“How can we sing, act, write, speak, create art with one another in ways that allow for full uncompromising voices to be heard? By having the courage and vulnerability to trust that what we feel and hear will help us grow to be a better community and ultimately a better country.”

— Reneltta Arluk, Co-Director

We’ve done it before, so why change it? Well, we wanted to work towards something safe but still engaging and true to the AtG vibe. We’ve been struggling along with the rest of our artists across our Nation and wanted to work towards something inclusive and uplifting.

Well, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), in partnership with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, presents Messiah/Complex: a virtual, multilingual, cross-Canada experience of a holiday classic. Messiah/Complex features diverse soloists and ensembles from every province and territory filmed against iconic Canadian landscapes and will be accompanied by the illustrious TSO conducted by Johannes Debus. Not bad, eh?

Co-directed by Joel Ivany (AtG Artistic Director) and Reneltta Arluk (Director of Banff Centre’s Indigenous Arts), Messiah/Complex will be a way for people to unite, countrywide, through a timeless piece of music with a distinctly Canadian twist. Marrying the diverse traditions of communities across Canada with one of the most popular classical works of all time, this masterpiece will be an incredible way to showcase Canadian artists, their stories, and the beautiful places they call home.

Tune-In

Premiere: December 13, 2020
Available on-demand until Saturday, December 26, 2020
Free registration will begin at 12pm November 9, 2020

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Creative Leadership

Joel Ivany

Co-Director

Joel Ivany is the Founder and Artistic Director of AtG, and is the artistic director of Opera at Banff Centre. His directing credits include productions of Verdi’s Macbeth (Minnesota Opera), Carmen (Vancouver Opera), Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera), Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever (Adelaide Festival) and Le nozze di Figaro (revival at Norwegian National Opera). He is the author of seven (and counting) original librettos for companies such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. He was a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction and has also been nominated for multiple Dora Awards for Outstanding New Opera/Musical, winning one for Figaro’s Wedding. Recent mainstage directing credits include Dead Man Walking at Minnesota Opera and the multiple award-winning production of Gluck’s Orphée⁺ with Opera Columbus, AtG and Banff Centre. He has directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company (Carmen), Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Requiem, Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins), the Canadian Children’s Opera Company (Brundibár), Vancouver Opera (Carmen, Dead Man Walking), and Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus (AtG and Banff Centre). Upcoming directing credits include new productions of Figaro’s Wedding (AtG), Hänsel und Gretel (Canadian Opera Company) and Candide (Edmonton Opera). He is a proud graduate of the Opera School at U of T and is a member of the Alumni Wall of Fame at his alma mater, Western University.

Reneltta Arluk

Co-Director

Reneltta Arluk is currently Director of Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She is responsible for the vision to design Indigenous Arts led programming across all artistic disciplines and offer support for inclusionary programming for Indigenous artists campus-wide. She is also responsible for developing and strengthening partnerships with Indigenous and non-Indigenous artistic institutions regionally, nationally and globally creating spaces for Indigenous creative voices. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Acting degree from the University of Alberta; becoming the first Indigenous woman and first Inuk to graduate from the reputable program. Most recently, Reneltta is the first Inuk and Indigenous woman to direct at The Stratford Festival. There, Reneltta was recipient of The Festival’s 2017 Tyrone Guthrie - Derek F. Mitchell Artistic Director's Award as Director of The Breathing Hole by Governor General Award winning playwright, Colleen Murphy. Reneltta Arluk is an Inuvialuit, Cree, Dene from the Northwest Territories, raised by her grandparents on the trap-line until school age. It is through this life experience and training that gives Reneltta the unique cultural and artistic Indigenous lens from which she works from.

Johannes Debus

Conductor

Johannes Debus has been Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company (COC) since 2009. Highlights of his ten years with the COC include Wagner's Tristan and the Ring, Verdi's Aida, Falstaff and Otello, Mozart's Abduction, Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de loin, Ariodante by Handel and the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright's Hadrian. In the 2019-20 season he conducted Rusalka and a brand new production of Hansel and Gretel directed by Joel Ivany.
He worked with orchestras such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, and appeared at festivals such as Scotiafest Halifax and the Banff Centre Summer Festival. The founding of the COC Orchestra Academy, North-America's only opera orchestra training program for young musicians, as well as his regular concerts with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in Toronto underline his interest in training and educating the next generations. Johannes Debus is a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award recipient.

