On December 16, Toronto Children’s Chorus (TCC) returns to Roy Thomson Hall for its annual holiday concert. This special 40th anniversary performance entitled, The Fire Within, will feature guests including TCC alumnae and international opera stars Krisztina Szabó and Lesia Mackowycz, dancers from Swan Studio in London, Ontario, friends from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Youth Choir and TCC Alumni Choir. The Chorus and its guests will sing festive favourites plus Vivaldi’s Gloria at one of Toronto’s favourite annual holiday concerts!
The TCC’s Head Choristers had the opportunity to ask guest artist Lesia Mackowycz some questions in anticipation of the upcoming holiday performance.
Why did you decide to pursue singing?
Well, like many things in life when I found out I was good at it, I pursued it with passion and dedication, even at the age of eight. And when Mrs. Bartle brought me into the TCC and encouraged and developed my young talent (as only she can) I found a real joy and sense of personal accomplishment that I have to this day.
What is your favourite show or song that you have ever performed? What made it so memorable?
My favourite show is the Operetta Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss). I’ve played the role of Adele throughout the world many times during my career. She’s a great character and a lot of fun to play. There was one time when I was performing the role at an outdoor International Festival in Eutin, Germany, when in the middle of my second aria, a shooting star blazed across the night sky…quite a moment!
What is your favourite TCC memory?
My very first concert was Christmas, 1983. I was so proud. We sang Bach‘s Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten. I still remember every word. I was so proud that I forgot my special job of leading the exit after the “WINK“ from Mrs. Bartle (I was the last one in the first row). I was too busy smiling from ear to ear. She just kept winking until she basically had to wave me down!
What did you learn during your time at the TCC that helped contribute to the person and musician you are now?
The TCC formed the foundation for my career in music, both performing and teaching. My years in the choir taught me discipline, professional behavior, language and people skills, as well as developing my technical voice ability. And it also gave me the sense of what it means to be part of a successful team working together for a common goal of excellence. Plus, those years showed me I could be a musician as a lifelong career and passion. And for that, I am forever grateful to everyone involved in the TCC.
You were Krisztina Szabó’s (fellow The Fire Within guest artist) TCC apprentice trainee for a year, how did this partnership influence you as a singer?
Krisztina taught me to read music. I‘m not even sure she knows that she taught me how to read music! I owe her big-time for that. She was amazing. I like to think I took what she did for me to other singers through my own teaching career.
What have you gained from performing and working in so many different places around the world?
Well, for one thing: a global perspective on life and our profession. I‘ve learned how to work in many languages. I‘ve gotten to see the world and meet so many interesting people along the way. I‘ve experienced more than I could have possibly imagined.
How does teaching voice as a professor at the University of Osnabrück differ from performing?
Being a professor is very different than performing. It takes even more energy! I need to pay attention to every detail – not just of my own voice but also with the voices of others. Plus, you need to find a way to click with each individual student because each is unique in terms of his or her ability, goals and personality. My job is to help everyone achieve his or her absolute best – in that way, Mrs. Bartle is still with me.
What advice would you give young singers?
If you are going to do it, then do it with everything you’ve got. This is not an easy road to travel, it’s demanding and you have to be committed because you are going to take some bumps and bruises along the way. But the rewards are definitely worth it! They have been for me.
Also, be true to yourself, learn to speak more than one language, listen to all different styles of music, go see other people perform, don ‘t be afraid to fail. And, if you can, check your ego at the door… and have fun, you’re getting to do something special!
Questions and responses have been edited for clarity.
This Q&A is not to be reproduced without permission from Toronto Children’s Chorus.