crow-photo 1 tso credit sian richards

Violinist Jonathan Crow lives in Roncesvalles Village, Toronto, with his wife Molly Read and their two daughters – Lucy and Sabina. He’s a proud Canadiens fan.

A native of Prince George, British Columbia, Crow attended high school in Victoria and graduated in Honours Performance from McGill University, at which time he joined the Montreal Symphony Orchestra as associate principal second violin. From 2002 to 2006 he was the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, at the time the youngest concertmaster of a major North American orchestra. The 2011/12 concert season marked Crow’s debut as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, an appointment which provides him with the opportunity to play a Guarneri del Gesù 1738 violin – recently restored by Ric Heinl, and newly lent to the TSO for the concertmaster’s use by Dr. and Mrs. Edward Pong. An avid chamber musician, Crow is a founding member of the New Orford String Quartet. A passionate and caring teacher, he juggles an extraordinary schedule to accommodate it all.

Suppose a friendly fellow traveller asks about your work? How might you reply? Hard to say – often if I'm travelling it's for a freelance chamber music show or a concerto. Some people seem very worried: “how can you make a living at that!” Luckily I can explain that I have a “real job” with the TSO.

Do you remember that childhood photo being taken? I don't actually remember when that photo was taken, but I certainly remember the dinner bell in the background – a good way to get kids in from street hockey for supper in Prince George! The photo makes me think of my parents - both avid gardeners, as you can (maybe) see from the plants also in the background. I'd love to know where my parents went shopping to pick up my concert shirts – I had a more extensive selection of button ups than I do now!

What is your absolute earliest memory of hearing music? My sister practising violin at night while I was falling asleep. I knew all the Suzuki tunes before I played them – my sister is six years older. She played violin and later viola, while my brother played trumpet and piano. The first CD I can remember buying was Itzhak Perlman playing Dvorak works for violin and piano

When did you first play the violin? I started at the age of six – there was a free Suzuki program in our school district at the time. I actually wanted to start on cello, but there wasn't a teacher available. Plus, three kids and a Volkswagen Rabbit ... surprised my parents didn't have me play the flute!

What do you remember about your first music teacher? I went through many teachers in Prince George – often people would come for a few years to teach and work there before moving on. I was lucky though to have many great people to work with!

crowe scan0010First recollections of making music with others? I performed regularly with a few close friends at their church in Prince George. It was a very musical environment, and many of us continued into the profession. One of the advantages of playing a string instrument is getting the chance to perform with friends basically from day one. I can't actually remember a time playing the violin where I wasn't playing in Suzuki groups, string orchestra or ensembles of some sort. This is one of the things that kept me going in music – I didn't want to lose out on hanging out with all my friends!

What are your first memories of performing? Good question- perhaps playing for my grandparents in England when I visited them as a child? My grandmother loved the Mendelssohn concerto- wasn't quite at that level for many more years though. Beyond that It would have to be at the Prince George Music Festival. I don't remember the performance, but I'm pretty sure I got to go for ice cream after.

crow enfamilleWhere does music fit into your family life today? My wife is a cellist, my eldest daughter plays violin and my youngest has just started cello. Music is very important to us. Regardless of what career paths my children choose, I feel that music lessons are so useful in life to help with developing creativity and self-esteem.

The point at which you began to think of yourself as a career musician? I actually never had a clear moment where I decided that music was the career for me - I went to university doing both math and music, and only later found myself drifting in the direction of a career in the music field. It always seemed to make more sense to try out music first and see how it worked out rather than giving it up for a few years and trying to regain facility in the fingers.

Suppose an after-school club asked you to talk informally with a mixed group of children ten to 12 years old, as part of a series called "What people do" …

I’d tell them I get to play music for a living. Playing the violin gives me a chance to meet some of the most interesting people in the world and play music written by some of the most musically creative and talented people ever to have lived.

Advice for a young person already sure they were going to have a life in music of some kind? Be open-minded! There are so many ways to make a living in music, but not everyone will end up playing in a orchestra or teaching. Find your own opportunities!

UPCOMING  engagements  …

TSO – regular concerts as concertmaster

Sep 11 - Gallery 345: New Orford String Quartet

September 12 –  Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society:

September 13 –  Integral House: New Orford String Quartet

September 15 & 16 – Prince Edward County Music Festival New Orford String Quartet

Sep 30 – Mooredale Concerts: Stars of the TSO

Oct 10  – Beethoven Concert, Orchestra London

October 12 – Brandon:  New Orford String Quartet

October 13  –  Winnipeg: New Orford String Quartet

October 14  – Saskatoon  New Orford String Quartet

Oct 26 – University of Western Ontario: New Orford String Quartet

Oct 28  - Mooredale Concerts: New Orford String Quartet

Nov 14-19 – TSO (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Brockville) Beethoven Triple Concerto with André Laplante and Shauna Rolston

New recordings?