Soloists

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Jonathan Adams

AB

Born in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Canada), Jonathon Adams is a Two-Spirit, nêhiyaw michif (Cree-Métis) baritone. In concert, they have appeared as a soloist with Philippe Herreweghe, Sigiswald Kuijken, Hans-Christoph Rademann, Helmut Rilling, Václav Luks, Ensemble BachPlus, Vox Luminis, il Gardellino, and B’Rock Orchestra at Opera-Ballet Flanders. Future solo engagements include concerts with Collegium Vocale Gent, il Gardellino, Les Voix Humaines, the Netherlands Bach Society, Pro Coro Canada, Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal, and L’Harmonie des Saisons. June 2021 will witness the world premiere of Adams’ new work nipahimiw / the plaint in collaboration with Christi Belcourt, Reneltta Arluk and Evan Ducharme, Susie Napper and Catalina Vicens at the Art Gallery of Ontario, followed by performances at the Musée McCord and Akpik Theatre (Yellowknife). Jonathon is based between tio’tia:ke (Montréal) and Amsterdam. They study singing with Acadian soprano, Suzie LeBlanc. Jonathon is a Britten-Pears Young Artist and a fellow of the Netherlands Bach Society.

Headshot of Looee Arreak

Looee Arreak

NU

Looee Arreak lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut. However, she grew up in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, which is one of the most beautiful Baffin Island communities. Located just south of the Arctic circle, Looee as a child, would spend much of her time out on the land with her family. She would often be playing on top of large rocks, looking over vast spaces of land and deep waters. Listening to the sounds of nature, Looee would be singing along with the birds. Getting lost in time, getting inspired by the environment, making and creating her own sounds. Looee is an award winning Inuktitut singer and songwriter. She has been esteemed to be the most prolific artist in her field. Her music is original. And her songs are lyrical, full of beautiful sounds and captures themes of hope, strength, playfulness and love of family and land. Looee has released three of her own albums. She has toured all over Nunavut and Nunavik. Her music is constantly being played on Inuktitut radio(s). Her songs are played as cover by young musicians who look up to her as a mentor. Looee recently composed a song “Qaujimavunga Kinummangaarma - I know Who I Am” where it was premiered and song by the Cantiamo Choir of Ottawa at the Ottawa Chamberfest. Looee is passionate about Inuit language preservation and creativity. And she is regularly commissioned to teach Inuit youth and facilitates musical youth training and master workshops. Looee is married to James T. Arreak, and have 6 children together.

Spencer Britten headshot

Spencer Britten

BC

Canadian triple threat Spencer Britten feels at home in both the Operatic and Musical Theatre repertoire. His recent projects have allowed him to enjoy the utilization of his extensive dance and opera training. Recently, Spencer has been a Young Artist at The Glimmerglass Festival and L'Atelier Lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal. In the 2020/21 season Spencer will join the International Opera Studio at Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. Performances include roles in Ariadne auf Naxos, Tannhäuser, Rigoletto, Die Zauberflöte, Der Rosenkavalier, La bohème, La Traviata, Salome, and La fanciulla del west. He will also return to Gütersloh to join Neue Stimmen for their Masterclass series in the fall. Spencer has been a winner and recipient of The Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation For Young Canadian Opera Singers, The Vancouver Opera Guild Career Development Grant, The Vancouver Opera Chorus Endowment Career Development Grant, The Joseph and Melitta Kandler Scholarship for the Advanced Music Study, and The Barbara Eves-Motomochi Memorial Fund. He thanks the generous opera communities of Vancouver and Montreal for their constant support.

