The Toronto Festival Singers is the resident choir of The Song Shul under the direction of Cantor Simon Spiro. They’re young, vibrant and fun!
Each member is a professional vocalist and educated musician in Toronto with stellar soloist credits in opera, musical theatre and jazz. Coming together, however, their voices have been shaped to present “The Spiro Sound” – a smooth blend of voices that move together seamlessly.
They sing on Shabbat and festivals, in concert and at special events. Their musical material is both traditional and contemporary, and most of their arrangements are written specifically for them by Cantor Spiro.
When The Toronto Festival Singers sing written arrangements and we’re all singing along, you’ll see them looking at the printed music in their books. But when they are looking only at Cantor Spiro and singing a sustained hum, watch the Cantor. This is when he is improvising Hazzanut, at which he is a master. As he sings, he shows them different finger positions to indicate which musical chord they should be singing. It is a fascinating technique, similar to a musician playing an instrument. The Cantor is “playing” the vocal accompaniment with finger motions. This is a reflection of the Cantor’s skill, of course, but it is only possible because all of the choir members have a sophisticated understanding of this music and its intricate modes.
Click on the singer’s photo for bio, followed by the number of years he/she has sung with Cantor Simon.
Mitch Aldrich (tenor) has performed across Canada and the US and is equally at home on music theatre, choral, operatic, and pop music stages. Last year he made his Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut as Prince Charles Edward in Candide. Favourite stage credits include: Motel (Fiddler on the Roof), Laurie (Little Women), and Man 1 (Songs For a New World). Mitch is also a Voice Instructor, Music Director (Annie, Joseph, Wizard of Oz), Stage Director (Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Seussical, Curtains, Shrek), and Choreographer (Lion King, Annie, Shrek).
Alexandra Asher (mezzo-soprano/alto) lives in Toronto and performs regularly throughout Canada with various ensembles such as the Ottawa Bach Choir, Sable 8 and Theatre of Early Music. Ms. Asher holds an Advanced Certificate in Performance from the University of Toronto and is currently earning a Master’s degree in musicology with a focus on early music performance at York University. (2 years)
Julia Barber (mezzo-soprano/alto) is a graduate of the University of Toronto Opera Program and has been a featured soloist with the Elora Festival Singers, Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Jewish Music Week, Aldeburgh Discovery Series, and Bayfield Festival. (7 years)
Margarita Boshoer (soprano) graduated from Odessa State Conservatory in USSR as a classical singer soloist, choir master and conductor. She toured and recorded with leading Russian performers of classic and folk. A soloist with the Aurora Chamber Ensemble for the “Stars of the Black Sea Festival” (Ukraine) and the “White Nights Festival” (St. Petersburg), Margarita then toured around the world as soloist for the Odessa State Operetta Theater and Aurora Chamber Ensemble. In Canada, Rita continues to perform, teach and record. (11 years)
Victor Daoyuan Cheng (bass) is a conductor and baritone based in Toronto. He is the founding artistic director of the Mississauga Summer Chorale, an organisation currently spanning 2 choirs, and over 100 members. Victor is also the founding artistic director of Toronto Voice Lab, a small ensemble dedicated to performing contemporary choral music, especially those written by students at the University of Toronto. Victor is also sings with the Elmer Iseler Singers, as the James T. Chestnutt Scholar in voice and conducting. Beyond the classical world, Victor has shared the stage with band and acts such as Cirque du Soleil, and the Rolling Stones.