I just recently finished a recording of Schubert Works for Violin and Piano with Philip Chiu. The disc is on XXI-21 Records and will be released this fall. My latest release is on Bridge with the New Orford String Quartet – late works of Beethoven and Schubert

For the September Mystery Child Click Here

For the names our June contest winners and to see and the prizes they won, click here

Vibraphonist, percussionist, composer Peter Appleyard was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England, in 1928. At 84, a consummate performer for most of his life, Appleyard continues to tour this summer — indefatigably entertaining, with no signs of slowing down.Before discovering the vibraphone, he started out as a drummer playing in vaudeville and dance bands, was conscripted into the RAF where he spent 18 months playing with RAF bands, and took an 18-month contract in 1949 to play in Bermuda.

In 1951 he came to Toronto, for what was going to be a vacation in Canada, and he has remained to become one of our most celebrated jazz musicians and an Officer of the Order of Canada. A list of people with whom he has played or is playing or has influenced would simply be endless. Appleyard has released 22 albums, including two in 2012, and collaborated on dozens more. He has hosted CBC Radio shows and had his own television program, Peter Appleyard Presents, syndicated throughout North America.

When you look at your childhood photo today, what do you think about? Those were happy innocent times, prior to WWII, when the whole world, it seems, changed forever.

Your absolute earliest memories of hearing music? I was taken to see at a circus called Bertram and Mills. One of the acts was a guy with about 20 cigarettes in his mouth: the music they were playing was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

I was a choirboy at Old Clee Church, Grimsby.

There was radio, and records, I remember hearing Paul Robeson’s Old Man River, Crosby, later Sinatra — the first record I ever bought myself was Nat Cole singing Sweet Lorraine.

What about making music? I remember messing about with the piano and drums at Clee Pier whilst father decorated the stage — the drummer was not around. And I played bugle and snare drum in the Boys Brigade.

Do you remember a time when you thought you would do something else? In those days to have a secondary education in high school, you had to pay for it, which my parents who were victims of the recession could not afford. So they obtained an apprenticeship for me, as a nautical instrument maker. The main work I did was as a compass adjuster — this had to be done routinely as they were not electronic compasses. But one day I was sent on an errand picking up some naval charts and I stopped off at a record store. In those days you could listen to records you were thinking of buying . So I was listening to a record and tapping away along with the drums and this fellow stuck his head around a corner and said “Hey … are you a drummer?” And I said “well … yes, I am!” And he said he was the bandleader of Felix Mendelssohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders and he offered me a job. Seems their drummer had been caught with another woman by his wife, who took a hatchet to his drums … I’d been earning 7/6 a week as a compass adjuster and they were offering me 17 pounds a week to play the drums. We worked the vaudeville/variety circuit — these shows would have a comedian, and maybe some jugglers, but the main attraction was a band. Ours was a kind of Hawaiian-flavoured. We had a couple of dancers: hula girls. We were the first band ever to appear on British television, in 1946 … 

A longer version of Peter Appleyard’s interview coming soon.


For the July / August Mystery Child Click Here

For the names our contest winners and to see and the prizes they won, click here

July /
August’s ChildJuly /August’s Child?

josh-grossman adult img 5024

Vancouver-born Josh Grossman came to Toronto at the age of 8. He attended Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, and then moved on to the University of Toronto Jazz Performance programme.

When you look at your childhood photo today, what do you remember?

It looks like it might have been taken at my grandparents’ house in Toronto – we must have been visiting from Vancouver. I enjoyed sports of all kinds when I was younger, and still have a hankering for go-karts, so I imagine that’s at play in the photo…

If you could travel back through time is there anything you would like to tell the child in the photo?

DON’T GO INTO THE ARTS! Just kidding. Probably I’d say make sure you nurture your soul – in your family and friends, in your work and in your hobbies.

Anything you'd like to ask?

Where are your pants, child?

What’s coming up? The TD Toronto Jazz Festival runs June 22 to July 1.This is my third festival as Artistic Director and I’ve had so much fun so far! As Artistic Director I get to see a bit of every show, meet all kinds of great people, introduce performances, and interview artists.

During the festival my big band, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra is presenting the Radiohead Jazz Project 2, (July 1 at The Rex Hotel, 7:30pm). We’re playing two sets: arrangements of Radiohead tunes and a bunch of new music too. The first incarnation of The Project sold out!

I play (trumpet, flugelhorn) in the Chris Hunt Tentet, which has shows coming up in July and August at The Rex. I’ve played in the band for almost ten years and it’s always a blast. The repertoire is an interesting mix of jazz standards and pop tunes. I get to do a bit of writing for the band, and the other musicians are fantastic.

