Elmer Iseler Singers
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Elmer Iseler Singers


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"Performance pure mastery, virtuosity"

Mon. Oct 27 - 6:57 AM

The Elmer Iseler Singers are something of a miracle. So in another way is
bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly.

Given a profound, substantial and imaginative new composition to perform
under the luminous direction of Lydia Adams in the haloed resonance of All
Saints Cathedral in Halifax, itself no stranger to miracles, and you would
be right to expect something extraordinary to happen.

Peter Togni's Lamentations of Jeremiah, a richly elaborated work in five
movements lasting about an hour, is a brooding vision of disaster, of the
destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 600 BC and ending with a final prayer
for the city's recovery.

The beauty of the work is not to be found in its dramatic design as there is
some finessing of the form. Settings of the prophet Jeremiah's laments are
sung in Catholic services on Holy Thursday as Tenebrae, a Latin word which
means shadows or darkness, symbolized by the extinguishing of candles.

But Togni's piece is a bass clarinet concerto as well as a choral setting of
a traditional text. These two purposes never quite fuse. Had we had side by
side English and Latin translations, rather than English words only while
the choir sang in Latin, we might have been better alerted to the ways in
which word setting and solo clarinet obbligato reinforce each other.

The Iseler Singers demonstrated at the top of the show just why they are one
of the world's great chamber choirs. They sing with a single intent. Their
tone is luminous, thrillingly tuned, blended into bloom like the colour of a
hybrid rose.

They first sang Eric Whitacre's extraordinary setting of King David's grief
on hearing the news that his son Absalom had been slain. Tenor soloist
Michael McBride, like all the other tonal devices Whitacre so skilfully
integrates into the service of the text, is not a featured solo but a solo
colour, and given McBride's honeyed effortlessness, so beautiful you held
your breath.

The choir's mastery of dynamics, attacks and the other paraphernalia of
musical expression gives them the broadest possible palette of hue and
colour from the palest tint to the most richly saturated hue.

This mastery extended further in Togni's use of choral ensemble, in his use
of tone-clusters and astonishingly long pedal points, such as the extended
hum at the end of the piece, which seemed to be coming not from the group of
20 or so singers, but seeping from the mortar between the cathedral's

Reilly's mastery of extended bass clarinet techniques is a wonder. There
cannot be many with his kind of total musical control over the legendary
clarinet legato. But he not only brings a sound in from complete silence and
just as seamlessly dissolves it like the creep of dawn or twilight's
edgeless ending, he can make it suddenly burst into an array of
multi-phonics like a fireworks fountain.

He can keep a sound going seemingly forever with his complete control over
the difficult technique known as circular breathing, where a wind player
collects air in his cheeks to keep the sound going while he takes a quick
snort of air.

His virtuosity on the reed is another of his extraordinary musical
abilities. He knows and explores the geography of this square inch or two of
cane like a map-maker filling in the detail of lakes and ponds and tiny
brooks and outcroppings of rock. And all of it with an array of sounds, many
of which you have only heard in fleeting miniatures, the rustling of the
wind in the leaves, the echo of a tune in the telephone wires, the soft
scrape of rubber tires on pavements, the rhythmic click of heels, the
silence of a hurricane's eye.

As you can see, Reilly's music is indescribable. Words do it no justice
whatsoever. And yet, like the subtleties of the choir, like the
extraordinary effects of Togni's choice of voicings, it is entirely clear
and unambiguous to the ear. Which is why we go to concerts.

Togni's Lamentations of Jeremiah, as performed by the Elmer Iseler Singers
under Lydia Adams and bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly, was performed at
Antigonish's St. Ninian's Cathedral last Thursday night and Lunenburg's St.
John's Anglican Church on Sunday afternoon. Today, it is being recorded in
Halifax for Manfred Eicher's prestigious ECM label.

