Dean Burry (2015 - 2017)
Toronto-based Composer and Educator Dean Burry joins the Canadian Children’s Opera Company as Artistic Director following two decades of dedication to children’s opera in Canada. He has been a key player in the Education and Outreach Department of the Canadian Opera Company since designing the celebrated After-School Opera Program in 1997. Working as Program Leader, Music and Stage Director he has created over fifty operas with young people in various Toronto communities. He has developed and/or implemented many highly successful outreach programs for such organizations as the Canadian Children’s Opera Company, Canadian Opera Company, Soundstreams, Ontario Arts Council, Live Bait Theatre, The Royal Conservatory of Music, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Toronto District School Board. He is also a professor of new and Canadian music at the Glenn Gould Professional School of the Royal Conservatory.
As an award-winning composer and librettist, Burry has written twelve nationally and internationally-performed theatrical works for young people, including The Hobbit, The Secret World of Og, The Scorpions’ Sting, The Bremen Town Musicians, Le nez de la sorcière, The Vinland Traveler, Angela and Her Sisters, Pandora’s Locker and The Sword in the Schoolyard. His opera The Brothers Grimm, commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company’s in 1999, has been presented over 600 times and is considered “the most performed Canadian opera in history” (Bill Richardson, CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera). Over 175,000 people in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Nashville, Chicago and Cardiff, Wales have seen the work and there will be a Brazilian production (in Portuguese) in October 2015.
In 2011, Burry was honoured with the Ontario Arts Foundation’s Louis Applebaum Composer Award in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of music for young people.
Ann Cooper Gay (2000 - 2015)
Ann Cooper Gay is an accomplished conductor, opera singer, pianist, organist, and flutist, well known in the artistic community for her extraordinary enthusiasm, energy, and consistently high level of artistic achievement. During her tenure, which began in July 2000 and ended in June 2015, Ms. Cooper Gay formed a youth chorus; established a drama instruction program for all divisions; produced a CD entitled There and Back Again; commissioned seven operas: Alice in Wonderland, East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, Laura’s Cow: The Legend of Laura Secord (June 2012 - Luminato Festival), The Hobbit, A Dickens of a Christmas, Dragon in the Rocks, and The Secret World of Og; and led the CCOC in a recording of Harry Somers’ opera A Midwinter Night’s Dream, nominated for a Juno award in 2007. Lullabies, the newest CD, was launched in September 2015.
Ann has served as conductor of the University of Toronto Women’s Chorus, Associate Conductor of the Hart House Orchestra at the University of Toronto, and string/orchestra instructor for the Toronto Board of Education. Her guest conducting includes the York Symphony Orchestra, the North York Concert Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Youth Orchestra, Assistant Conductor for the COC’s La fanciulla del West, and Music Director/Conductor for the youth opera production of A Dickens of a Christmas in Limerick, Ireland at the “Summer Music on the Shannon” Festival. Ann founded the Children’s Choir at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the award-winning High Park Choirs of Toronto, and was honoured by the Toronto YWCA as a “Woman of Distinction” and by her alma mater, Austin College, as a “Distinguished Alumna”.
Ms. Cooper Gay holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music and Music Education, as well as a Diploma with Distinction in Opera Performance. Before becoming Assistant Professor of Music at Houghton College (Houghton, NY), she was a soprano soloist with the Canadian Opera Company, touring throughout North America as Despina (Così fan tutte), Mimì (La bohème) and Violetta (La traviata). Ann can be heard as Sara Riel on the Centrediscs recording of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel, recorded live at Washington’s Kennedy Center.
John Tuttle (1985 - 2000)
Organist and choirmaster John Tuttle graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied organ with Alexander McCurdy. Following graduation, he served in the United States Army as organist and choirmaster of the Post Chapel at the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., and then returned to Philadelphia in 1971 to serve as Dr. McCurdy's successor at the First Presbyterian Church.
In 1975, he left the United States for Toronto to become organist and choirmaster of St. Paul's Anglican Church, where he remained until accepting the post at St. Thomas's Anglican Church in 1989.
In 1979, John was appointed organist to the University of Toronto, and adjunct associate professor of organ at the University's Faculty of Music. From 1981 to 2005, he conducted the Hart House Chorus at U of T, and from 1981 to 2011 he was the founding conductor of the Exultate Chamber Singers, a 20-voice ensemble that gained a national reputation for superb choral singing. From 1985 to 2000, he was music director of the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, which commissioned numerous operas for children, and toured throughout Canada and the U.S.A.
In 2006, John was appointed organist and director of music at Trinity College, University of Toronto.
John holds the Fellowship Diploma of the American Guild of Organists, and holds honorary Fellowship diplomas from the Royal College of Organists (U.K.) and the Royal Canadian College of Organists, of which he was national president from 1986 to 1988.
In addition to his many duties in Toronto, John plays concerts and teach master classes in organ playing and choral conducting throughout Canada and the U.S.
