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The Nathaniel Dett Chorale

“A spirit of unity, rendered in song.”

~The Globe and Mail

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is Canada’s first professional choral group dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles, including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk, and blues. These 21 classically-trained, outstanding vocalists have shared the stage with internationally recognized artists such as Juno Award-winning jazz pianist Joe Sealy; and opera star Kathleen Battle and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The Chorale had the unique privilege being the only Canadian ensemble invited to perform as part of the celebrations surrounding the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama. The Chorale has also performed at events honoring world leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and personalities Muhammad Ali and Oscar Peterson. The multi-faceted vocalists of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, whose talent stretches beyond the traditional expectations of a classical chamber choir, perform all styles and genres of music as appropriate to the traditions of the African Diaspora.

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale’s vision is to be a premier performer of Afrocentric composers, and a touchstone for the education of audiences regarding the full spectrum of Afrocentric choral music. The Chorale’s mission is to build bridges of understanding, appreciation, and acceptance between communities of people through the medium of music.

Founder Brainerd Blyden-Taylor named The Chorale after internationally-renowned African-Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), who performed at prestigious concert halls such as Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall. Dett was dedicated to the cause of Black music, winning the Bowdoin and Frances Boott prizes in 1920 from Harvard University. Blyden-Taylor established The Chorale to draw attention not only to Dett’s legacy but also to the wealth of Afrocentric choral music, and to be a professional choral group where persons of African heritage could see themselves represented in the majority. Since its inception in 1998, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale has honoured the memory of its namesake, performing a jubilant and uplifting repertoire extensively throughout Ontario and North America and delighting national audiences in critically-acclaimed extended tours to the Maritimes (2000, 2004, 2006), Quebec (2002, 2005, 2006), Manitoba (2003), Western Canada (2001, 2004, 2005, 2009), and the United States (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009.) The Chorale has also garnered international attention, accepting invitations to perform at Polyfollia in France (2004), the 7th World Symposium on Choral Music in Japan (2005), and the prestigious chamber music series at the U.S. Library of Congress (2007).

Performance Highlights:

  • Canadian Embassy Inaugural Celebration of President Barack Obama (Washington DC) – 2009
  • Out of Many: A Multicultural Festival of Music, Dance and Story (Smithsonian’s NMAI) – 2009
  • Simply the Best: Oscar Peterson Memorial Concert (Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto) – 2008
  • US Library of Congress (Washington DC) – 2007
  • Dance Theatre of Harlem, with Jessye Norman in attendance (NYC) – 2007
  • MacLean’s 100th Anniversary Gala (Toronto Centre for the Arts) – 2005
  • Polyfollia 2004 (Saint Lô, France) – October 2004
  • National Association of Negro Musicians (Detroit MI) – 2004
  • Tribute to Mohammad Ali (Skydome, Toronto) – 2002
  • Songlines: A Musical Reflection on 9/11 (CBC Radio) – 2002
  • Official Choir for the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid – 2001
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Convocation (University of Toronto) – February 2000
  • Opening Ceremonies of Mandela and the Children Celebration (Skydome) – September 1998

Awards:

  • 2003 Canada Award (Gemini Awards) for Carry Me Home: The Story & Music of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale
  • 2003 Gemini nomination for Best Ensemble Performance in a Performing Arts Piece for Carry Me Home: The Story & Music of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale has shared the stage with:

  • Kathleen Battle & The Toronto Symphony Orchestra
  • Juno Award-winning jazz pianist Joe Sealy
  • Dora Award-winning actor/singer Jackie Richardson
  • Rising jazz star Nikki Yanofsky
  • Hannaford Street Silver Band
  • The Signal Hill Alumni Choir of Trinidad & Tobago (West Indies)
  • The Concert Choir of Hampton University (Virginia)
  • Faith Chorale, Toronto Mass Choir and The University of Toronto Gospel Choir
  • World music star Donné Roberts
  • Rising Latin star Eliana Cuevas
  • Guillermo Fragoso (Cuba) and The York University Cuban Ensemble

Recordings:

  • Listen to the Lambs (Marquis Classics, 2002)
  • An Indigo Christmas (Marquis Classics, 2003)
  • Nguzu Saba, (iN.Dett.ed Records, 2010)

Films:

  • Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel (performance video – Romalis Productions)
  • Baptism (performance video – Romalis Productions)
  • Carry Me Home: The Story & Music of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Romalis Productions/Riddle Films, Feb 2003) – Winner of the 2003 Canada Award (Gemini Awards)
  • An Indigo Christmas (Riddle Films, Fall 2003)
  • In Performance: The Music of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Riddle Films, 2004)

Commissions:

  • Ah voltige mon amour, Charles Demuynck
  • Go Down Death and The Crucifixion, Stewart Goodyear
  • And Still We Sing, Music: Joe Sealy; Words: David Woods
  • No Sé Porque Piensas tu, Cancion de Cuna Para des Pertar a un Negrito, and Orishas #1, Guillermo Fragoso

Brainerd Blyden-Taylor

Founder / Artistic Director

“Fill the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears.”

~ Omar Khayyam

Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, founder/artistic director

Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, founder/artistic director

Brainerd Blyden-Taylor is the Founder, Artistic Director and conductor of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Canada’s first professional chamber choir dedicated to the creation and performance of Afrocentric music of all styles. Born in Trinidad & Tobago, Mr. Blyden-Taylor immigrated to Canada in 1973. He founded The Chorale in 1998, in response to a musical void in Canada; there had never before been a professional ensemble dedicated to the dissemination of Afrocentric choral music. The response that The Chorale has received in Canada and the United States since its inception has certainly given credence to Mr. Blyden-Taylor’s vision.

Mr. Blyden-Taylor has conducted several university, youth and concert choirs, most notably completing a 25 year tenure with The Orpheus Choir of Toronto. In addition he works frequently as a guest conductor, having appeared with organizations such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Hannaford Street Silver Band, Nova Scotia Youth Choir, Ontario Youth Choir, Central Manitoba Youth Choir and the New Brunswick Choral Federation Youth Sing. He has also worked as artistic director and advisor for the Algoma Festival Choir, the Nova Scotia Mass Choir and the Chatham-Kent Roots Festival.

Mr. Blyden-Taylor has served as a member of the teaching staff of the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and the Faculty of Music, Queen’s University. He is a Master Teacher with the Toronto Board of Education, coaching teachers and students in conducting and choral technique, and was recently awarded an honourary Doctor of Laws degree from York University in Toronto.

Mr. Blyden-Taylor is also in constant demand as a Clinician, Adjudicator and Lecturer both nationally and internationally, working extensively across Canada and the United States of America, as well as in Cuba and France. He has also been invited to deliver workshops in Japan, Turkey and Israel. In addition Mr. Blyden-Taylor is an active church musician, serving currently as Music Director of St Timothy’s Anglican Church, North Toronto.