2006-Marchs_Child_-_Jean_Stillwell.jpgJean Stilwell’s international career as a concert artist and operatic and lyric theatre mezzo-soprano has taken her all over the world but she has a well-maintained artistic presence in Canada. Her warm rich voice is currently familiar to many as radio co-host of Good Day GTA: Classical Breakfast with Mike Duncan & Jean Stilwell (weekdays 5-10am on the New Classical 96.3FM).

Some readers will remember Stilwell from the 1980’s in Stratford Festival Gilbert & Sullivan productions – including alternating with Maureen Forrester as the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe. Her first major operatic role in Canada was Olga (Eugene Onegin with the Vancouver Opera) followed by her very first Carmen (Lucian Pintilie’s Expo 86 production).  Subsequent engagements to sing Carmen include more than a dozen different companies. In Ontario Stilwell has sung a wide range of roles with Opera Atelier, Ottawa’s Opera Lyra, the Canadian Opera Company, Opera in Concert and Tapestry New Opera, and made numerous guest appearances with orchestras. Her ongoing cabaret and small-stage collaborations – in particular those with long-time musical friend Patti Loach (pianist and writer) – round out what continues to be an adventurous career.

Read more: March’s Child | Jean Stilwell

Journalist Ulla Colgrass once referred to Larry Beckwith’s father, the composer John Beckwith, as “Canada’s Musical Polymath” (The Globe and Mail 01/10/98). It seems Larry’s destined to share the honour. “People used to ask if he was my son; now they ask if I’m his father” (John Beckwith, Unheard Of: Memoirs of a Canadian Composer).

web image 1 MusicsChildren Larry Beckwith by TARA McMULLENSince 2003 Larry Beckwith’s Toronto Masque Theatre has given unique performances that wed music, theatre, dance and other performance disciplines in collaborations that continue to challenge and engage. The masques performed to date, and the salons relating to them, include baroque originals (Purcell, Monteverdi, Handel et al.) as well as new commissions by Canadian composers (Richardson, Rolfe, Daniel, Burry, Ho): fresh entertainments equally informed by the old and the new.

Toronto-born Beckwith’s immersion in music began in childhood, and after graduating from Jarvis Collegiate his undergraduate and graduate studies in violin and musicology at the University of Toronto were just part of a continuum that embraces choral music, baroque and contemporary music, theatre, radio, teaching and writing. Beckwith the baroque violinist studied with Jeanne Lamon and was a founding member of the Arbor Oak Trio and the Aradia Ensemble. Beckwith the tenor has sung regularly with Elora Festival Singers, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Exultate Chamber Singers, Tafelmusik Chamber Singers and Opera Atelier. Beckwith the conductor leads some main stage productions for Toronto Operetta Theatre.  He’s worked as a radio producer, sound designer, journalist, university sessional instructor and festival programmer. He currently teaches the strings program at the arts-intensive Unionville High School. The WholeNote’s choral columnist for several years, he continues to review CDs.

web image 2 Larry leading Acis   January, 2015Suppose a friendly fellow traveler asks what you do for a living? I’m lucky that what I do for a living and what I love are the same thing. I’m privileged to have a teaching position at an arts high school in Markham, blessed with resources and an environment conducive to great music making. The students are keen, bright and respectful and we have a huge amount of fun learning about and sharing music at a high level. I am also the artistic director of a successful multi-disciplinary arts organization that allows me to pursue my strong interest in programming and commissioning early and contemporary stage works that combine music, theatre and dance. In addition, I do as much freelance work as I can find time for, as a singer and a baroque violinist. 

web image 3 LB on violin age 8   not croppedDo you remember that childhood photo being taken? I can’t say that I do, but there was a lot of music making that went on in my father’s small study in the family home on Summerhill Gardens. How long ago that was! I almost can’t remember being that person, but I remember all the music we used to read through ... Bach, Mozart, Handel’s Messiah – with me playing the vocal lines on the violin – and, very vividly, the beautiful Schumann pieces for clarinet and piano. We had an arrangement of these for violin – I heard Itzhak Perlman play them recently at RTH.