Derek Holman (1975 - 1985)
Derek Holman was born in Cornwall, England in 1931. He was educated at Truro School and at the Royal Academy of Music, studying with York Bowen, Eric Thiman and William McKie. He received no formal instruction in composition but was awarded three composition prizes whilst a student, and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Music from the University of London, and the Fellowship Diploma from the Royal College of Organists.
Throughout his adult life, Holman has been active as a composer, teacher and church musician. His varied experience as a teacher began with two years as a sergeant-instructor in the British Army of the Rhine, followed by two years as Music Master at the Westminster Abbey Choir School. From 1956 to 1965, he was Tutor, later Warden, at the headquarters of the Royal School of Church Music. In 1965 he emigrated with his family to Canada, and from 1967 taught at the University of Toronto, in the Faculty of Music's Department of Theory and Composition, retiring as a Professor in 1996.
As an organist and choir-director, Dr. Holman held posts in Anglican churches in England and Canada, retiring from St. Simon's Bloor St. in Toronto in 1998. From 1975-85 he conducted the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus.
Derek Holman's considerable output as a composer consists almost entirely of choral works, ranging from hymn-tunes to full-scale oratorios, and songs for solo-voice and piano. Most of these works were commissioned by a wide range of performing artists or organizations, including the CBC, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus, the International Choral Festival of 1993, the Aldeburgh Connection and many others.
Holman's collaborations with Robertson Davies include three Gaudy Night cantatas for Massey College, a children's opera, Dr. Cannon's Cure, and the oratorio Jezebel, premiered at Roy Thomson Hall in 1993. A second oratorio The Invisible Reality to words by P.K. Page was premiered there in 2000, as part of Toronto's Millennial Celebrations.
Of Holman's sixty-plus songs, most are found in twelve song-cycles. These include Ash Roses, written for Karina Gauvin, The Centred Passion, written for Mark Pedrotti in 1986, and recorded by Gerald Finley and Stephen Ralls in1998 for CBC Records, and in 2008, The Four Seasons, commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company in memory of their director, Richard Bradshaw.
Dr. Holman holds the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of London and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.
Donald Kendrick (1974 - 1975)
Dr. Kendrick debuted in Carnegie Hall with the Verdi Requiem in 1995 and has frequently been featured on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio as a recitalist and conductor; he has been active as a guest conductor and adjudicator for choral festivals throughout Canada and the USA. At the California State University, Sacramento he directs the graduate degree program in choral conducting. Dr Kendrick conducted Carmina Burana at Carnegie Hall in May 2003 and completed a choral tour of England with performances in London, Oxford, Salisbury, Bristol and Sherborne in the Summer of 2003.
Dr. Kendrick has taken his CSUS choirs on three Canadian tours. In July 2004 he combined the CSUS program with the Sacramento Choral Society and conducted a European tour performing in Munich, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. In July 2006 the Sacramento Choral Society made its debut in the People's Republic of China, performing in Tianjin, Beijing, Xi'an and Jinan.
Lloyd Bradshaw (1968 - 1974)
Bradshaw was a member 1954-60 and music director 1960-2 of the Festival Singers. He was editor 1959-62 of the OMEA journal The Recorder. As organist-choirmaster 1960-70 at St George's United Church he conducted several choirs, including the St George's Youth Choir, which toured in England (1964), Canada (1967, with appearances at Expo 67), and Europe (1970) including a command performance from the Papal office in the Vatican, prior to a recital in St Peter's, Rome. His St George's Boys Choir took part in the Toronto premiere (TSO under Heinz Unger 4 Feb 1964) of Mahler's Third Symphony. Bradshaw was supervisor of music and assistant co-ordinator of music education 1963-8 for North York (Toronto) schools. He edited school and church choral music for Gordon V. Thompson Ltd 1964-72. He was special lecturer in choral music 1968-73 at the University of Toronto, where he also conducted the university choir and was chorusmaster for the opera department. Concurrently he was chorusmaster of the COC and founding conductor of the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus. At a Massey Hall concert 19 Dec 1969 he conducted three St George's choirs, the university choir, and the opera chorus in a program of Christmas music. He prepared most of the choirs for TS performances while Seiji Ozawa was conductor. He was the founder in 1970 and director until 1973 of the Toronto Youth Choir, of which a part, the Sound Company, performed regularly in 1971 at Ontario Place. In 1975 he became music director at Trinity United Church, Toronto, and of the Orpheus Choir. He retained the latter position until 1980. After an Orpheus Choir concert he was praised by John Kraglund for 'a rare ability to get clarity of both musical line and texts from his singers' (Toronto Globe and Mail, 3 Jun 1976).
From 1981 until the 1990s, Bradshaw was organist and choirmaster at St Anne's Anglican Church, and at other Toronto-area churches. Bradshaw was consultant 1987-9 for music specials on the CBC TV program 'The Journal,' and in 1988 became chapel organist at the Royal St George's College in Toronto. He served as an executive member of the Royal School of Church Music, 1988-90. He continued active as a festival adjudicator, and as juror for the Toronto, Ontario, and Canada arts councils. Among the artists who Bradshaw tutored in his youth choirs were soprano Mary Lou Fallis, principal of the National Ballet School William Poole, composer Steven Gellman, and actor Sherri Flett. The University of Toronto offers the Lloyd Bradshaw Prize annually to a choral conducting student.