( spedersen@herald.ca)
- Halifax Chronicle Herald

"Virtuosic Control"

Album: Peter-Anthony Togni, Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (ECM)
Reviewed by Andy Gill
UK London Independent
Friday, 5 March 2010
Under Jeff Reilly's virtuosic control, the bass clarinet possesses an aloof, almost mystical timbre comparable to the duduk flute used in Middle Eastern music, aptly representing the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah's lamentations in this piece by Peter-Anthony Togni.
It blends sacred choral music, classical concerto form and jazz improvisation, with the bass clarinet furnishing the emotional colour for the Elmer Iseler Singers' measured delivery of the scriptural texts, in which Jeremiah bemoans the downfall of Jerusalem. With echoes of both Messiaen's choral work and Russian religious music, it's a sombre work alleviated by the occasional interplay of choral and clarinet threads, as in "Quomodo Dominus filiam Sion obtexit".
Download this Quomodo Dominus filiam Sion obtexit; Silentio; Recordare, Domine

- UK London Independent

"The words of Jeremiah"

The Globe and Mail Monday, December 07, 2009
by Elissa Poole

The words of Jeremiah – the Bible's Cassandra, his prophecies of doom unheeded – have inspired composers for centuries, from Palestrina in the 16th century to Leonard Bernstein in the 20th. Peter Anthony Togni, whose Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae is the first Canadian work to be recorded for the eclectic ECM New Series label (and who is widely known as a CBC Radio 2 host), is perhaps the most recent of these. Togni's Lamentations share aesthetic and spiritual ground with such composers as Osvaldo Golijov, Arvo Part and John Taverner, but it is the solo bass clarinet's plangent, gritty and sometimes shrill personification of the prophet – which sounds “with the sadness of centuries” against the close, modal harmonies of the choir – that gives this setting its potency. - Globe and Mail

"The Definitive CD's"

The Definitive CDs
Norman Lebrecht
March 29, 2010 Peter-Anthony Togni: Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae (ECM) *****
5 out of 5 stars!!!

The Canadian composer Peter-Anthony Togni has a fascination shared by Stravinsky with the tolling cadences of the Prophet Jeremiah, who warned that the city would be destroyed for its sins and then lamented its fate in testimony and consolation. Of all the recorded offerings for Holy Week (see below), this is by some measure the most original and affecting that has come my way. Beneath a mixed chorus, Togni bravely inscribes a bass clarinet as his only instrumentation. It is a brilliant decision. The lower registers conjure some of the tropes of Arabic music, while the higher wails hint at klezmer playfulness. The virtuoso clarinettist Jeff Reilly extends his cadenzas across the history of sound, from monotony to modernism, in a performance that is dominant and often hypnotic. Lydia Adams directs the Elmer Iseler Singers, with solo soprano Rebecca Whelan. Putting on this record without reading the booklet, I was smitten by Togni’s atmospheric force, imposing a contemplative mood with a gloss of consolation that is the quest of all faiths at this time of year. There is something epiphanic about this music; resist it, if you can.
- Norman Lebrecht


Lydia Adams, Artistic Director/Conductor (1998-present)

Elmer Iseler Singers - Lydia Adams, conductor; composer Peter Togni;
Bass Clarinet Soloist/Improviser - Jeff Reilly; Soprano Soloist- Rebecca Whelan;
Canadian Release: 2008 ECM New Series - 4763629 (International Release: 2010)
A CANADIAN FIRST: first work by Canadian composer, first Canadian soloist and/or ensemble and first Canadian conductor to appear on an international ECM Record Label.

Canadian Brass - Lydia Adams, Conductor - Elmer Iseler Singers - John Tuttle - Organist
2006. Opening Day Recordings. ODR 7337

TOKAIDO - The Choral Music of Harry Freedman
Lydia Adams, Conductor - Elmer Iseler Singers - Aeolian Winds - Amadeus Chamber Singers
Toronto Children's Chorus, Jean Ashworth Bartlle Conductor - Robin Engelman - Rob Piltch -
Dave Young
2006 Centrediscs / Centredisques - Canadian Music Centre CMCCD 11206