Your earliest memories of hearing music? My mother used to sing to me – folk and nursery songs. My father was always playing the great piano repertoire, as well as composing at the piano. The piano was a constant in our house. My father played it whenever he had time, and my mother did, as well. Lots of variety in repertoire, but quite often Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann ... sonata movements and the lovely, small character pieces. That piano was on the second floor in my father’s study but the record player was in our living room. 

We had one of those record players that was also a piece of furniture, like a sideboard. I loved listening to recorded music. In fact, I have a vivid memory of getting up on Saturday mornings very early and putting on De Falla’s Three Cornered Hat ballet suite and pretending to conduct! Other favourite recordings included Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony in Rossini overtures, Heifetz playing the Beethoven violin concerto and a beautiful recording of mixed repertoire for solo trumpet, played by Maurice Andr. I think I wanted to be a trumpet player initially! 

web image 4 Larry Robin DadOf course, my siblings had growing interests in popular music, too. I remember early Beatles albums, Donovan, Cat Stevens, Lovin’ Spoonful and a great novelty LP I still own: George Formby and his ukulele! My older sister played cello, my elder brother played a whole host of instruments: violin, clarinet, piano, guitar. And the brother closest to me in age was a drummer.

Concerts and theatre? My school, Deer Park Junior Public, did a musical every year and I remember going to see my older siblings in Oliver! – loved the music. I was taken to concerts quite early on, including some pretty far-out contemporary music shows. When I was 10 or 11, we went to the 20th anniversary festival at Stratford and I heard the flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal in recital. That had a big impact. On that same trip, the Canadian Brass premiered a piece of my father’s late at night, outside on one of the islands in the middle of the Avon River. That was cool. 

Both of my parents were equally passionate for music and theatre. My mother was a trained actress who later became a very fine stage director. My father acted in productions as a student and has continued to have a keen theatrical sense as a composer. Growing up, I went regularly to local theatre and opera productions. I also had a few experiences of trodding the boards as a teenager, one of which – an adaptation of The Snow Queen by Martin Hunter – involved a nice mix of music and drama.

Your first memory of yourself making music? Our kindergarten class at Deer Park sang Put on a happy face at a school concert. 

First instrument? Violin. I think I originally asked to play trumpet at school, but that wasn’t possible for some reason, so I did have the feeling of being stuck with the violin.  

What do you remember about your first music teacher? Don Wasilenko ... he was an

itinerant teacher with the Toronto School Board and he used to come to Deer Park twice a week from 8:15 to 8:45 in the morning. A few weeks into being in that class, he told me he would come a half-hour earlier if I wanted to have some private instruction. I jumped at the chance. He immediately lit a fire in me, not only for playing the violin, but for making chamber music. He and I would play duets and it was so much fun! He was a lovely man and a demanding, but encouraging teacher.

First experiences of making music with other people? The orchestra at Deer Park was pretty good, but in grade 5 or 6 I was chosen to participate in the All-City Orchestra, conducted by Jack Dow (Holy Doodle!). I can’t remember what we played – something by Dvořák or Tchaikovsky --  but it was thrilling and we performed at Massey Hall in the annual spring school show. More intimately, I started playing sonatas with my father at a very early age – and we continue to do so all these years later. He introduced me to all the great violin and piano repertoire, starting with Handel and Bach, through Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy ... and we would play fun arrangements, like The Blue Danube and the overture to Orpheus and the Underworld. For the whole time we lived together, we would often sit down after dinner and play. I am so fortunate to have had that experience and it taught me to be a great sight reader and an understanding of how music is put together.

When did you first sing for an audience? Apart from that kindergarten experience, I really didn’t sing until I was in university. I was encouraged by the organist William Wright, who taught me first year keyboard harmony, to join his United Church choir. So I did, and I learned a great deal of sacred repertoire, as well as singing the Christmas Oratorio and Magnificat of Bach. This was my first encounter with Palestrina, Byrd, Praetorius, Schutz ... wonderful. 

When did conducting become part of the picture? I conducted the Victoria College Chorus for two years when I got out of University. I knew nothing about conducting, really ... just went on instincts, but we had some good concerts. I didn’t conduct again really ‘till I started teaching school in 2004.