Ruby Mercer (Founder)
RUBY MERCER, American-born, Canadian by adoption, had two quite distinct careers. In her youth she trained as a music teacher, then became a singer and appeared successfully as a soprano at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, on Broadway and in opera houses and concert halls across America. She spent a year under contract to MGM in Hollywood, though she never actually appeared before the cameras. She also broadcast frequently, and became a radio personality, hosting 13 shows each week, including the popular Mr and Mrs Opera on WNYC.
After her marriage to a Canadian businessman, Mercer moved to Toronto, where she founded, and for 30 years edited, the quarterly magazine Opera Canada. She also founded the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus and wrote two excellent biographies of Canadian singers: The Tenor of his Time (1976), a life of Edward Johnson, the Toronto-born tenor who was manager of the Metropolitan Opera from 1935 to 1950; and The Quilicos (1991), about the baritone Louis Quilico, his wife Edna, a pianist, and his son Gino, also a baritone.
Ruby Mercer was born in Athens, Ohio, in 1906. A foundling, she was brought up in the house of a choirmaster, where music and singing were part of everyday life. After training as a music teacher at Ohio University, she took a job in Honolulu, but did not stay there long, as a visiting singer from England heard her sing and recommended that she became a professional. Mercer enrolled at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and after graduating, obtained a scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York. While singing Zerbinetia in a student performance of Struass's Ariadne auf Naxos, she was heard by Edward Johnson, who had just become manager of the Metropolitan, and who arranged an audition for her. Having made her professional debut as Nannetta in Falstaff at Philadelphia, Mercer made her Metropolitan debut on 6 June 1936 as Nedda in Pagliacci, obtaining excellent reviews. The following season she sang Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, and prepared Violetta in La Traviata, though she never got to sing the role as the opera house closed owing to a heat wave.
Ruby Mercer was a very handsome woman as well as a fine singer with a beautiful voice, and in 1937 she was tempted to Hollywood by MGM; but no parts were forthcoming, and it turned out that the studio was merely using her to force Jeanette MacDonald to renew her contract at a more reasonable salary. Returning to New York, she sang at Radio City Music Hall, and in 1940 appeared at the New York World Fair in The Gay New Orleans Revue. She also sang in three shows on Broadway, including in 1941 Offenbach's La Vie parisienne. Throughout the 1940s she toured the North American continent in opera, operetta and musical, appearing in such shows as Sigmund Romberg's New Moon and Oscar Straus's The Chocolate Soldier, as well as La Boheme and Die Fledermaus. Her career on radio also flourished. When in 1958 she married Geza Por, a Hungarian-born businessman from Toronto, the second, Canadian half of her life began.
Ruby Mercer found little opera in Canada, and even worse, little awareness of opera, so she set about changing matters as quickly as possible, envisaging a magazine on the lines of Opera News in New York. The first number of Opera Canada was published in spring 1969. At first limited to reviews on opera performances in Canada, and to news about Canadian singers at home and abroad, it grew steadily in size and scope, including a section of opera reviews world-wide. I became the UK correspondent in 1973, but did not meet Mercer face-to-face until 1983. By then, through countless letters and phone calls, we had become firm friends. She was a most stimulating companion, she had been everywhere, she knew everybody in the opera world.
An intrepid traveller, who made expeditions to Africa, South America, China and such faraway places, Mercer planned many summer trips to European festivals, but she was accident-prone, and these trips did not always materialise. Once she was badly burned in Kenya when she stepped in a hidden fire-pit. She did come to Europe in 1989, visiting London, Glyndebourne, Vienna, Bayreuth and Salzburg, as well as Budapest, in order to visit her husband's relations. She revisited Hawaii, where she got the idea for the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, founded in 1968 with 40 children, a number that has now grown to 160.
On another trip to Hawaii she met the composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who had appeared on her radio show Mr and Mrs Opera, and commissioned him to write a children's opera for the CCOC. The result, Chip and his Dog, was performed at the Guelph Spring Festival in 1979.
She continued to broadcast frequently in Toronto, on CBC and CFMX. She even made a stage appearance as Princess Bozena in Kalman's Countess Maritza at Toronto Operetta Theatre in 1986. Meanwhile honours and awards rolled in: in 1983 the Canadian Music Council Medal; in 1986 the Governor of Ohio's Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts; in 1988 a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Toronto Arts Awards; and many more. In 1990, at the age of 84 and exactly 30 years after founding Opera Canada, Ruby Mercer retired as editor. She became a Canadian citizen the following year, and in 1995 was named a Member of the Order of Canada.
Ruby Mercer, singer, broadcaster and magazine editor: born Athens, Ohio 26 July 1906; OC 1995; married 1958 Geza Por (deceased); died Toronto, Ontario 26 January 1999.