I’m looking forward to my 15th season as Artistic Director and Conductor of the TJO. I get to work with outstanding musicians, perform interesting music, and enjoy the challenge of keeping things fresh each year. The TJO is good for my soul.

I’m also looking forward to a sixth season as administrator for Continuum Contemporary Music. With Continuum, my mind is constantly expanded. There are no boundaries to contemporary music, and Co-Artistic Directors Jennifer Waring and Ryan Scott are always coming up with outlandish new plans. I get a lot out of helping to make them happen, working with some of the top classical musicians in the city. I feel so lucky to be involved with these organizations - they provide me with such rich and varied musical experience.

Early musical memories? My parents played records all the time at home. I have fond memories of going through the 45s and picking out what I wanted to hear. When visiting my dad’s parents, my grandfather would always have music playing (usually opera, usually not to my liking at that time) but also was a big Victor Borge fan.

Musicians in your family? My mom is very musical – she took piano for many years and still sings in a choir. My dad can play the radio. He has a story about a clarinet teacher asking him to stop coming for lessons. My brothers (one older, one younger) were both good saxophonists through high school and university (extra-curricular).

Early experiences playing music with other kids? Piano, and then later on, trumpet. I did the Suzuki Method, and I’m sure there were piano recitals, but I remember Pine River best – I attended a two-week arts program there in the summer after grade 6 which made a lasting and good impression. My first memory of performing solo is at Pine River. It’s where I learned trumpet and at the end of the two weeks we performed for our parents …

What do you remember about your “first music teacher

I remember Harvey Silver – my piano teacher in Toronto – best. He was very, very patient. He was already an older gentleman when we arrived in Toronto in the mid-80’s, but he was always very kind and very encouraging; when my tastes starting to swing (ha!) more to the pop side of things he would even bring me pop sheet music to play. I especially remember playing “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera and, of course, “Stand By Me”.

When did you first lead other musicians?

High school. Mr. Hazlett and Mr. Dmytryshyn at Lawrence Park were both extremely supportive of my musical pursuits. I had the opportunity to conduct concert bands and jazz bands; I even came back after graduating to continue to work with the jazz band.

Do you remember when began to think of yourself as a musician?

It must have been fairly early on in high school. I had a real passion for music which I’m sure existed for many years, and was fostered by Mr. Ricci at Kane Senior Public School, but it was in high school that I really started to think about pursuing music as a career. I feel lucky to have had such great role models in Mr. Ricci, Mr. Hazlett and Mr. Dmytryshyn – their passion for music and teaching made me pretty sure I wanted to be a music teacher. As my high school years progressed and I was doing more and more playing, I gradually shifted the priority to playing over teaching.

Did you ever think about doing something else?

Nothing in particular. I do remember thinking it was so cool that my dad got to wear a suit and carry a briefcase each day to work…but I can’t remember ever thinking about anything other than music.

Suppose an after-school club asked you to talk informally with a group of children about careers.

When they asked you "What do you do?", how might you reply;

I’m a musician!

If they asked you "Why did you decide to do that"? what do you think you would say;

I love playing and listening to music – it’s so much fun

What advice, if any, could you offer to a pre-adolescent or young teen who was already sure they were going to have a life in music?

Be prepared to work really hard, and practise your butt off…


For this month's contest -  Who is June's Child? - please scroll down.

May's Child is Colin Ainsworth



I can’t wait for Versailles (May) and Glimmerglass (July/August))!

And I’m really excited to be joining London’s Nash Ensemble at the Toronto Summer Music Festival in August.


I’ve been involved with numerous recordings which are all on my website -

I think my favourite is the Aldeburgh Connection’s Our Own Songs which includes Derek Holman’s The Heart Mislaid which were written for me. I’m a huge fan of Derek’s songs and these songs speak to me more now than they ever did.

Tenor Colin Ainsworth is well-known to Southern Ontario audiences for his big warm voice and remarkable diction which bring beauty and clarity to operas, choral and symphonic works and song recitals. Disarmed by his frank grin and unpretentious manner, some will not know that beyond Opera Atelier and The Aldeburgh Connection he is in demand with opera companies and symphonies internationally, and made his Carnegie Hall debut on February 10, singing the role of Haroun in Bizet's Djamileh with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra. The New York Times said that his “… bright, beautiful singing made Haroun instantly appealing …” Those who have followed his career will not be surprised.

Ainsworth’s website biography and schedule are quietly vertigo-inducing, and include a tour of Opera Atelier’s production of Armide to the Opéra Royal de Versailles, France, and the Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York.