And teaching high school? In 2001, I took a one-year contract as the director of programming for the International Choral Festival, curated by the legendary impresario Nicholas Goldschmidt. Essentially I was Niki’s right-hand man, taking care of all the planning details for the festival. Our education outreach consultant was Dr. Lee Willingham and Lee and I became quite good friends over the course of that year. I was turning 40, doing about seven different jobs, including teaching, playing, singing, writing, etc ... and my kids were five and three. It was a busy time, and I wasn’t getting any younger! Lee convinced me that I’d be a good teacher and made a good case for the teacher’s life: I’d be able to have a steady job -- provide for my family -- and still do all the things I was passionate about. I still thank him for that advice. It was the right move for me to make at exactly the right time. I entered OISE in the fall of 2003 and at the end of that school year, the strings position at Unionville opened up and I was lucky enough to win the job. 

When did you first conduct for an audience? After those Vic Chorus concerts, I resumed conducting at the Unionville High School in 2004, conducting almost every day in class and rehearsal. There’s no better way to develop technique and strategies than in that environment. Trial and error! 

With Toronto Masque Theatre, I learned from our first commissioned work that leading contemporary music from the first violin is difficult. So, when we came to do our next commission, I bowed out of playing in favour of conducting and I think that worked nicely. That was James Rolfe’s Aeneas and Dido in 2007. I guess you could say that was my professional conducting debut and it went very well. 

Later, I had the supreme pleasure – and one of the most terrifying challenges of my life – to conduct my father’s opera Taptoo! – for Toronto Operetta Theatre. This opened up a new and fascinating world for me.

When did you begin to see yourself as a musician? I never thought I’d be anything else. From the time I fully understood the practicalities of making a living I made a pact with myself that my job would always have something to do with music. I wish I’d been more practical in setting goals for myself early on, but miraculously, one thing has led to another and I’ve been able to honour that pact. 

Did you ever think you would do something else? To be honest, a potentially fatal flaw in my make-up is the inability to look ahead too far. I can’t say that I ever had a career plan. I worked in the music library at the university for several years after my graduation and I enjoyed the work and could have continued, except that opportunities opened up at CBC Radio, where I worked for seven quite stressful but fascinating years. I could have gladly continued there, but was a victim of cutbacks. Thus began several pleasant, but uncertain years of short-term contracts and freelance work, which led to teaching and the formation of Toronto Masque Theatre. My experience has been that one thing always leads logically to something else and my being a sort of musical jack of all trades has made for an interesting ride!

Where does music fit into your family life today? Where it’s always been … at the very centre. My wife is a brilliant soprano, teacher and conductor and my daughters play various instruments and both sing beautifully. The four of us have a wonderful time playing and singing in concerts, going to concerts and making and listening to music at home. In a way, nothing has changed.

Growing up, I always felt I was in the shadow of my brilliant parents and supremely talented siblings. And now I’m so proud of my wife and children – I stand in awe of their innate capabilities and natural musical talents, and I have fun trying to keep up.

Musical Child Wilford AdultLawrence Wiliford lives in the Woodbine/Danforth area of Toronto with his wife Prof. Katherine Larson and their miniature schnauzer Hermes. When not performing or thinking about the Canadian Art Song Project, Lawrence can often be found gardening, landscaping and doing light renovations of their home.

American-Canadian tenor Lawrence Wiliford’s 2014/15 season includes concert engagements with major symphony  orchestras, choral and early music groups in the U.S. and Canada, You may have heard him in Toronto this past November with the Bach Consort as The Evangelist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, or with The Niagara Symphony in Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. Perhaps you saw Wiliford make his Canadian Opera Company leading role debut in Mozart's Così Fan Tutte as Ferrando (on five hours' notice, in 2006). He has also appeared with the COC in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Swoon; and with Opera Atelier in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Acis and Galatea, Persée, and Don Giovanni. Alongside his work as a performer Wiliford is co-artistic director, with pianist Stephen Philcox, of the Canadian Art Song Project.

