Music Professor Lisette Canton takes the Ottawa Bach Choir to Europe

As she takes her acclaimed choral ensemble, the Ottawa Bach Choir, on the road this month, York University music professor and celebrated choral conductor Lisette Canton (right), is redefining the adage “Go big or go home”.

Founded by Canton in 2002, the Ottawa Bach Choir has, in just three short seasons, catapulted to international recognition. Having performed to critical and audience acclaim in Toronto, Montreal and Mexico City as well as many concerts at home in the nation’s capital, the choir is now embarking on its first European tour. The choir performs choral music from all historical periods while keeping the works of J.S. Bach as the focus of its repertoire.

And the tour is indeed starting big. The Ottawa Bach Choir has the distinction of being the first Canadian choir – and one of only six worldwide – invited to perform at the historic Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany. The church where Martin Luther lectured, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played the organ and Richard Wagner was baptized, the Thomaskirche is best known as the church of J.S. Bach, who served there as cantor for the last 27 years of his life.

 Above: Lisette Canton (centre) with the members of the Ottawa Bach Choir

For three days, May 20-22, the Ottawa Bach Choir will replace the internationally-renowned Thomanerchor, the church’s resident choir whose roots go back as far as 1250. Slated to perform two guest concerts as well as the services of worship, Canton’s choir joins the company of such world-class ensembles as the Monteverdi Choir and Gabrielli Consort stepping in during the Thomanerchor’s annual tour.

Following this landmark engagement in Leipzig, the choir will travel to the Czech Republic to sing at St. Nicholas Church in Prague, and concludes its tour with a performance in the prestigious concert series at the Stiftskirche in Stuttgart, Germany.

For a taste of the choral treats in store for the Ottawa Bach Choir’s European audiences, tune in this Sunday at noon to “Music Around Us” on CBC Radio Two (94.1 Toronto) to hear excerpts from the choir’s new CD, Festival Baroque. Featured tracks will include the motet Das ist meine Freude by the 17th-century German composer Georg Philipp Telemann and the cantata Der Herr ist mit mir by Dietrich Buxtehude, another 17th-century German organist and composer.

While Canton, the Ottawa Bach Choir’s gifted founding director, revels in the choir’s success, she is not resting on her laurels. Since joining the Music Department last year, Canton has turned her formidable talent and energy to advancing York’s choral music program. At York, she teaches conducting and directs the 100-voice York University Concert Choir, most recently in two sold-out performances of Carmina Burana. This coming season she will also take the helm of the York University Women’s Chorus and Chamber Choir, and the newly formed York University Male Chorus.

Visit the Ottawa Bach Choir Web site for more information about the choir’s upcoming performances.