We love to sing! We believe in the transformational and healing power of Music. Our services include a variety of exciting and moving music.
Our services also include congregational singing, with songs and hymns from our Unitarian hymnals, Singing the Living Tradition and Singing the Journey, which feature a wide range of music covering the sources and principles of our tradition.
We welcome guest musicians both from within and outside our congregation who perform in different styles and forms. In recent years we have featured the Windermere String Quartet, Passport Duo (cello/piano), a traditional Chinese Erhu player, a Middle-Eastern oud and ney player, our resident rock band consisting of members of our congregation, a Balkan choir, and a wide range of instrumental and vocal soloists.
Our Director of Congregational Music – Dallas Bergen
Dallas is an active singer, choral conductor and clinician. Prior to settling in Toronto, Dallas received his Bachelor of Music in Secondary Education from the University of Victoria, and later moved to New York where he conducted the New York Consort, and was a vocalist with the chamber choirs Canticum Novum, Cerddorion and Manhattan Concert Productions. He is a past member of the Canadian Chamber Choir and sang with the Elora Festival Singers for the 2008 Elora Festival where he also participated in the Festival Conductor’s Workshop with renowned conductors Stephen Layton and Noel Edison. Dallas was one of nine conductors selected to work with Dr. Stephen Alltop at the 2010 Unitarian-Universalist Musicians’ Network conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Dallas is currently a member of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, conducts the Harbourfront Chorus, and is the founding Artistic Director of Univox, a Toronto community choir for young adults. Dallas’ service to the choral arts extends to his work with Regent Park School of Music as the conductor of their Parkdale Children’s choir and with the Toronto Arts Council where he is acting co-chair of the Music Committee.
Music for Children and Youth
Our children and youth sing at a number of services during the year, under the direction of our Director of Congregational Music or our resident musicians. With the continued growth of our music program and congregation, we hope to offer full-time choirs for children and youth in the near future.
Our Adult Choir
Our Adult Choir is a mixed-voice choir made up of non-auditioned singers. Choir members have a wide range of choral and singing experience, from those who have never sung in a choir to professional caliber singers, including our resident musicians who lead the choir sections.
The choir sings at about three Sunday services per month between September and June. We rehearse on Thursday evenings, 7-9 pm.
Much like the sources of our faith, we draw on music spanning five-hundred years, from the Renaissance to the present day; a cappella and accompanied, sacred (from many faith backgrounds) and secular, traditional and contemporary. Here is a sample of the repertoire performed by our choir:
- Down to the River to Pray – Appalachian hymn
- Esto Les Digo – Kinley Lange, Latin American, text: New Testament
- Avinu Malkeinu – Srul Irving Glick, Jewish traditional
- Freedom is Coming – South African Freedom Song
- That Lonesome Road – James Taylor, American folk-rock
- Earth Song – Contemporary spiritual/environmental
- The Fire of Commitment – Contemporary Unitarian Universalist
- Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson (Pop), arranged by our resident musician, Lucas Marchand
The choir always welcomes new singers. You don't need to be a member of the congregation, and there are no fees, but it is expected that singers will be available for most Thursday rehearsals and for Sunday services.
On Saturday, May 7, 2011 we presented our third annual Choral Extravaganza of area UU choirs in concert, this year featuring more than 100 choristers from the following southern Ontario Unitarian-Universalist choirs:
- First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto
- The Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough
- The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton
- Don Heights Unitarian Congregation
- Neighbourhood Unitarian-Universalist Congregation
This concert was a fundraiser for the Regent Park School of Music, and we were joined by Richard Marsella, the RPSM’s Director. Our concerts in each each of 2009 and 2010 raised roughly $2400 to help support the RPSM. Toronto First has adopted the RPSM as a social responsibility project, and has a team of volunteers working with them on a regular basis.
On Saturday, March 31, 2012 we hosted our 4th annual Benefit Concert to support the programs of the Regent Park School of Music.
This concert included performances by the Regent Park choir, the First Unitarian choir, accomplished musicians from the Regent Park School of Music, and resident musicians of First Toronto.