Born in Muskegon, Michigan. Wiliford  says he  “grew up in  Michigan, Wisconsin, The American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey,  upstate New York …”  His father is a United Methodist pastor, so they moved around a lot. After high school in New York (in Fulton and then in Corning) he went to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He came to the University of Toronto for a Master of Music in Vocal Performance,  studied at Tanglewood, the Internationale Bachakademie of Stuttgart, the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival, and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme. He is a graduate of the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio and is a recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

Suppose a friendly fellow traveller asks what you do for a living? “I am a classical singer.” But generally that statement is followed by a host of questions and at least one “You don’t look at all like a tenor!”

Musical Child Wilford ChildDo you remember that childhood photo being taken? Yes – It reminds me of the wonderful opportunity and education I received while at The American Boychoir School.

Anything you’d like to tell the young person in that childhood photo?  Hmm … I would tell him to relish the experiences he was having and enjoy the ride.

Your earliest memories of music? I’m not sure what my earliest memory of hearing music is, but I was surrounded by music when I was young – hymns being sung or my mom and dad singing 60s folksongs.

[this is the cutline for the ballcap photo]

MysteryChild 3 ABS3I listened to a lot of music in the car riding with my father from church to church on Sunday mornings and on road trips. The soundtrack of my early childhood included John Denver; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Kingston Trio; Neil Diamond; Kenny Rogers; etc.

When I was about 8 or 9 I saw the movie Amadeus and became enthralled with Mozart’s music. I began purchasing recordings of his symphonies, concertos and choral works. That was my introduction to classical music and I never looked back. I sang in choirs at church from when I was very little and had piano lessons.  But when I went to The American Boychoir School from age 9 to 14  I was exposed to music in the broadest way, performing across the U.S. and internationally with amazing conductors and musicians.


Other musicians in the family? My father plays the guitar and sings quite well, but doesn’t read music.  Both of my brothers also went to The American Boychoir School and sang, though my younger brother no longer sings much.  My older brother has a bachelor’s degree in Music and Theatre, and now works in arts administration at Interlochen in Michigan.

First memory of making music? I remember playing in my room making up songs when I was very young. I also remember my younger brother and I playing Beatles records and pretending to sing those songs for my mom. We were very surprised she knew that it wasn’t us playing and singing.

Your first instrument?  Singing. I did take a bit of piano around age 8, but I sang through most of my lessons.

Your first music teacher? I remember he played a harmonium and that I was selected to play the glockenspiel in my first school concert.  I remember that being a big deal.

Earliest experiences of making music with other people? My brothers and I often sang with my dad at church potluck dinners.  We were the entertainment.

When did you first sing all by yourself for an audience other than your family? The first real solo I remember was my first year at the ABS. I was asked to sing the aria “Ja, Komm Herr Jesu, Komm” from the Bach cantata Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit” (BWV106). Who knew I would be singing Bach all of these years later?!

Do you remember when you began to think of yourself as a career musician? I don’t think I really thought of myself as a career musician until now.  Weird! I guess now that it has been my career for several years it is safe to say that I have a career as a musician.

MysteryChild 2 astronaut ABS3Did you ever think you would do something else?

When I was little I wanted to be an astronaut.  My undergrad degree is in Church Music and conducting and I had thought of becoming a choral director. 

Where does music fit into your home/ family life today? My wife, Katie, sings with the Exultate Chamber Singers, and I go support her and the choir.  I tend to listen to instrumental music or jazz at home because, in truth, I often find it difficult to shut off when I listen to classical vocal music. 


The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Messiah runs Dec. 16, 17, 19, 20 & 21 at Roy Thompson Hall.

In January, I am performing with the Toronto Masque Theatre in their production of Acis and Galatea and with Tafelmusik for the Beethoven Mass in C. 

Canadian Art Song Project (for which I am co-Artistic Director with Steven Philcox) performs at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre on January 27th at 12 noon.

Any new recordings?

In March, Canadian Art Song Project released its first CD entitled Ash Roses, which includes several previously unrecorded works for solo voice by Derek Holman. It is on the Centrediscs label (available on itunes, etc.).  The artists included are myself (tenor), Mireille Asselin (soprano), Sanya Eng (harp) and Liz Upchurch (piano).  I’m very proud of this recording.


Musical Child Feb ChildWho is FEBRUARY’s CHILD?

Leading from the first chair (at right) 

in dad’s study: Summerhill Gardens, Toronto, 1969

Toronto’s masqued marvel un-settles old scores.

