Toronto Consort | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Toronto Consort

Toronto Consort. Performance ensemble formed in Toronto in 1972 to perform early vocal and instrumental music (about 1200 to 1675).

Toronto Consort

Toronto Consort. Performance ensemble formed in Toronto in 1972 to perform early vocal and instrumental music (about 1200 to 1675). Its original members were tenors Frank Nakashima and David Walker, counter-tenor Garry Crighton, baritone David Klausner, and bass Timothy McGee, who was its director until 1978. Several personnel changes occurred in the 1970s, including a succession of sopranos: Katharine Pimenoff (1974-5), Penelope Tibbles (1976-7), and Emily Van Evera (1977-9). The membership from 1979 to 1983 consisted of Crighton, Klausner, soprano and instrumentalist Alison Mackay, soprano Jean Edwards, and tenor David Fallis. From 1987 to 1991 members were Klausner, Mackay, Fallis, lutenist Terry McKenna, soprano Danièle Forget, and mezzo-soprano Laura Pudwell.

The membership from 1992 to 1998 consisted of Fallis, McKenna, Pudwell, soprano Meredith Hall, bass John Pepper, recorder/flutist Alison Melville, and tenor/keyboardist Paul Jenkins. By 2000 the lineup featured Pepper, Fallis, McKenna, Pudwell, Melville, and Jenkins. Since 2002, members have been Pepper, Jenkins, Fallis, McKenna, Pudwell, Melville, Hill, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Grossman, with the addition of soprano Michele DeBoer, who became a full member in the 2005-6 season.


The Toronto Consort is known for its working collection of more than one hundred accurate replicas of historical instruments, many of which were made by members of the group. Among these are bagpipes, bandora, cittern, cornetto, crwth, dulcian, flute, gemshorn, harpsichord, lute, organetto, orphorium, psaltery, rackett, rauschpfeife, rebec, recorder, regal, sackbut, shawm, vielle, and viol. It has become customary for members of the Consort to discuss texts, music, and instruments prior to performances.


The group's repertoire covers the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the early Baroque periods, and ranges from liturgical works to bawdy popular songs. Consort members frequently transcribe their performance music directly from manuscript material. Programs have been planned around the works of specific composers (eg, Guillaume Dufay, Orlando di Lasso, Francesca Caccini, Giacomo Carissimi, and poet composers of the Middle Ages) or around individual works (eg, Claudio Monteverdi's operas The Coronation of Poppea, Orfeo, and The Return of Ulysses; Francesco Cavalli's Calisto; Luigi Rossi's Orfeo, and Michael Praetorius' Christmas Vespers). The consort has also based programs around individuals such as Venetian trombone virtuoso John Rosenmüller; historical figures, groups, places, and periods (especially the Elizabethan era and Queen Elizabeth I herself); times and seasons; and other art forms including dance, the visual arts (eg, medieval and renaissance nativity paintings), and literature (eg, Shakespeare and his contemporaries).

Performances and Touring

In Toronto the consort performed at the University of Toronto's Walter Hall and at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church from 1972 to 1982. Its annual subscription series moved to Trinity-St Paul's United Church in 1982, where it has remained. The consort has also performed throughout Ontario, Canada, the United States (at St Paul's Chapel in New York City and at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC), and in Europe. In 1977 it toured Nova Scotia, and in 1978 it was invited to perform for the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury on Baffin Island, NWT. In 1980 it performed in Regina, Calgary, and Vancouver and toured in Austria, Sweden, England, and West Germany (in Hanover, it gave the European premiere of Lothar Klein's Musica Antiqua, which it had premiered with the Toronto Symphony in 1976). The group performed in 1982 as part of the week of inaugural concerts at Roy Thomson Hall. By 1986 the consort had made four trips to Europe. It toured the Maritimes in 1986 and 1996 and western Canada in 1987 and 1991. It performed in 1980, 1982, 1987, and 1989 as guest artists of Early Music Vancouver (formerly the Vancouver Society for Early Music). In 2004, it performed at the Elora Festival and at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. In January 2010, the consort again toured western Canada with their programs The Da Vinci Codex (including concerts in Kamloops, Victoria, and Edmonton) and Shakespeare’s Songbook (in Calgary). In August 2010 the consort toured Nova Scotia (including Halifax, Yarmouth, and Lunenburg) as part of the Musique Royale festival. A tour to the United States in 2011 included venues in Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington, while in 2012 the consort presented their Perfect Ambassador program in Alberta and British Columbia.


The consort offers discounted tickets to the under-30 crowd, and runs an educational outreach project for high school students. In 2012 three programmes were offered at the Trinity-St Paul’s Centre: Shakespeare’s Songbook, An Introduction to Medieval Music (with Teachers’ Guide), and The Marco Polo Project.