Featuring choral music of Ruth Watson Henderson;
Elmer Iseler Singers - Lydia Adams, Conductor
2004 CBC Records MVCD 1167
Nominated for Juno Award 2004

New arrangements of Piae Contiones plainsong melodies by various Canadian composers - featuring: Elmer Iseler Singers - Lydia Adams, conductor - Composers - Eleanor Daley, Derek Holman, Alexander Tilley, Stephen Chatman, Lydia Adams, Donald Patriquin, Eric Robertson, R.W. Henderson, Christos Hatzis, Peter Togni, Mark Sirett, Berthold Carrière, Graeme Wearmouth.
2003. CBC . MVCD 1165
Nominated for Juno Award 2003

INTIMATE – Various Folk Tunes
Featuring Soprano - Eleanor McCain; Elmer Iseler Singers (20); Lydia Adams, cond.
2003 – Private Label – Rob Lanni, producer

Featuring music by Christos Hatzis - - Lydia Adams, conductor
Elmer Iseler Singers - Amadeus Chamber Singers
2002. CBC Records. MVCD 1156-2 - 2 CD set
Nominated for Juno Award 2002

unrecorded choral works of Harry Somers featuring: Elmer Iseler Singers - Lydia Adams, conductor; Ruth Watson Henderson, pianist
2001 Centrediscs / Centredisques - Canadian Music Centre CMCCD 7101 -

THE MAPLE LEAF FOREVER – A Canadian Panorama - traditional and contemporary Canadian songs featuring Elmer Iseler Singers - Lydia Adams, conductor - True North Brass - piano Sandra Fan harp, and Recorded at St. Anne's Anglican Church, Toronto – Nov. 1997.
1998 Opening Day Recordings ODR 9314 -

The Stratford Music of Louis Applebaum; Music arranged and conducted by Glenn Morley, with The Elmer Iseler Singers, Richard Margison, Christopher Plummer, Craig Ashton, Juan Chioran, Colm Feore, Barbara Fulton, Richard Monette and Steve Ross
1999 Marquis Classics 7747 181269 2

Elmer Iseler, Founder and Artistic Director/Conductor (1979-1998)

Bartok Three Village Scenes
Canadian Chamber Ens, Armenian cond. 1981. CBC SM-5014

Celebration: The Lutheran Year, The Mystery of the Incarnation in the Music of Victoria
Rain narr.1983. CBC SM-5025C

Freedman Pastorale L. Cherney hn. 1982. Centrediscs CMC-0983
Glick Northern Sketches
Kuerti pf, Kaplan vn, Bogyo vc. (1989). 4-ACM 34 (CD)

Handel The Electronic Messiah
‘Synthescope’ Digital Synthesizer Ens. 1982. MMG D-MMG-113

‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ and Other Great Bach Choruses
Wright org, Mainly Mozart O.1984 CBC SM-5042C/ (‘Sheep May Safely Graze’) CBC BHSCD-300 (CD)

Musical Toronto: A Concert Party
Landry sop, Dubois ten, Lohnes bar, Campbell cl, L. Cherney ob, instr ens, Beckwith cond. 1984. Marquis MAR-104

Music at Sharon
Instr ens, Beckwith cond. 1981. RCI 554/MEL SMLP-4041/(Three Motets on Swan’s ‘China’) 5-ACM 26

Spectra: Ford - Morawetz - Somers
1981. Centrediscs CMC-0281/ RCI 564/ (Morawetz)
6-ACM 16

Premiere: Prevost Ahimsa
(Graham mezzo, Aitken fl, Orford Str Quar) - Schafer Sun. 1984. 2-Centredisca
CMC-14-1584/RCI 585/(Prevost) 6-ACM 28

Loree sop, Missen ten, Lohnes bass, Adams pf. 1985. Marquis ERA-115

Serenade in Harmony: Zbinden - Willan - Brahms - Strauss
With Netherlands Chamber Choir. (1984). 2-Wat WR-8028-29
Winner of the Grand Prix de Disque-Canada 1985.
Nominated for JUNO Award - Canada 1985