Where he’ll next appear as conductor, singer or baroque violinist?

Sightings include Tafelmusik, Exultate, Elora, Soundstreams, Toronto OperettaTheatre

But some lucky high schoolers know he’s keeping time for them.

Proud son of his favourite composer, proud husband and father of three favourite singers.

Former producer in the heyday of CBC Radio Music.

see pages 30, 31, 40, 52

Know our Mystery Child’s name? WIN PRIZES! Send your best guess by January 24, to musicschildren@thewholenote.com.


Messiah: at Roy Thomson Hall. Hallelujah! for the combined forces of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, with soloists Jane Archibald, soprano; Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano; Lawrence Wiliford, tenor; Philippe Sly, bass-baritone. Grant Llewellyn, conducts while your heart soars. (Dec 16, 17, 19, 20, 21) A pair of Dec 16 tickets each for Doug McInroy and Joan Rosenfeld

Beethoven Symphony No. 5: at Koerner Hall. Kent Nagano (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal), directs the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Beethoven’s revolutionary Symphony No. 5,  later joined by the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir for Beethoven’s lyrical and joyous Mass in C Major, with Nathalie Paulin, soprano; Laura Pudwell, mezzo-soprano; Lawrence Wiliford, tenor; Sumner Thompson, baritone (Jan 22 to 25). A pair of tickets for Annie Odom

Acis and Galatea: Toronto Masque Theatre in the candle-lit Enoch Turner Schoolhouse .  A perfect love, a spurned giant, an enduring memorial by George Frideric Handel. Featuring tenor Lawrence Wiliford as Acis, soprano Teri Dunn as Galatea, baritone Peter McGillivray as Polyphemus and tenor Graham Thomson as Damon. A period ensemble is led by Larry Beckwith (violin 1), with chorus (Schola Cantorum, Faculty of Music U of T) directed by Daniel Taylor. (Jan 15 to17)  A pair of tickets for Anne-Maria Pennanen

Ash Roses (Centrediscs 2014) This inaugural CD release by the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP) celebrates Canadian composer Derek Holman and a 20-year prolific period of writing art songs. The featured artists are also known for their dedication to song and chamber repertoire: tenor Lawrence Wiliford, soprano Mireille Asselin, pianist Liz Upchurch and harpist Sanya Eng perform works all previously unrecorded.  A copy for you, Sabrina Keyes!

Music’s Children gratefully acknowledges Lawrence & Terry Sue, Teri, Alison, Juliet, and John.

mysterychild nov

In January this “littlest angel” (front row R), now a tenor, will portray a shepherd who’s in love with a nymph.

Meanwhile there are three Messiahs on his horizon

– one in Toronto Dec 16-21.

Also, see our concert listings, Nov 28

Know our Mystery Child’s name?

WIN PRIZES! Send your best guess, by October 24, to musicschildren@thewholenote.com. 

stephaniemartin adult stef conducting 2014861082 oStephanie Martin lives in Toronto near Eglinton and Dufferin where “pasta meets rasta.” Some of her other pastimes include yoga, French lessons, gardening, travelling and eating excellent food.

Canadian musician Stephanie Martin is a composer, conductor, organist, scholar, and consummate collaborator. While her musical values and appetites and curatorial instincts are deeply rooted in early music her work embraces much that is new. A busy associate professor of music at York University, Martin is the artistic director of Pax Christi Chorale, and the director of Scola Magdalena, an ensemble specializing in the chant and medieval polyphony for women’s voices. She is also a past director of music at the historic church of Saint Mary Magdalene. Somehow in between it all she finds time to consort with chamber groups such as I Fusiosi Baroque Ensemble, and maintains a vigorous blog on her website.

Just the basics? I was born in Tillsonburg Ontario. My earliest years were spent on my great-great-grandfather’s farm in Waterloo, Ontario. My family moved to Sackville New Brunswick where my Dad taught music at Mount Alison University. Then we came back to a dairy farm in Atwood, Ontario. I went to LDSS- Listowel District Secondary School where I sang in the excellent choir that Gerald Fagan created there, was a member of the drama club, and captain of the inter-varsity girls’ volleyball team! After high school I studied music at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo where there was a cutting edge Early Music performance programme, as well as a specialized church music programme. I studied harpsichord with Michael Purvis Smith, organ with Barrie Cabena, recorder with Sue Prior, and lots and lots of history and theory and musicianship, with many opportunities to perform at school and in the community.

