With a rich history spanning 50 years, the Orpheus Choir of Toronto has since earned the distinction of being one of Toronto’s preeminent choral groups. Founded in 1964 by organist John Sidgwick, who also served as its first artistic director, the Orpheus Choir was created to provide an alternative to the traditional choral fare of the times and introduce Toronto audiences to a rich new world of choral music.
After Sidgwick’s departure from the helm in 1970, several prominent choral conductors, including James Whicher, Lloyd Bradshaw, John Barnum and Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, have led the Orpheus Choir and made valuable contributions to its evolution. In 1980, the choir was incorporated as The Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Inc. and registered as a non-profit charitable organization.
In 2003 Robert Cooper became artistic director and prompted the choir’s renewal and revitalization. Under his direction the membership of the choir has increased and the overall standard of performance has improved. The choir has also seen an increase in its audience size and number of subscribers.
Introducing new works, composers, and performers to Toronto audiences has been a hallmark of Robert Cooper’s tenure. He has done this by bringing fascinating and accessible works by internationally-acclaimed composers, such as Eriks Esenvalds, Gyorgy Orban, and Vytautis Miskinis to growing audiences.
All the while, the Orpheus Choir has stayed true to its Canadian roots. They have commissioned choral music from some of Canada’s top musical talent throughout the years: most recently with the premier of Alberta composer Allan Bevan’s No Mortal Business in 2011, and BC composer Imant Raminsh’s Quaternity in 2010, among many others.
With a wide-ranging repertoire of music ranging from secular to sacred, time-honoured classics to experimental works, choral collaborations and forays into multimedia performances, it’s only fitting that the Orpheus Choir’s mantra is “Expect Something Different”. There is truly something for everyone and it this sort of musical diversity— coupled along with a high degree of technical mastery and beautiful choice of pieces— that has enthralled audiences for over 45 years and will keep it doing so for decades to come.