Ainsworth grew up in Holland Landing, Ontario, and attended Dr. Denison High School in Newmarket. Late in high school he took a drama/music theatre class for fun: the teacher said he should consider private singing lessons. He went to Irene Ilic on a recommendation from one of his mother’s friends, and subsequently met Darryl Edwards at the Toronto Kiwanis Music Competition. Ainsworth went to the University of Western Ontario to study with Edwards and later transferred to the University of Toronto to continue with him.

Ainsworth’s parents, who are both deaf, were a bit apprehensive about his becoming a singer since they couldn't hear if he was good or not. But people who had heard him sing helped to ease their fears …

Suppose you're travelling, and a friendly fellow traveller asks what work you do?

It usually does come up and people are fascinated that I sing classical music.

I guess it’s not the typical job that would come up in conversation nowadays.

The usual questions then ensue: Do you sing full-time? Can you make a living? Why aren’t you fat?

Can you sing something? Yes; yes; I run; and sure!

65_mysterychild_april2012_2032012_00001_1About your childhood photo … ?

I do remember that I was at a picnic or party with lots of relay races and games, probably for the Montessori school I was going to at the time. I apparently had just cut my own hair – thus the lack of hair at the front – and I remember being very proud of myself for doing so.

Anything you would like to tell little Colin?

I would tell him never to cut my/his own hair, something I didn’t grasp until I was at least 17.

Your earliest memories of music?

My earliest memory is going to hear my mother’s father, Jim Spark, conduct the Masonic Choral Group when I was about four. He too was a tenor but I don’t have any recollection of him singing that day. I also remember trying to do Highland dancing to his Scottish records in my grandparent’s living room and listening to their records of bagpipes. The sound of a bagpipe still brings back those memories for me.

Other family musicians?

My father’s father, Ivan Ainsworth, was a folk singer and played guitar. As a young child, I can vividly remember him singing to me “One day at a time, Lord Jesus.” Both my father’s parents played and sang in a folk band up in Sudbury. My mother’s siblings either sang or played piano. Bur since my parents were deaf, there wasn’t that kind of music in the house at the time that photo was taken.

First experiences of engaging with music?

Despite having deaf parents, music slowly became part of my life. I heard music at church and remember as a child trying to make up harmonies to hymns at church. I loved listening to the radio and would sneak a pocket cassette/radio player into my coat at school and listen to it at recess time. I loved to sing at school, and remember being asked to sing for the class with another friend in Grade 1.

What, if anything, was your first instrument, other than your own voice?

Singing didn’t really come into the picture until late in high school.

I took piano lessons for a couple years but, unfortunately, didn’t take it very seriously. I also started to play trombone in Grade 7 until about the middle of high school but I was hopeless at that. They made me play flute at university as a secondary instrument which I hated and rarely practised.

What were your first experiences of making music with other people?

My first real experiences making music with other people were in high school in the band and jazz choir, with a choral group in Newmarket and with the Ontario Youth Choir with Elmer Iseler conducting.

Do you remember when you first sang alone for an audience?

I think the first real time was for my first singing teacher Irene Ilic’s, studio class. Probably “Close every door” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Do you remember the point at which you began to think of yourself as a musician?

Not until I was well into university did I think that I was actually going to be a musician.

Do you remember thinking you would do something else?

At one point in my life, I thought I was going to go into dentistry. I’m so glad I didn’t!

Suppose an after-school club asked you to talk informally with  group of children, and they asked you  "What  do you do?" …

I would tell them that I get to pretend to be other people on stage and sing really loudly. I get to travel and see really wonderful places, sing amazing music, and meet amazing people.

If they asked you "Why did you decide to do that"?

I would say that I somewhat fell into it, found that I absolutely LOVE what I do, and that I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else!

What advice, if any, could you offer to a young person who was already sure they were going to have a life in music?

Work hard, practise a lot, and no matter what you end up doing, do it with passion.

Who is
June’s Child?

6_mysterychild_may_racerWho is June’s Child?

You’ll find May’s child in the driver’s seat for a diverse continuum of music, and occasionally on the frontline.

He may need a jazzy crash helmet in festive June, racing between Toronto’s lakefront and Koerner Hall, where he’s invited some sophisticated ladies to gather.

Know our mystery child’s name?

Send your best guess to musics­children@thewhole­

Provide your mailing address in case your name is drawn from correct replies received by midnight on May 20, 2012.

“Hey …  where’s my horn?”
Vancouver, 1980.


Orchestra Toronto’s The Choral Symphony (May 27, Toronto Centre for the Arts) is a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 in D minor for which they’re joined by the Toronto Choral Society, and Rachel Cleland, soprano, Erin Lawson, alto, Colin Ainsworth, tenor, and Orival Bento-Goncalves, bass. Sue Woo and Joy Gordon each won a pair of tickets!