Our Resident Musicians
Congregational Pianist – Lisa Iwasaki
Lisa Iwasaki is a graduate of the University of Toronto, the Royal Conservatory and Southern Methodist University, in Texas. She has served as accompanist for choral and theatre groups as well as working with soloists. Lisa is a former faculty member of the Eastman Community Education Divison, and the Royal Conservatory of Music, and is active as a senior examiner and adjudicator. Unitarian-Universalist congregations have heard her playing intermittently since 1998, and more regularly since 2007.
Resident Musician - Stephanie Barone
Stephanie Barone graduated with distinction from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Arts combined honors in Music and Theatre. Since graduating, Stephanie has been singing and acting in and around Toronto. She sings with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale. She was a part of the last two seasons in Bala, Muskoka at New Actors‘ Colony Theatre. She most recently played Elaine in Last of the Red Hot Lovers. You can see her next as Elizabeth in Amicus Production’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She is so thankful to be a part of the First Unitarian Congregation community.
Resident Musician - Tom Lillington
Tom Lillington, a professional vocalist and pianist, keeps busy with a wide range of activities in the Toronto area. As well as maintaining a full schedule as a Certified Piano Technician, Tom is also an accomplished composer (BFA, York University 1994), accompanist, arranger, director and vocalist performing widely throughout Canada.
A founding member of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and sub with the Elora Festival Singers, he is also an original member of The Canadian Chamber Choir, a professional ensemble comprised of singers from across the country, mandated to promote Canadian composers and conductors while bringing top-level choral music to smaller Canadian communities.
He sang with 80’s band Retrocity as well as Hampton Avenue, an award-winning acappella group ( 1999’s Jazz Vocal Group of the Year, Jazz Report Magazine) which performed on CBC’s The Vinyl Café and has three popular albums to its credit.
Tom’s bass voice can be heard singing in many jingles, soundtracks and recordings, and as a writer he is entering his 10h season as composer and music director of the Driftwood Theatre Company, a touring outdoor Shakespeare company dedicated to reaching out to audiences in urban and rural communities across Ontario.
Resident Musician – Ben MacDonald
Ben joined us as a resident musician in September 2011.
Resident Musician – Lucas Marchand
Lucas Marchand has been singing on the stage since he was three years old. Growing up he gained recognition winning the Junior Vocal category in the BC festival of the arts and taking top spot in the Golden Gate International Music Festival in San Francisco. He went on to study voice at the University of Victoria where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Music with distinction. Lucas then spent time touring with various groups, to parts of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, performing various styles of music including Opera, Jazz, Pop, Salsa, R&B, and Chamber Music. He has shared the stage with performers like Tom Johnston, Martha Reeves, James Ingram, Nikki Yanovsky, Jacksoul, Colm Wilkinson, and Measha Brueggergosman. Currently Lucas performs as a chorister and featured soloist with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and also teaches for the Nathaniel Dett Chorale's training choir program which provides musical training to local high school students. Lucas also works with Speech Level Singing international as a certified instructor and as Educational Advisor for Northeastern US and Canada. He also arranges and performs a-cappella pop music with Toronto-based rock-a-pella group Fine Grind.
Resident Musician - Aria Umezawa
Aria Umezawa is a Canadian opera director and freelance singer based out of Toronto. She is the Artistic Director and Resident Stage Director of Opera Five, a Toronto-based opera company that produces mixed-media operas. Aria is the writer, and director of the web-series Opera Cheats which has been featured in the San Francisco Voice. Her directing credits include David et Jonathas (Charpentier) with Helios Early Opera in Boston, and a double bill of La Voix Humaine (Poulenc) and Bluebeard's Castle (Bartok) with Opera Five. Her work has been described as "...sophisticated musical staging" (Boston Phoenix), and "Beguilling" (Boston Globe).As a performer, Aria currently sings with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and with the choir at First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. As a soloist, Aria has performed with German composer Christian Kestin (MusiMars 2010), and premiered the work of Canadian composer Darren Russo.Upcoming projects include directing the world premier of the Canadian opera Storybook (Russo) with Opera Five, and Helios Early Opera's sophomore production Artemesia (Cavalli).