Artistic Collaboration

The Toronto Consort has collaborated with numerous Canadian and international artists. These have included guest lutenists Paul O'Dette, Sylvain Bergeron, John Edwards, and David Miller; theorbist Stephen Stubbs; harpsichordists Colin Tilney and Alexander Weimann; harpist Maxine Eilander; recorder player Colin Savage; violinists David Greenberg and Julie Wedman; dancers Elaine Biagi Turner, Christopher Carley, Beth Anne Cole, and Jessica Runge;  the Ken Pierce Baroque Dance Company; and choreographers Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Zingg of Opera Atelier. Guest singers have included counter-tenors Stratton Bull and Matthew White; tenors Paul Agnew, Charles Daniels, William Hite, and Kevin Skelton; mezzo-soprano Christine Abraham; and sopranos Julianne Baird, Suzie LeBlanc, Ann Monoyios, and former consort member Meredith Hall. Guest narrators have included storyteller Susan Kennedy, Peter Tiefenbach, actors Colm Feore and Karen Woolridge, dancer and actor Veronica Tennant, and commedia dell'arte artist Jean-François Gagnon. The consort's guest ensembles have included The Gents, the New World Consort, the Ensemble Project Ars Nova, Les Sonneurs, Ensemble Anonymus, La Nef, Piffaro, The King's Noyse, the Orlando Consort, The Dufay Collective, Puirt a Baroque, and the Ensemble Clément Janequin. Additional singers and musicians (some from Tafelmusik) have joined the consort for its in-concert performances of early operas. The consort has performed with the Montreal Symphony and the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra. Other guest performers of note include Suba Sankaran and the Sampradaya Dance Group. The Marco Polo Project has drawn several guest artists, including a vocal trio from the Republic of Georgia and musicians performing on traditional Chinese instruments in the 2008-9 season.

In 2010 Toronto Consort members performed at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in the Essential Cinema Concert series. The musicians presented an adapted version of Richard Einhorn's 1994 oratorio Voices of Light, accompanying screenings of Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Consort members were involved in the selection, performance, and recording of music for hit television series The Tudors and The Borgias; the consort’s artistic director, David Fallis, was Historical Music Producer for both series.

Canadian Compositions

In 1974 Toronto Consort members became the nucleus of the annual summer Early Music Workshop at the University of Toronto's Scarborough College. Walter Buczynski's Consortium for four players (1975), Klein's Musica Antiqua, and Ben McPeek's My Lute and I (1978) were written for the consort. In 1986 the group commissioned John Beckwith's Les Premiers Hivernements for the International Year of Canadian Music. The consort worked with composers David Keane, Hope Lee, and David Eagle in 1988 to create Lumina, a multi-media exploration of the medieval theme of light, which premiered at Harbourfront. In 1996, the consort created a commedia dell'arte in honour of Orlando di Lasso, and in 1997 it performed on the soundtrack of Canadian director Atom Egoyan's award-winning film, The Sweet Hereafter. In 2001 the ensemble premiered a multi-media work by Christos Hatzis. In June 2009, with the Canadian Children's Opera Company, the Toronto Consort presented the world premiere of The Children's Crusade by R. Murray Schafer which was co-commissioned and co-producted by Soundstreams Canada and the Luminato Festival. In 2011, with Norway's Trio Mediæval the consort performed the world premiere of  James Rolfe's Breathe, commissioned by Soundstreams.

See also Instruments: Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque; and Period Instrument Movement.


Music for Early Instruments. 1974. CBC SM 229

To Syngen and to Pleye. 1976. BER 9020

La Chanson Française: Songs of Medieval and Renaissance France. 1983. COL 8303

Nowell Sing We: A Renaissance Christmas Anthology. 1984. COLK 8304 and SRI 002

Full Well She Sang: Women's Music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. 1993. SRI 005

Orlando di Lasso: Chansons and Madrigals. 1994. DIS 80149

The Sweet Hereafter (including music by Mychael Danna). 1997. V2IM 44955

O Lusty May: Renaissance Songs of Spring. 1999. DOR 93172

The Little Barley-Corne: Winter Revels from the Renaissance (with violinist David Greenberg). 1999. DOR 93186

The Way of the Pilgrim: Medieval Songs of Travel. 2000. DOR 93214

Mariners and Milkmaids (with violinist David Greenberg). 2002. DOR 93247

Praetorius Christmas Vespers. 2004. MAR 335

The DaVinci Collection: Italian Music from the Time of Leonardo. 2006. MAR 357

The Queen: Music for Elizabeth I. 2008. MAR 387

Navidad: Christmas Music from Latin America and Spain. 2012. MAR 435

All in a Garden Green: A Renaissance Collection. 2012. MAR 515