Rihab Chaieb headshot

Rihab Chaieb

QC

Tunisian-Canadian Rihab Chaieb was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program, where she appeared in productions of L’italiana in Algeri, Luisa Miller, Cavalleria Rusticana and Hänsel und Gretel among others, earning praise for dramatic charm, vocal clarity and sensuous tone. Since embarking on her freelance career, Chaieb has made a number of important debuts, positioning herself as a name of note in the lyric mezzo-soprano repertoire. Demonstrating repertoire versatility these last seasons, Rihab Chaieb debuted at Dutch National Opera as Lola in Robert Carsen’s new staging of Cavalleria rusticana under Lorenzo Viotti, sang Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at Cincinnati Opera, was Offenbach’s Fantasio at Opéra et Orchestre National de Montpellier, returned to The Met as Zerlina in Don Giovanni under Cornelius Meister, and received unanimous acclaim for her role debut as Carmen in Lydia Steier’s intensive new production for Oper Köln. The 20/21 season includes her first Charlotte in Massenet’s Wertherin concert performances at Opera Vlaanderen under Giedrė Šlekytė, and further ahead she returns to The Met as Nefertiti in Philip Glass’ Akhnaten.

Catherine Daniel

AB

Career highlights for Ms. Daniel include: singing Emelda Griffiths in Grammy award-winner Terence Blanchard’s opera ‘Champion’ with l’Opéra de Montréal, debuting Klytemnestra in Edmonton Opera’s production of Elektra, singing Elisabetta in Knoxville Opera’s production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, and debuting at Carnegie Hall as a soloist in Haydyn’s Mass in Time of war. Ms Daniel of Edmonton studied voice with Coluratura soprano Tracy Dahl at the University of Manitoba. She was a member of the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, and later became a member of the Opera Studio Nederlands in Amsterdam. Catherine’s last season included returning to Montreal and Edmonton for recital engagements and making her Opera Tampa debut in Carmen singing the title role.

Deantha Edmunds headshot

Deantha Edmunds

NL

Canada’s first and only Inuk professional classical singer, Deantha Edmunds, is a proud resident of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is a two-time Dora Award Nominated performer and is much in demand as a singer, actor, and collaborator in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous projects. Edmunds was nominated for the East Coast Music Award ‘Indigenous Artist of the Year’ in 2020 for her solo EP, “My Beautiful Home,” and in 2016 for the album “Pillorikput Inuit: Inuktitut Arias for All Seasons.” 2019 performances included the world premieres of Indigenous operas “Shanawdithit” with Tapestry Opera/Opera on the Avalon, and the Cree and Sámi double-bill “Two Odysseys” with Soundstreams/Signal Theatre. Edmunds was also the lead actor and soloist in the Halifax premiere and Maritime tour of the original show “Rings Through Water” with Anishinaabe dancer/choreographer Sarain Fox and Xara Choral Theatre. An urban Inuk, Edmunds aims to empower Indigenous people and share their stories. She explores and embraces her Indigeneity through poetry and song.

Leela Gilday headshot

Leela Gilday

NT

If you’re from the North, Leela Gilday’s music is home. If you’ve never been, it will take you there. Born and raised in Denendeh, she writes about the people and the land that created her. The power in her voice conveys the depth of love and life in a rugged environment and vibrant culture. This Juno Award-winner has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. She believes music has an inexplicable effect on people- a place where she can share light, dark and the most vulnerable moments. Her recent album North Star Calling is a raw, intimate, and beautifully revealing journey.

Miriam Khalil headshot

Miriam Khalil

ON

Juno nominated artist Miriam Khalil has appeared on numerous opera stages across Canada and Europe, including a stint at the renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera (GFO) in the United Kingdom. An alumna of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, she won first place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Great Lakes Region) and subsequently appeared in the 2007 documentary The Audition. Her performance credits include Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Opera Tampa, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Hamilton, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG), Edmonton Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, Opera Lyra Ottawa, and prominent orchestras across Canada, in roles such as Mimì (La bohème), Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande), Governess (The Turn of the Screw), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare), Almirena (Rinaldo), and the title role in Alcina. Ms. Khalil’s 2020/21 season includes appearances as Mimì in La bohème with Edmonton Opera, recitals with Music in the Morning, Concerts in Banff and Rockport and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