Suppose you're chatting with a fellow traveller, who asks what you do for a living? Yes - some people find it difficult to maintain a meaningful conversation once the word “harpsichord” is mentioned. And not everyone warms to “University Professor.” If I feel they can’t handle “medieval polyphony” I usually just move on and say “I’m a musician.”

musicschildren rpt oct mystery-child babystpehWhen you look at your childhood photo today, what do you think about? I do not remember posing for the photo, but I remember my childhood home always being filled with books – storybooks and history books and poetry and National Geographic magazines kept four kids pretty much out of trouble.

Imagine you could travel back through time and visit the young person in that childhood photo? Is there anything you would like to ask or tell her?  I’m not sure what I would tell a two-year old who had just pulled down an entire shelf of books. I probably would not have the patience to snap a photo! I would tell my child self to observe everything, and to keep a diary, since the world has changed so much since I was 2 yrs old. I wish I had recorded my own observations of that way of life, and the people that brought me up, including my grandparents who lived in the Doddy Haus.

petermartin floorplan page 1 petermartin floorplan page 2

If you’d like to learn more about what a “Doddy Haus” is, click here

Other musicians in your family? Everyone in my large extended family has music in them. I come from the Mennonite heritage of singing a cappella in four parts at the drop of a hat.

Earliest memories of hearing music? I have a vivid and beautiful memory of sitting around a shining Christmas tree with my family singing “Silent Night” in our old farmhouse. That could be the first time I realized what music was. My Dad had an extensive vinyl record collection. I remember particular recordings like Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and a wonderful kid’s record called Tubby the Tuba. I recall being taken to live performances by my Dad, and often waking up after it was all over.

In Martin’s blog “Abner Turns Eighty” she says this, and more about her dad

 “ … He never regretted giving up academia for a country life. Outside the farming, Abner gathered a group of rag-tag rural choristers to perform a precedent-setting Messiah, and in so doing, passed on a passion for singing big fat oratorios. He now supports what I do with Pax Christi Chorale, and he’s a great proofreader, with a keen eye for errors and omissions. ..”

First memories of making music? As a wee child I started copying what I heard the adults doing. I’d pick out a tune on the piano and then make up my own songs – mostly about animals. My first composition was “Poor little horse in the stable.” All my early works concerned animals.

And making music with others? Singing in the junior choir at Sackville United Church, conducted by my Mom. I remember that we were lifted beyond ourselves  – a whole crowd of kids singing in a church basement sounding very strong and very sweet, and my own tiny voice fitting in as part of something big and wonderful.

Martin’s blog “In Memoriam Pete Seeger” offers us this additional window into the music she grew up with:

“ … The thing is, with Pete you were not a “fan.” You did not sit idly by and merely listen and pledge fan-ship to a performer. You did not “like” him on Facebook. You didn’t even buy the records. You didn’t have to because your parents already had them on the shelf. There wasn’t kid’s music and parent’s music, there was just music.

“‘No, you were not a fan. You were a collaborator. You were part of the band. You sang along with Pete. You kept singing long after the needle on the end of the arm of the record player had hissed and crackled to a halt. You harmonized with the big kids in the back seat of an un-air-conditioned Chevrolet touring around Nova Scotia. You filled the lazy 1970s summers with his songs, not listened to, but sung. You sang all the verses by memory, and then sang them again with a descant, then invented your own verses because you really didn’t understand the words. You tried to pick out the chords on your hopelessly out of tune, missing-stringed ukulele. You sang the songs at the top of your lungs (to confused cows, as if they were listening) thinking the power of your song could change the world. … “

First instrument, first teacher? The piano. My first piano teacher was Nancy Proctor who encouraged me to be creative and write new pieces for my lessons every week, alongside learning inventions by J.S. Bach. My second teacher Mrs.Noble in Sackville NB had a larger studio of students who performed “candy concerts” for each other. She organized us into duets and trios and entered us in festivals. She made performing seem like fun, and always rewarded us for good work. Those early experiences were very positive and so important!

