Six choirs, 200 voices join forces for Gospel Inter Varsity Explosion (G.I.V.E.)

Poland’s Gospel Joy makes its Canadian debut at G.I.V.E.
Poland’s Gospel Joy makes its Canadian debut at G.I.V.E.
The York University Gospel Choir in performance.
The York University Gospel Choir in performance

The Gospel Inter Varsity Explosion (G.I.V.E.) is back and bigger than ever! Featuring powerful soloists, inspiring songs and a massive combined choir, the 10th anniversary edition of G.I.V.E. will be a rafter-raising celebration of gospel music. The Islington Evangel Centre hosts the show in partnership with York University’s Department of Music Oct. 24.

The concert will feature performances by all the participating choirs, first individually and then as a massed gospel choir conducted by Karen Burke, founding director of the York U Gospel Choir and a music professor in York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, and guest conductor Lisa Toussaint, director of the University of Toronto Gospel Choir, backed by a five-piece rhythm section headed by York faculty member Corey Butler.The York University Gospel Choir joins forces with the University of Toronto Gospel Choir, McMaster Gospel Choir and Humber Gospel Choir for G.I.V.E. Special guests Gospel Joy from Poland will make their Canadian debut and the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir will lend its remarkable voices to what promises to be an unforgettable experience for singers and audience alike.

“I founded G.I.V.E. as a unique opportunity for young singers from multiple schools to come together under a shared love for gospel music,” said Burke. “We sing our hearts out. It’s a truly electric experience that inspires the students to bring their best selves and their biggest voices to a non-competitive, celebratory event.”

The international guests make this year’s G.I.V.E. extra special, Burke said. “I can’t wait to introduce our Canadian choirs to my friends, Gospel Joy. It’s an unusual experience to have a European gospel choir visit Toronto.”

Poland’s Gospel Joy makes its Canadian debut at G.I.V.E.
Poland’s Gospel Joy makes its Canadian debut at G.I.V.E.

Led by Agnieszka Baca Tomaszewska, Gospel Joy sings original material and covers of gospel music in both English and Polish. The ensemble has released three CDs and has twice toured the USA, as well as performing in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Romania and the Czech Republic.Burke met Gospel Joy when she travelled to Poland in 2006 to give gospel music workshops. Two years later, she led her Toronto Mass Choir to Poland, criss-crossing the country on a 3000 kilometre tour with Gospel Joy, presenting concerts to enthusiastic audiences.

In addition to G.I.V.E., Gospel Joy will perform at a free midday concert on Thursday, Oct. 22 from 12:30 to 1:30pm at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in the Accolade East Building at York University’s Keele campus.

A renowned singer, choral director and composer in the field of African-American vocal music, Burke is recognized as an authority on the history and performance practices of gospel music. She has worked with many leading choral ensembles and organizations, including the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Youth Choir, the Ontario Music Educators’ Association, Ontario Choral Federation/Choirs Ontario and Poland’s Pro Novis Foundation. She co-founded and directs the acclaimed Toronto Mass Choir, which has been touring and recording in Canada since 1988.

G.I.V.E. takes place at the Islington Evangel Centre, 49 Queen’s Plate Drive in Toronto on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7pm. Admission is $15, and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased online.