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.

For more info or to participate in our ever-evolving music program, please contact Dallas Bergen, our Director of Congregational Music This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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’s 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.

  Dallas Bergen
Dallas Bergen

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:

  • Avinu Malkeinu – Srul Irving Glick, Jewish traditional
  • Down to the River to Pray – Appalachian hymn
  • Earth Song – Contemporary spiritual/environmental
  • Esto Les Digo – Kinley Lange, Latin American, text: New Testament
  • The Fire of Commitment – Contemporary Unitarian Universalist
  • Freedom is Coming – South African Freedom Song
  • That Lonesome Road – James Taylor, American folk-rock
  • Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson (Pop), arranged by our resident musician, Lucas Marchand
  • Requiem – Gabriel Fauré, choral setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead

Links to online recordings of songs in our repertoire, performed by us and others.

Information about joining the choir.


Performances

On Friday, May 27, 2016 at 7 pm presented our 3rd annual commemorative fundraising concert Celebrate with Song, again featuring our choir and resident musicians.


On Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 2 pm our resident musicians and choir director, in the septet Seventh, performed a fundraising concert featuring popular pieces from services as well as selections from each musician’s unique repertoire, spanning jazz, classical, opera, musical theatre and much more.


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.


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.


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.

  Lisa Iwasaki
Lisa Iwasaki

Resident Musician – Stephanie Hotchkiss

Stephanie Hotchkiss holds a Bachelor of Arts with combined honours in Music and Theatre from Dalhousie University, where she studied Opera Performance and Acting. She is a professional musician, actress and voice over artist.

Born and raised in Oakville, Ontario, Stephanie now resides in Toronto. She is busy creating music throughout the city with various groups and at various events, performing in plays, musicals and lending her voice to commercials, animated features and tv shows. Her most exciting accomplishment is voicing the character of Gargona on Nickelodeon’s Mia and Me Season 2. She can also be seen throughout this 2015/16 season in many Theatre 20 shows and events as part of their elite musical theatre conservatory program.

She has an in-home studio where she can record and produces her own voice over work. She teaches singing lessons, voice over lessons and workshops to those who are looking for guidance in performance through music or looking to work on their voice over skills.

Aside from Music and Theatre, Stephanie also has a passion for camping and absolutely loves spending as much time outside as she can. She is back for her fourth season as a Resident Musician at First Unitarian Congregation and absolutely loves making music with such an amazing group.

  Stephanie Barone
 
Stephanie Hotchkiss

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.

  Tom Lillington
Tom Lillington

Resident Musician – Ben MacDonald

Ben MacDonald is an accomplished saxophonist, clarinetist and singer, and has been involved in music for almost 15 years, starting with piano. He plays tenor saxophone and clarinet in several bands exploring many different styles of music including funk, folk, jazz, rock, reggae, rhythm and blues, and traditional African music at venues all over the city including El Mocambo, Lula Lounge, Young Center for the Arts, Mod Club, and The Great Hall. He has performed with Waleed Abdul Hameed, Bruce Cassidy and Neil Braithwaite to name a few.

Singing with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, he has performed with performers such as Molly Johnson, Andrew Craig, Jackie Richardson and Joe Sealy. He now teaches piano, voice and woodwinds at Elite Music Academy, and teaches music theory and musicianship with Voices of Colour.

  Ben MacDonald
Ben MacDonald

Resident Musician – Lucas Marchand

Lucas Marchand is an educator, performer, and arranger originally from Victoria, BC. He has been singing on the stage since he was three years old. He studied voice at the University of Victoria where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Music with distinction. After completing his undergraduate studies, Lucas spent three years touring and performing with various groups across four continents. In 2005 Lucas moved to Toronto where he won a spot singing tenor with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and remained performing with them for six seasons. During his tenure, The Chorale had the distinction of being chosen to represent Canada by performing at Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington DC. In 2010 Lucas received a Master's degree in Music Education from the University of Toronto. Currently, Lucas sings top tenor with the acclaimed Canadian a cappella group Cadence and can be seen performing all over the world with them. During his time with Cadence Lucas has performed with renowned artist like Bobby McFerrin, Holly Cole, Dan Hill, and David Clayton-Thomas. When he is not on the road, Lucas conducts three choirs at the Regent Park School Of Music which provides subsidized music lessons for at risk youth in the Toronto area. He also works as a vocal arranger for his own group and for other groups on commissioned works. Lucas maintains a small studio of private students and specializes in technique, theory, ear training, and performance practice.

  Lucas Marchand
Lucas Marchand

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).

  Aria Umezawa
 
Aria Umezawa

Resident Musician - Tahirih Vejdani

Tahirih Vejdani has been known to grace the stage and screen as a singer, actor and dancer. Most recently she appeared in the contemporary opera Paradises Lost at the 2013 SummerWorks Festival and in 2012 performed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the productions of Elektra and The Pirates of Penzance. She has performed with the Regina Globe Theatre, Regina Symphony Orchestra, Regina Philharmonic Chorus, Regina Lyric Musical Theatre, Regina Summer Stage, Regina Male Voice Choir, Halcyon Chamber Choir, Do It With Class Young Peoples Theatre, The Expressions and has appeared on APTN’s renegadepress.com and CBC’s InSecurity. As a chorister, she has sung with The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Elmer Iseler Singers, BlackCreek Festival Chorus, Univox Choir, Toronto Choral Artists, Cantabile Chamber Choir and Toronto World Unity Choir.

Tahirih works as a private voice teacher and teaches for the Regent Park School of Music as an assistant choral director and piano instructor. She is also the new director of the Toronto World Unity Choir. Tahirih graduated with great distinction from the University of Regina with a double major in Vocal Performance and Music History and in 2009 received the Luther Medal of Distinction Award.

  Tahirih Vejdani
Tahirih Vejdani