special tribute to Healey Willan (1980), and the 1985 Norman Jewison film Agnes of God.

In 1987 the choir gave concerts and seminars at the First World Symposium for Choral Music in Vienna. It received ovations for its performances and overflow audiences for its workshops, which concentrated on contemporary and Canadian works including pieces by Leonard Enns, Sid Robinovitch, R. Murray Schafer, and Claude Vivier. Iseler, long a champion of contemporary music, through his programming helped Canadian choral works to enter the repertoire of many choirs in and outside Canada. The choir's repertoire covers several centuries of choral music, but it has particularly encouraged contemporary composition by commissioning or premiering such choral works as Robert Aitken'sMonodie (1984), John Beckwith'sThree Motets on Swan's 'China' (1981), Mating Time (1982), Earlier Voices: a Choral Miscellany from 19th Century New Brunswick (1984), and Irish Melodies (1986), Tomas Dusatko'sO Sancta Simplicitas (1982), Srul Irving Glick'sSing unto the Lord a New Song (1987), Raymond Luedeke'sFour Songs, The Dream, and Old Song (1990), Jean Piché's Songs of Late Summer (1986), André Prévost'sAhimsâ (1984), and John Reeves'Salvator Mundi (1983) and Threnody to the People of Poland (1984). The Elmer Iseler Singers also participated in the premiere of István Anhalt's opera Winthrop in 1986.

Reviewer Robert Markow attested to the choir's 'clarity of line, textual expression, rhythmic accuracy, balance, and a deeply felt sense of musicianship' (High Fidelity, vol 33, Apr 1983). The singers are frequently asked to give workshops at choral festivals and to hold singing and conducting seminars. The Elmer Iseler Singers have performed at the Mainly Mozart Festival, the Guelph Spring Festival, Music at Sharon, the Algoma Fall Festival, the Festival of the Sound, Expo 86 in Vancouver, and at the arts festivals associated with the Olympics in Calgary and in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1991, the choir has offered a concert series in Toronto. They were artists-in-residence at University of Toronto 1994-5; and, since 1997, have been that university's choir-in-residence. They were presented with the Lieutenant-Governor's Award for the Arts in 1997, and were chosen to appear at the 1999 installation of Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In 2001 they hosted the annual conference of Chorus America. They have undertaken many tours in Canada and the USA, including (with the Amadeus Ensemble) a major Canadian tour for the Mozart bicentenary, 1991-92. In January 2000 the choir undertook a ten-day tour of western Canada, where they performed world premieres of works by István Anhalt and Harry Somers, and gave CBC radio broadcasts.

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