Andrea Lett headshot

Andrea Lett

SK

Praised for her "clear voice soaring to stratospheric heights" (Opera Canada), soprano Andrea Lett is quickly making a name for herself in opera houses and concert halls across North America. Her roles include Zerlina (Don Giovanni - Manitoba Opera), Musetta (La Bohème – Saskatoon Opera), Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte - Manitoba Underground Opera), and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel - Saskatoon Opera), as well as being featured in Manitoba Underground Opera's digital production (Green Envelopes) this summer. Last season, Ms. Lett was featured in the Winnipeg Symphony’s Messiah conducted by Jane Glover and has been re-engaged for the WSO’s ‘Holiday Celebration’ for this season. Next up, she takes part in Against the Grain’s Messiah/Complex. Recipient of the CBC Young Artist’s Development Prize and the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage Audience Choice Award, the University of Manitoba and University Toronto Laureate has been engaged at San Francisco Opera (Adams/Sellars’ Girls of the Golden West) and was an Apprentice Artist at Santa Fe Opera.

Diye tVan Lieshout headshot

Diyet van Lieshout

YT

Diyet was born in a tent and spent her childhood on the ancestral lands of the Kluane First Nation people in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Coming from a family rooted in traditions but tempered with a good sense of adventurous hippie attitudes, Diyet’s musical presence is as diverse as her Southern Tutchone, Tlingit, Japanese and Scottish heritage. She discovered her voice singing on the school bus, acquired a degree in music, then became a published songwriter. When the pull of the North was too strong, she packed her bags, and her Dutch husband, moving back to her village of 90 people without a plan or even a pub to play in. The result of this unlikely career move has been international collaborations, extensive touring and three acclaimed albums, the third receiving a Canadian Folk Music Award. During the COVID lock-down, Diyet released the heartwarming video “Brave Face” celebrating the diversity of people of the Yukon.

Headshot of Julie Lumsden

Julie Lumsden

MB

Julie Lumsden is a proud member of the Manitoba Metis Federation, with Scottish and German settler ancestry. She was born on and grew up on Treaty One Territory, which is the land of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Dakota, Dene, Oji-Cree Nations and is the homeland of the Metis Nation. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice Performance from the University of Manitoba Desautels Faculty of Music. She has just wrapped up her 2nd season at The Shaw Festival, and has performed on such stages as: RMTC, PTE, MTYP, Rainbow Stage, Theatre Cercle Moliere, Magnus Theatre, and Neptune Theatre.

Elliot Madore headshot

Elliot Madore

ON

Hailed by the New York Times for his “robust singing” and Opera News for his “exquisite vocal beauty,” Grammy Award winning Canadian baritone Elliot Madore has established himself as an international artist in demand at the leading opera houses and orchestras of the world. The 2020–2021 season sees Mr. Madore’s return to the Metropolitan Opera to sing Mercutio in the Bartlet Sher production of Roméo et Julliette. Mr. Madore also sings in the role of Franz Wolff-Metternich in the world premiere of La beauté de monde at Opéra de Montreal, and returns to both Opernhaus Zürich and Manitoba Opera to sing Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd. Orchestral engagements include his debut with the London Symphony Orchestra singing Carmina Burana, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, Ramón in Girls of the Golden West with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Vaughn Williams’ Sea Symphony with the ORF Radio Symphonie Orchester Wien. Mr. Madore also appears in recital at Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Ensembles

Le Choeur Louisbourg photo

Le Choeur Louisbourg

NB

Founded in 2006, Louisbourg Choir, under the direction of Monique Richard, has quickly established itself among New Brunswick’s cultural landscape. The ensemble started as the resident choir of the Sackville Festival of Early Music from 2006 to 2014, but then developed it’s own concert series, traveling each season the province of New Brunswick to perform in various towns and cities. Although the Louisbourg Choir has distinguished itself as specializing in early music with period instrument accompaniment, it embraces other musical periods on occasion. In May 2015, the Louisbourg Choir was invited to take part in Rencontres Chorales 2015 for a series of six concerts in Paris, dedicating the event to Acadian music. The group also collaborates regularly with Symphony New Brunswick. In autumn 2018, the choir launched a CD dedicated to love songs from Acadie and French composer Jacotin Le Bel (v.1495–v.1556), under the ATMA classique label.