The seventh annual Toronto Summer Music Festival has this treat in store: the Nash Ensemble with Colin Ainsworth performs Music of England (August 2, Koerner Hall) — works by Bridge, Vaughan Williams and Elgar. The Nash Ensemble is the first ensemble-in-residence at London’s legendary Wigmore Hall.  Mark your calendars, Warren Keyes, and Rahila Faziluddin, you each have a pair of tickets!

Our Own Songs is a recording of The Aldeburgh Connection’s own commissioned works by John Greer, Derek Holman and John Beckwith, inspired by a wide range of influences in art, history, and literature. Artistic directors and pianists Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata perform with Adrianne Pieczonka, Monica Whicher, Elizabeth Turnbull, Mark Pedrotti, and Colin Ainsworth. (MARQUIS 381) Ruth Comfort and Shelby Cook: a copy each!

April’s Child Lydia Adams

If you'd like to read the full-length version of this interview , please revisit this page on April 1


If a friendly fellow traveller asked about your work … ?

I would say that I have the privilege of conducting two great choirs, the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers and have the great honour of presenting wonderful music with fantastic people. I'd say how much I love what I am doing and would invite them to a concert. I'd have a brochure for each choir on hand!

68_MYSTERY_enhanced_Lydia_Adams_age_10If you could travel back through time and talk with the young person in that photo is there anything you'd tell them?

Stay curious through life. Have confidence in yourself. Keep your sense of humour!

Do you remember that childhood photo being taken?

Absolutely. It was my tenth birthday. I had on my ‘Festival Dress’ (sent to me by my Aunt and Uncle in Chicago!) and I had just received my new full-sized violin from my parents as my birthday gift.

Up to that point, I had been playing on a three-quarter sized violin. My Dad was the photographer – he had his Brownie, and he snapped the shot. Though piano was my great love, I became the concertmaster of the Cape Breton Youth Orchestra. However, I did observe that there were many people fairly relieved to know that I was giving it up to focus more on piano. I was no threat to Jeanne Lamon!

When you look at the photo today, what does it make you think about?

So many memories – my mother, Florence Adams was an integral part of my musical life and it is so appropriate that she is in this picture with me and that Dad is also represented as the photographer and supporter, a role he took on his whole life.

This room, by the way, was actually the dining room – we used to eat here before the grand piano arrived!

This very room is where my mother hosted her legions of students for their piano lessons. It's also where the piano examiner, Carleton Elliott from Mount Allison University, would come for the yearly exams.

My mother created a musical hub in this room. There was always music here.

We had great music making with so many friends including soprano Lorna MacDonald (Lois Marshall Chair in Voice, University of Toronto) and soprano Valerie Kinslow (Head of Voice at McGill University) plus many, many others. Many of these musicians went on to a career in music and many others went on to other careers and have kept music as a central part of their lives. There were many parties in this room, usually centred around music and it always reminds me of great friends and the collegiality we shared.

The house is literally a block from the Atlantic Ocean, and I could look out on the ocean as I practised, through the window you can see in the picture. My father built this house and he would bicycle over after work each day and build day by day his family’s home. In order to build it, he took night classes in Glace Bay for his Draftsman's papers, etc., all the while working for the Coal Company. I couldn’t have had two more wonderful parents who led by example with a true sense of the Cape Breton spirit

It is actually a wonder that we children lived. I would go down to the ocean as a young child with my best friend, Mary Clare MacKinnon, (a pianist and singer who also practises law) and jump the ice floes (a very dangerous practice called ‘Squishing’.) We also engaged in many other dangerous practices at the ocean – wandering out far on the reef and we also created situations where the fire department had to be called – what a great time we had! The ocean and all around it was our playground!

We only stopped to make music.

What is your absolute earliest memory of hearing music?

Apparently, as the story goes, my mother brought me home from the hospital, handed me to my brother, and immediately taught a piano lesson to a waiting student (there was an important exam coming up!), so I guess that will have been the very first time I heard music after birth. I can’t really remember a time in our house without music. There were piano lessons before school, at lunchtime and after school.

My mother was one of the two piano teachers in our town of Glace Bay, N.S.

She also was a registered nurse. She gained her teaching diploma during WW2. Imagine, she was the night nursing superintendent at the Glace Bay General Hospital and also taking her piano and organ lessons and sending her Theory and History of Music to Trinity College, London, England, by ship during the war, for corrections.

Are there (or were there) other musicians in your childhood family?

My father had a beautiful natural singing voice and my father’s mother used to sing songs in Gaelic, her native tongue.

My childhood was filled with music from family members. My maternal grandmother had been a church organist until she was crippled with severe arthritis. She had a sister (Sue) who was one of the first graduates in voice from Acadia University - Sue was a contralto. My maternal grandmother also had a brother (Grover) who had a fine tenor voice. I am still using one of his Elijah scores today. They all read music and my grandfather owned a store where he sold pianos and organs.