We didn’t ASK Stephanie Martin this next question, she volunteered it.

What was my most embarrassing experience as a child learning music? I was entered in a sight-reading class for Kiwanis Festival. I guess my teacher thought I could do this since I generally played the pieces I was assigned every week. She had no idea that I was painstakingly translating the notes off the staff by their alphabetical names  “All Cows Eat Grass,” and “Good boys eat fudge always” etc. and then memorizing the piece for my lesson. I had absolutely no idea how to sight read music. The sight-reading test began, and I played what I presumed was on the page. It sounded like a very odd piece indeed, but I figured it was supposed to be difficult. I left the stage and could tell by my mother’s expression that I had really screwed up. After that experienced I resolved to read music properly.

When did you first conduct other musicians?  When did you first conduct for an audience? In high school a bunch of us used to get together to sing Palestrina for fun. At Listowel Mennonite Church we learned to lead hymn singing so we were coached on and how to give the right pitches, how to start (very important) how to stop (also important) basic conducting patterns, how to leave appropriate time between verses, how to choose the right tempo for the text. In high school I had my first job as a church organist for a two point Anglican parish in Listowel and Palmerston. I would ride in the Priest’s car and play for two services on Sunday mornings. I had to accompany Anglican chant and had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but the people were encouraging and kind.

Do you remember when you began to think of yourself as a career musician? Yes. I remember the exact moment. I was 12 years old and was allowed to sing in the Mennonite Mass Choir conducted by my Dad, for a performance of Handel’s Messiah. Strangely it was not while singing, but while listening to the orchestra play the Pastoral Symphony that I had my epiphany. It was the double basses pulling out long low notes that drew me into a magical world. I said to myself “I have to find a way to do this for the rest of my life.”

Did you ever think you would do something else? I desperately wanted to be an archeologist. Heinrich Schliemann was my hero. I also wanted to be a Shakespearean actor, an equestrian, a professional athlete, a sculptor, or an architect. I think that’s fairly normal isn’t it?

Where does music fit into your day-to-day life today? I do music every day, either teaching at York University, conducting Pax Christi Chorale, singing with Schola Magdalena, or when I have a spare moment, composing. I am writing a big choral symphony for performance in 2016, and finishing commissions for the Winnipeg Organ Festival, and for St. John’s Cathedral, Albuquerque.


Schola Magdalena sings Compline for Saint Cecilia on Nov 21. scolamagdalena.ca/concerts

Pax Christi Chorale will perform my cantata “Winter Nights” alongside two cantatas by Bach on December 6 & 7 paxchristichorale.org/winter-nights/

Any new recordings you are involved in? Recording a CD of my own compositions over the next year. A recent Youtube project of my music is here youtube.com/watch?v=Hu93FQxA-x4


“Winter Nights”, (Dec 6 & 7): The Pax Christi Chorale, led by Stepanie Martin, is joined by Michele Bogdanowicz, Sean Clark and Doug MacNaughton, for J.S.Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part II; his Nun komm der Heiden Heiland; and Stephanie Martin’s own Winter Nights – a four- movement cantata for chorus, tenor soloist, strings, piano four hands, organ and percussion. Victoria Geottler and Ron Greaves each win a pair of tickets.

Alleluia: Sacred choral works by Stephanie Martin, was recorded at The Church of St Mary Magdalene by their award winning choir. These 18 tracks of (mostly) unaccompanied choral beauty are new settings of Anglican liturgical texts derived from the Psalms, the Mass and the evening service of Benediction. Copies of this CD go to Tatiana Voitovitch and Anne-Maria Pennanen.

Schola Magdalena is a six-voice women’s group dedicated to exploring chant and other medieval music, and new music for women’s voices.  Scola Magdalena, led by Stephanie Martin sings Compline for St. Cecilia: plainchant and motets for women’s voices at The Church of St. Mary Magdalene on Nov 21. Virgo Splendens – Medieval music for Women’s Voices is their recent recording, and Richard Diver and Julie Rahn have each won a copy.

Music’s Children gratefully acknowledges Abner and Shirley, Jennifer, Larry, and Tim.

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