Halifax Camerata Singers photo

The Halifax Camerata Singers

NS

The Halifax Camerata Singers is Atlantic Canada’s premier chamber choir. Founded in 1986 by Artistic Director Jeff Joudrey, the Nova Scotia ensemble has distinguished itself by performing exciting choral repertoire that covers all periods and styles, with special attention to Canadian music. The auditioned choir is known for its high performance standards, claiming national recognition and the Healy Willan Grand Prize in the 2010 National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs. Members of the Halifax Camerata Singers come from many communities for the opportunity to perform demanding choral repertoire. The choir often appears in collaboration with chamber ensemble, Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS) and other musicians and since 2001 has been the core choir of the SNS Chorus. The ensemble performs in regional concert series such as Musique Royale, Music at Trinity, Dartmouth Community Concert Series and PEI’s Indian River Festival. In 2017 the choir performed as one of only three choirs at the inaugural Edmonton International Choral Festival.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

ON

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Canada’s world-renowned large vocal ensemble, continues to bring great choral music and creative programming to the community during the pandemic. The TMC’s 2020/21 season, under the artistic leadership of Associate Conductor Simon Rivard, features online multi-disciplinary programming and new collaborations. The TMC worked with Guest Curator Suba Sankaran for Kannamma-a concert of Thanksgiving, featuring songs of gratitude and love from across centuries and cultures. For Remembrance Day, the TMC created a program with Cree composer and Guest Curator Andrew Balfour bringing together choral music, dance and poetry to honour and remember the experience of Canada’s Indigenous Veterans. In December, choral music lovers will be able to enjoy Festival of Carols, the TMC’s annual celebration of Christmas music. Additional programs are planned for Spring 2021. Visit the TMC’s website – www.tmchoir.org – to enjoy all of the TMC’s online programming.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

ON

One of Canada’s most respected arts organizations, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has played a vital role in the city’s dynamic cultural life for 98 years. Music Director Gustavo Gimeno brings an expansive artistic vision, intellectual curiosity, and sense of adventure to programming the 92-musician Orchestra. The TSO is committed to serving local and national communities through vibrant performances, extensive educational activities, and impactful community relationships. It has a notable recording and broadcast history and has been celebrated internationally during its many tours. Toronto’s iconic Roy Thomson Hall is the TSO’s home, drawing patrons from around the world. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s name remains synonymous with musical versatility and growth, and artistic distinction.

Photo of UPEI Chamber Singers

The University of Prince Edward Island Chamber Chorus

PEI

UPEI Chamber Singers was founded by Prof. Sung Ha Shin-Bouey in the Fall of 1997. The choir is made up of current UPEI voice majors, other music students, and music alumni. They participate in several concerts a year, including: UPEI Showcase Recitals, Chamber Music Concerts, and the annual UPEI Christmas & Spring Choral Concerts. In addition to their duties at UPEI, the UPEI Chamber Singers have performed at the PEI Government House, St Bernard Music Festival, Indian River Music Festival, and with RAJATAN Ensemble, Symphony Nova Scotia and the PEI Symphony Orchestra. They are thrilled to be part of this special project of National Messiah.

Supported By

Individual

Andrea Bellefeuille
Carolyn & Steve Campbell
Simion Candrea
Marc Chalifoux
Debbie Delancey
Sandra Gavinchuk & William Bowen
Andrew Gillespie
Valarie Koziol
Joy Levine
Shirley Neuman
Christian Perry
Frances Price
Robert Sherrin & Astrid Janson
Kris Vikmanis & Denton Creighton
Peter Wismath

Corporate

Aldershot Landscape Contractors
Bank of Montreal
Unilock and Validus Reinsurance, Ltd.

Diyet’s appearance is generously supported by Whitehorse Concerts

Foundations

The Azrieli Foundation
Yukon Arts Centre

Aldershot Landscape Contractors
BMO Logo
The Azrieli Foundation logo

“The story of the Messiah is, of course, redemptive. The idea of being able to sacrifice oneself for the betterment of others, of arriving at some moment of peace at the end of struggle… In many ways, it’s absolutely the ideal work of art for these particular times.”

— Matthew Loden, CEO of TSO