My mother, of course, was a musical whirlwind. Her siblings were also musical. She would sing duets with her sister, Ivy. Family members still remark on how musical they were. My mother started choirs specifically so that I would have a choir to sing in. She saw the need for our young teenagers’ group to continue singing beyond junior choir and so founded The Glace Bay Teenaires. She took them on tour to Kitchener/Waterloo, Niagara Falls, Montreal (Expo 67) and to Aberdeen, Scotland for the International Gaelic Mod. (It had been the National Mod to this time and our appearance made it international.) All this happened in a town where there really was no money at all.

Poverty was rampant, but the miners made sure that their children had music. Mom certainly gave many, many lessons, played for many, many services and taught in the Glace Bay schools for no payment. She was passionate as a “Music Warrior.” My brother, Robert, played piano as well, but gave it up for a career in broadcasting at the CBC and later in computers.

Where did hearing music fit into your life as a child?

CBC was a musical lifeline to us in Cape Breton, as well as in most parts of the country, I suspect. We listened to everything: Elmer Iseler conducting Handel’s Messiah each Christmas; the Christmas Eve service from King’s College, Cambridge, with David Willcocks conducting; the marvellous voices of Lois Marshall and Maureen Forrester, people I later knew and worked with. It’s amazing that I also realized my dream of working with both those conductors as well.

My parents also took me to hear the Atlantic Symphony and Community Concerts series, and one such concert proved to be a life changing experience. It was held in Baddeck at the High School gym, a two hour drive for us. I was five or six years old and remember vividly hearing a young Maureen Forrester sing. I placed myself in the front row and almost clapped my hands off, I was so excited. On the way home, I declared to my parents that I wanted to be a musician.

My parents also had a rich body of recordings available for me to hear, and these were very important to me. One was of Wanda Landowska playing the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier on the harpsichord. I was transfixed. I recall when I was around10 years old wearing out the recording of the 1954 Vienna Choir Boys recording of Schubert’s Ständchen (D920).

My father, Robert Adams, was a blacksmith working in the Forge making parts for the mines for the Dominion Coal Company. When he arose to go to work I would rush down and join him at breakfast. Once he left for work, because it was still dark, I could see my reflection in our front window and I would play that recording over and over while trying to conduct it. It must have been something for the neighbours to see this small child waving her arms in the window as they passed by on the way to work. (My mother took the whole Junior Choir, and all the neighbourhood children, to see the Vienna Choir Boys movie Almost Angels).

What is your first memory of  yourself making music?

If you look at the top of the Heintzman piano Mom is playing in my child picture, you will see a small wooden piano (like Linus plays!). My very first memory of music making was playing that piano, a gift from my Aunt and Uncle “from away,”’  in piano duets with my mother. I would sit on the floor to play.

What was your first instrument, and when did you first conduct?

My first instrument is and always will be the piano. I just love it, love the sound, love “making friends” with pianos and love the repertoire. My real joy is playing Bach.

Aside from my “front room conducting,” my first actual conducting happened after a major service at St. Paul’s Church (the church where I grew up,) and where my Mom was the organist and music director. She would have these enormous services which absolutely packed the church of 1,000 people. Her choirs were large and shone especially at Christmas and Easter. The week after those services, she would usually be in bed with a migraine headache, and would send me down, even as a young child, to take the organ and the choir for the day. I loved this, even though I didn’t play the organ. I pretended I did, and just blew the roof off the church with that magnificent Cassavant. I am sure the church people and the choirs were really happy to have Mom back the next week.

What do you remember about your first music teacher?

My first teacher was my mother. She was a brilliant teacher and inspired thousands of students young and old throughout her career. I think my Mom and Dad made an excellent decision, however,  to send me to the other piano teacher in town, Marguerite MacDougall, when I was 4 or 5. Before that, my mother was wise – she didn’t push me – but she did leave beginner books out on the piano and I was forever going to her with “What’s this, Mommie?” questions all the time. These beginner books got more difficult as I grew older:  I started to find Messiah, Elijah’ and other scores on the piano. I would love to go through those scores from top to bottom, singing all the solos and choruses as I went. Mom told me that she would always be my “pretend teacher” if I ever had any questions. That situation was perfect, because I did go to her often, of course.

I loved Marguerite (Mrs. MacDougall) completely. She was a wonderful pianist and was the very first  graduate from Mount St. Vincent in Halifax with a performance degree in piano.