Somers Sacred and Profane Somers
Roslak sop, Kern mezzo, Cooper alto, Missen ten, Lohnes bass, Cadan bass, chamb orch. 1985. Centrediscs CMC-2385

Welcome Yule!:
Holman - Whitehead - Davies - Clarke - Beckwith - Bellefeuille - Willan - Watson - Anderson - Cable - Robertson - Applebaum - Washburn - Carriere - Iseler - Somers.
Toronto Brass Society. 1986. CBC SM-5055
Nominated for Juno Award 1986

Joyful Sounds Canadian Brass
Featuring Elmer Iseler and The Festival Singers. Douglas Hass org.
A tribute to Dr. Elmer Iseler (192



Peter-Anthony Togni’s “Lamentatio Jeremiah Prophetae” is an innovative and multi-faceted work; melodic, exploratory, passionate, and soulful. Since its premiere in Toronto in April of 2007, Lamentations has been performed 9 times throughout Nova Scotia and Ontario. It was recorded in Nova Scotia in 2008 and released on the prestigious label ECM Records in November of 2009.

Lamentations is a deeply moving piece based on ancient texts, but resonating deeply with our own time. The work is based on the sayings of the biblical prophet Jeremiah, whose heart-rending life and true prophesies of dire warning went largely unheeded by those he sought to warn. It is an exploration of grief, atonement, despair and finally, hope.

The Elmer Iseler Singers, conducted by Cape Breton born Artistic Director Lydia Adams, is a 20-voice professional chamber choir based in Toronto, Canada. Founded by the late Dr. Elmer Iseler in 1979, it is one of Canada’s most illustrious professional choral ensembles.

Nova Scotian Jeff Reilly has an international reputation as an innovative master of the bass clarinet. The pure emotional accessibility of his rich, lyrical style often masks a remarkable control over a complex arsenal of extended techniques, as well as total mastery over an extended range of the instrument. He plays with the precision of gesture and clarity of focus that blurs any simple distinctions between improvisation and composition, and does so with a musicality and sensitivity that reminds us that such distinctions are moot.

Nova Scotian Peter-Anthony Togni’s music is spiritual in conception, deeply felt and contemplative in its nature. Togni’s music has been heard everywhere from Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall, the Moscow Conservatory, the Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai, to the Vatican in Rome for His Holiness Pope John Paul II. His music is broadcast regularly in Canada on the CBC, as well as internationally, including on the BBC, Classic FM, Deutsche Wella and Radio France.

The choir has built an enviable international reputation through its concerts, broadcasts and more than 50 recordings. Known for its unique beauty of sound, the Elmer Iseler Singers bring to life an exciting repertoire that spans 500 years of great choral music. The choir regularly commissions and performs new works. It is featured at national and international festivals.

The Singers are highly valued for their contributions to master classes and educational leadership workshops for schools and community choirs. From 1997 to 2007 the EIS was the professional Choir-In-Residence through the Elmer Iseler Chair at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. For three decades, the organization has been a leader in excellence of choral singing, in creation and performance of new works and in touring, broadcasting, recording and performing throughout the small and large centres of Ontario, Canada and U.S.

The Elmer Iseler Singers often collaborate with Soundstreams Canada, the Canadian Brass, the Toronto Symphony, Nexus, Tapestry New Opera Works in the Toronto Luminato Festival, Ontario Music Festivals and in September 2010 with Peter Togni and Jeff Reilly at the Guelph Jazz Festival. The choir continues its dedication to collaborating with various local, national and international organizations.

November 14, 2009 marked the Toronto launch of the newest CD on the prestigious international record label – ECM, Mannfred Eicher, producer of Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH by Canadian composer Peter Togni, with virtuoso bass clarinetist/improviser – Jeff Reilly, soprano Rebecca Whelan and Canada’s Elmer Iseler Singers with Lydia Adams, conductor. This is a CANADIAN FIRST – first work by Canadian composer, first Canadian soloist and/or ensemble and first Canadian conductor to appear on the ECM Record Label.