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Volume 14 - Issue 5 - February 2009

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first started. "Wesing many kinds ofmusic , but there'salways a strongsense of spirituality- in a non-denominationalway - ineverything we do. "She also explainsthat the choir has astrong personalsignificance to her,as her Quakerancestors ran astation on the UndergroundRailroadin Michigan in thel 9th century, andhelped slaves escapeinto Canada.Another memberof the choraleis tenor AkufunaBrainerd Bly den-TaylorSifuba, originally fromZambia, who joined the choir when he came to Canada, two yearsago . "When I came here," he recalls, "I knew African music - butI've learned a lot about music from other countries."The choir makes sense as an expression of Canadian multiculturalism- but elsewhere the unique ensemble can raise eyebrows. Whenthe Nathaniel Dett Chorale performed at a convention of America'sNational Association of Negro Musicians, in Detroit in 2004, Blyden­Taylor noticed a distinctly different attitude."Some people were openly skeptical about who we were, and whywe were there ," he recalls. "They said things like, 'So you' re theintegrated choir - you 've got white folks singing with you. ' But afterour concert, people said, ' You are performing what we consider "ourmusic " at the highest level - and have literally shown us how it can bedone .' The ripple effects from that performance can still be felt. "Like many other choral conductors in Canada, Blyden-Taylor holdsdown more than one job. He's also director of St. Timothy's Churchchoir, often works with the Toronto Board of Education and recentlyserved as Artistic Director of the Roots Festival, in Chatham, Ontario.But the Nathaniel Dett Chorale takes up most of his time - and he 'salways looking for new ways to expand upon the group' s activities.This season he established a training programme for young singers."We asked teachers across Toronto to nominate students for the programme,"he explains. "The apprentices come out to our rehearsalsand are taught by members of the professional choir. " He also recentlystruck a deal with the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy ThomsonHall , which is co-presenting the choir's 2008-09 season at the GlennGould Studio.And he has big plans for the future. "We have not yet done anythingwith dance, and that' s something I'd like to do. It's something that'sgoing to happen soon. And we haven' t had the financial wherewithal toget into the orchestral repertoire with Afrocentric composers, justbecause of the cost of presenting an orchestra. But there are severallarge works like that that I'd like to approach. "Beyond all that, he's open to proposals - and he receives them withincreasing frequency . "People are starting to compose things for us, orto submit scores. In the early days it was difficult to find repertoire,but now people are saying, 'Oh, there's a group in Canada that is notjust sacred , or not just secular. '""As well, " notes Blyden-Taylor, "people write to us from all overthe world, asking for Nathaniel Dett's music. We ' re considering resettingit - going into the publishing business - because nobody else isdoing it. "GREAT CHAMBER MUSIC DOWNTOWNCECILIA QUARTETHaydn, R. Murray Schaferand a Brahms sextet withMarina Hoover, cellistand Hsin-Yun Huang, violistThursday February 5 at 8 pmTickets just .PRAZAK QUARTETwith ROGER TAPPINGviola quintets of Brahms and DvorakThursday March 5 at 8 pmAlso coming March 5:Announcement of our 2009-10 season!Ckam~;;~~{ :;~ f/UHfC JThe Nathaniel Dett Chorale returns home Wednesday and SaturdayFebruary 25 & 28, at the Glenn Gould Studio, in a programme titledVoices of the Diaspora .. . Dett to Africa.www.music·toronto.com416-366-7723 • 1-800-708-6754order online at www.stlc.comFEBR UARY 1 - MARCH 7 2009 WWW. THEW H O LE NOTE.COM 9

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