Marguerite was raising a large family and played for every major concert or musical in Cape Breton, from the staged musicals sponsored by the Rotary Club to a 14 year old Itzhak Perlman in concert (really!) to Lassie. She played from the Bach Well Tempered Clavier for world champion figure skater Barbara Ann Scott in the Glace Bay Forum and she loved working with Victor Braun (Russell’s father) in the musical, The Song of Norway, which ended with the first movement of the Grieg concerto. Victor was the “star” they brought in “from away” (a term of reference for those not born on the Island.)

Marguerite was a brilliant pianist and our piano lessons were filled with laughter and positivity. She hated asking people to play their “technique” and we usually blew right through the scales and arpeggios to the music. She would dismiss them and say “You can play those,” and we would move on to the wonderful world of Chopin or Brahms. I can hear her play in my mind’s ear even now.

Every now and then, you would hear the yowling of her cat as it made its way down the chimney from the roof, landing at the bottom with a thump. It then would shake itself off and walk with great dignity into the living room (and the lesson would go on!). Her home, like my parent’s, was always full of energy and wonderful hospitality. These were homes where friends and strangers were always welcome and the rooms were filled with stories, laughter and music.

In my final year of high school, it was decided that I would go to Mrs. Dorothy Sutherland, a British concert pianist who lived in Sydney. She was elegant and gracious: an elderly woman who had come to Canada when her husband’s business brought them here. Her home was one of quiet civility and, playing at her home, I experienced the magic of a Steinway piano for the first time.

What were your first experiences of making music with other people?

My Mom conducted the choirs in our church and I was a member of the Junior Choir before I had even started school. I also had great friends in the neighbourhood who were hooked on music. The greatest thing we could think of doing after school or on weekends was getting together to play pianos duets and (after the second and then the third piano moved into our fairly small house) – piano duos were the rage! We would run through a whole book of Mozart works – or operas written for piano and piano duo – or Fauré works – whatever we had on hand – not stopping! We would test out sight-reading doing this – just kept going, no matter what, full speed! - dragging the other person through if they stumbled. We also thought that “perfect pitch” was the norm. Everyone seemed to have it.

Do you remember the point at which you began to think of yourself as a career musician?

This will be rather convoluted.

I had finished university and left to study further at the Royal College of Music in London, England, with Kendall Taylor, the great Beethoven specialist. I really had very little confidence at the time and decided to study in England to work with some of the best musicians and find out if I belonged at a professional level.

But studying piano was all a ruse, as the real reason I was going to England was to study with David Willcocks, the great choral conductor who had done such incredible work and made such sublime recordings with the King’s College Choir in Cambridge, and who was then coming to the RCM as its director. I was in awe of him. The College didn’t offer a course with David and he knew nothing of my plan of coming to work with him.

I guess I should tell the story here of how I met him.

I arrived in London in 1976 knowing no one – not one person – and had arranged a place to stay in Chelsea, a short distance away from Prince Consort Road, where the Royal College of Music sprawled across the street from the Royal Albert Hall. I decided to walk up and find out just how long it would take to get there in the morning, when the Director’s address would take place at 9:00 a.m. the next day. As I was walking up, I knew the rain was about to start and was rounding the corner of Prince Consort Road when it began coming down hard.

I got into the College completely soaked and there was no let-up of the rain in sight.

It was 5 minutes to 5. The College closed at 5:00 p.m.

The very lovely commissionaire who was on the desk informed me that I would have to leave the building in the next 5 minutes UNLESS I was auditioning for the choir. I had no idea what the choir was, who the conductor was, but in a split second decided that whatever it was, I was going to do that audition.

It turned out to be the audition call for the 300 voice Bach Choir, which David Willcocks conducted. Fifteen minutes later, in a strange twist of fate, I was face to face with my idol. I did the audition completely in awe – I could hardly sing – no breath. He took pity on me and I became a member of that wonderful choir with 300 new friends. He was very gracious to allow me to conduct this incredible group from time to time, as well as accompany the RCM Chorus.

One notable time with the RCM Chorus was when we were rehearsing a new work by Dr. Herbert Howells. Dr. Howells came into the room. Immediately after welcoming Dr. Howells to the rehearsal and seating him on the stage in front of the choir, David dragged me from the piano and he went to the piano and I had this incredible experience of conducting the choir in a work by Herbert Howells with the composer about a foot from my right arm. Daunting but thrilling!

My very first performance in England with Sir David conducting was as part of the RCM choir singing St. Nicolas, with Peter Pears singing the main role for Benjamin Britten’s Memorial Service. My final performance there with Sir David was as part of the Bach Choir singing the wedding of Charles and Diana. Sir David Willcocks gave me countless and wonderful opportunities as a student – and it is from him that I gained my confidence as a professional musician. I will be forever grateful.

My great influence here in Canada was Elmer Iseler. I was absolutely dumb-struck when he and the Festival Singers of Canada arrived at Mount Allison for a concert and I heard R. Murray Schafer’s Epitaph for Moonlight for the first time.

