Toronto Children's Chorus | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Toronto Children's Chorus

Toronto Children's Chorus (TCC). Founded in 1978 by conductor Jean Ashworth Gam (later Bartle) because of a need for a treble-voice choir to perform certain repertoire with the Toronto Symphony.

Toronto Children's Chorus

Toronto Children's Chorus (TCC). Founded in 1978 by conductor Jean Ashworth Gam (later Bartle) because of a need for a treble-voice choir to perform certain repertoire with the Toronto Symphony. The chorus first sang with the Toronto Symphony, conducted by Andrew Davis, on 3 Oct 1978 in a concert performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker (later recorded by CBS Records). The choir then participated in Orff's Carmina burana conducted by Klaus Tennstedt in 1979.

Membership and Component Choirs

The choir's membership, which originally comprised 60 singers, rose to approximately 120 in 1987 and in 2005 numbered over 300. Members normally remain with the choir for four years. Children ages seven to 17 participate in one of the TCC's five choirs, which include the preparatory choir, training choirs I, II, and III, and the main choir. In addition, each year up to 65 children who display exceptional musical abilities are accepted to participate in the Toronto Children's Chamber Choir.

Ruth Watson Henderson served as accompanist 1978-2007 and composed many works for the ensemble. Jean Ashworth Bartle remained the choir's principal conductor until 2007, when Elise Bradley (of New Zealand) took over.


The chorus has presented its own annual Christmas and spring concerts, and has performed by invitation at events such as the 1984 opening of the Canadian Music Centre's Chalmers House, a gala concert for the King and Queen of Sweden in 1988, the 1989 International Choral Festival, and the installation of Raymond J. Hnatyshyn as the Governor General of Canada in December 1989. It joined the Toronto Symphony in many programs, including Bach's St Matthew Passion, Britten's War Requiem, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Mahler's Symphony No. 8, and Holst's The Planets. Choir members have sung with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Elmer Iseler Singers, Ben Heppner, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Guest conductors have included Sir Andrew Davis, Charles Dutoit, Elmer Iseler, Michael Lankester, Sir Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Robert Shaw, Klaus Tennstedt, Bramwell Tovey, and Sir David Willcocks.


The chorus offered choral conducting workshops at rehearsals 1981-6, and introduced an annual choral conductors' workshop at its 1987 summer camp.


Beginning in 1982, the Toronto Children's Chorus undertook a tour every two years. This enables each member to participate in at least one major tour. The 65-member touring chorus often participates in festivals and competitions, including the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales, where the choir won first prize in its age category (1982); the International Choral Kathaumixw, where it won first prizes in both the children's choir and contemporary music categories (1986); Expo 86; the World Symposium of the International Federation for Choral Music in Helsinki (1990) as Canada's invited representative; and the prestigious Let the People Sing competition, at which the choir won first place (1993).

The TCC appeared in San Antonio, Texas, during the 1987 American Choral Directors' Association Convention; at the 1988 Olympic Arts Festival in Calgary; and, along with choirs from Estonia and Romania, at Newfoundland's Festival 500 in 2003. Since beginning its touring tradition, the TCC has performed in West Germany, Yugoslavia, Italy, and Switzerland (1984); California, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand (1988); Russia, Great Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Finland, and South Africa. The chorus performed at Carnegie Hall (1994), the Kennedy Center (1995), and Royal Albert Hall (2002), and served as artists-in-residence for choir festivals in Tuscany, Italy (1995) and Sydney, Australia (1999).

Broadcasts and Awards

The chorus has been broadcast on CBC, BBC Wales and the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

The choir won first place in the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs in the children's choir category (1982, 1984, 1990) and in the Canadian composition category (1984); the Healey Willan Prize (1983); and a 1986 Juno Award as part of the Toronto Symphony recording of Holst's The Planets. The TCC's recording A Boy Was Born won the National Choral Award in 1998.

Canadian Repertoire

The Toronto Children's Chorus has placed special emphasis on commissioning and performing Canadian works, and has premiered Howard Cable's 'Sing, Sea to Sea!' (1979), Andrew Davis'sChansons Innocentes (1984), Malcolm Forsyth'sThree Zulu Songs (1988), Harry Freedman'sRhymes from the Nursery (1986), Srul Irving Glick'sMoments in Time (1990), Ruth Watson Henderson's Clear Sky and Thunder (1984) and Musical Animal Tales (1980), and R. Murray Schafer's The Star Princess and the Waterlilies (1984; recorded with Maureen Forrester). On tour, the choir and its conductor have frequently presented Canadian choral music for treble voices in workshops.


Beginning in 1981, Bartle became the editor of the Toronto Children's Chorus Choral Series, which features music for treble voices published by Gordon V. Thompson. By 2005 over 150 works were published by this series, most by Canadian composers. The choir's newsletter, Toronto Children's Chorus, first issued in 1983-4, began to appear regularly in December 1988 (vol 2 no. 1) and has since become a biannual publication.

Further Reading