I absolutely knew that I would be working with Elmer in the future and was thrilled to play for the Elmer Iseler Singers for 17 years. I am now so honoured  to conduct the choir of professional singers which bears his name. As you may know, I arrived at the position of Conductor/Artistic Director of the EIS because of the illness and passing of Elmer, so it was a tough time for us all.

It is also rare that a named choir survives its founder, and we had to all convince ourselves, starting with the Iseler family, myself, the board of directors, the Singers, the arts councils and our audiences, both in Toronto and throughout Canada, that the choir should go forward. I had some doubt suggested to me by one arts council member as to whether I could “'handle” a second choir but aside from that person, I received overwhelming support.

Do you remember a time when you thought you would do something else?

If so, what were those things?

No. However, as a child, I did entertain being a truck driver for a (very short) while, or a Mountie (love the uniform!).


We are excited to be  working with Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space, Dr. Roberta Bondar. The Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers, will present a wonderful joint concert in collaboration with the Ontario Science Centre and the Dr. Roberta Bondar Foundation on April 21, 8pm at the Ontario Science Centre. This concert will honour Dr. Bondar’s 20th anniversary into space. Within the program, there are two World Premieres to honour the occasion and Dr. Bondar will be there and will speak.

Recent recordings

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s in-house record label tsoLIVE released Gustav Holst: The Planets, the TSO's  fifth in a series of self-produced recordings. It was recorded live at Roy Thomson Hall, and features TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the women of the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir.

The Elmer Iseler Singers’ own two most recent CDs are both special. We recorded a Christmas CD with Eleanor McCain in the fall and the one before that was a CD of Peter Togni’s ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah’ with bass clarinettist Jeff Reilly.

Both choirs are planning new CDs  for the coming year.

Looking towards the future, Lydia Adams offers some additional comments from another recent interview:

I don't think that Canadian Choral Music has ever been stronger in Canada - the choirs are magnificent throughout the country. So many young and terrific choral conductors are taking on positions and making the choral art incredibly strong here.

Another wonderful thing happening is the rise of great Canadian choral composers who are gaining international reputations for their writing. It is a fantastic and crucial three-way partnership - composer, conductor and choir - we all need the others for everyone to flourish.

What we need now is to continue being proactive to our governments and arts councils to make more money available for choirs. We know the importance of choral music for the human heart and soul and we need to continue being vocal about it.

We all can be activists - audience members - singers - conductors - everyone - to encourage and keep encouraging our governments to put money into the arts.

They need to know that music generally, the arts, and choral music specifically are all so important to our society and to the development and creation of great citizens of our nation.



Who is May’s Child?

65_mysterychild_april2012_2032012_00001_1Discovered by music only at the end of high school, he has two special reasons to sing expressively, with impeccable diction.

In “high” demand internationally, he’s made two Aldeburgh connections this season, joins Orchestra Toronto for Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 in May, and in all his spare time he’s training for that “someday” half-marathon.

Know our mystery child’s name?

Send your best guess to musics­children@thewhole­

Provide your mailing address in case your name is drawn from correct replies received by midnight on April 20, 2012.

This spring and summer, I think I’ll be a Christian knight, impervious to feminine allure!

Starting in Toronto, I’ll travel to the Opéra Royal de Versailles, France, and The Glimmerglass Festival in New York State!



65_prize_1-amadeuslogo65_prize_1-eis_logo_large_1Music of the Spheres (April 21, 8pm). The Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers, conducted by Lydia Adams, join forces at the Ontario Science Centre for two world premieres. Beyond Earth by Lydia Adams, text by Roberta Bondar, with images from Dr. Roberta Bondar’s photographic explorations, along with And Yet It Moves, by Jason Jestadt. Meet guest speaker Dr. Bondar and enjoy some special star-gazing afterwards! Andrew Kellogg and Helen Spiers each win a pair of tickets.

65_cd-prize_3_elmeriselers_1167_rwhSing all ye joyful: Music of Ruth Watson Henderson. This Elmer Iseler Singers’ recording, conducted by Lydia Adams, is devoted entirely to the choral music of Ruth Watson Henderson. Recipient of several awards, perhaps the greatest honour paid to her is that choirs from all over the world, and at home in Canada, sing her music and sing it often. (CBC Records MVCD 1167) A copy goes to Dale Sorensen.

65_songsof_thespirit_1Songs of the Spirit features the Amadeus Choir performing Eleanor Daley’s Requiem, works by Srul Irving Glick and Barry Peters, and the world premiere recording of Missa 4 Vocum by Andrea Gabrieli. Lydia Adams, conductor. (AMA9900) A copy goes to Lilli Killian.

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