Charlie Davidson (tenor) is hailed for his ‘refined tone, luxurious timbre, and superb technique’ (Opera Going Toronto). He has appeared regularly as a soloist throughout the GTA, as well as in national television commercials. This season he played Claude in the debut Whitby/Ajax CMTP production of Hair. For Jewish Music Week this past June, Charles presented a cabaret tribute to the French singer Barbara. Other recent appearances this past summer included the TD Jazz Festival, and The Secret Garden in concert at the inaugural Women of Musical Theatre Festival. Click here to view his Facebook page. (8 years)
Maureen Ferguson (alto) holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Western Ontario, a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of the Emerging Artists Program at the Calgary Opera Company. Maureen has had the privilege to perform many roles including Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Meg Page in Verdi’s Falstaff, and Nicklausse in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. Maureen has also performed in works such as Durufle’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion, and Handel’s Messiah. (1st year)
Inga Filippova (soprano) is an award-winning and internationally known Opera Singer. Some roles include Cio Cio San in Madama Butterfly with Voice Afire Pocket Opera; Nedda in Pagliacci with Opera Lyra; and Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte. Inga was a finalist in such prestigious competitions as Louis Quilico Voice Competition 2008; Julian Gayarre International Singing Competition in Pamplona, Spain; Laureate of Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques Voice Competitions 2008, 2011, 2013; Czech and Slovak Voice Competition 2009; Pavarotti International Voice Competition in Modena, Italy; and most recently Riccardo Zandonai Opera Competition in Riva del Garda, Italy. (11 years)
Nava Hoffman (mezzo soprano/alto) has performed both solo and in various ensembles for many Jewish community events in and around Ottawa before receiving her music degree at the University of Ottawa and relocating to Toronto. She has since performed around the GTA with various ensembles, including the Elora Festival Singers, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and the Toronto Festival Singers. A performer and music teacher by night, Nava works by day in graphic design for Ketubah.com. (8 years)
Joey Jang is a tenor and organist based in Toronto. He has most recently completed his Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance at the University of Toronto, graduating with honours. During his time there, Joey was selected as a soloist for performances of Bach’s Cantata BWV 12 and Handel’s Messiah.
Outside of U of T, Joey has performed solo recitals at the Metropolitan United Church (Noon at Met Concert Series). He is currently the principal cantor/organist at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, a cantor at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, a member of the Toronto Festival Singers, a section lead in the Metropolitan Festival Choir and the Massey College Choir, and a Sidgwick Scholar in the Orpheus Choir of Toronto. Joey has performed the roles of Priest and Armed Man in Mozart’s Magic Flute with the Toronto City Opera, and has performed at the 2018 Toronto Summer Music Festival as an Art of Song Fellow.
Rob Kinar (tenor) has appeared with Guelph Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Masque Theatre, Tallis Choir and Tafelmusik. He originated the lead role for the premiere of Andrew Ager’s opera Führerbunker. A founding member of the vocal quartet HaKol Ha’Ivri, Rob created and presented two programs for Jewish Music Week: The Life and Music of Salamone Rossi and Songs of the Lodz Ghetto, the latter as part of the AGO Lodz Ghetto exhibit. Rob began singing with Simon Spiro over a decade ago when they were both in Montreal. He holds a Masters degree in Performance Practice from U of California and, in his spare time, Robert maintains a small vocal studio and works in the TV and Film industry. (11+ years)
Valeria Kondrashov (mezzo-soprano/alto) studied voice performance at the State Music College in Russia, where she obtained a degree in teaching voice and choral conducting. Since 2007 Valeria has performed as soloist and choral singer with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Mendelssohn Singers, and Elora Festival Singers. Valeria is also presently an alto soloist at Metropolitan United Church and the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. (8 years)
Jennifer Krabbe (soprano), winner of the 2014/15 Jim and Charlotte Norcop Prize in Song, is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto. Recent operatic roles include Pamina in The Magic Flute, Calisto in La Calisto and Drusilla in L’incoronazione di Poppea. A Sidgwick Scholar with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Jennifer appeared as soloist in Britten’s The World of the Spirit, Ešenvalds’ Passion and Resurrection, and Goodall’s Every Purpose Under Heaven. For JMW, Jennifer presented a solo recital Offenbach: The Cantor’s Son. Upcoming appearances include Handel’s Messiah with the Toronto Beach Chorale. (5 years)
Mathias Memmel is a graduate of the Bachelor of Music program at the University of Toronto where he studied under the tutorship of Elizabeth MacDonald. He is the Music Director at Temple Kol Ami in Thornhill and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church in Markham. In addition to his conducting, Mathias has been a member of many fine ensembles including the National Youth Choir of Canada, the Ontario Youth Choir, the MacMillan Singers at the University of Toronto, directed by Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt, and the Bach Music Festival of Canada Chamber Choir, under Gerald Fagan. Mathias was a Choral Scholar with Pax Christi, under the direction of Stephanie Martin, and Orpheus Choir, under the direction of Dr. Robert Cooper.
Julia Morson (soprano) can be found touring, recording and performing across Canada and the world, as well as on national television and radio, interpreting early music, opera, oratorio, art song, new music and jazz. She has recently appeared as a soloist with the Theatre of Early Music, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Elora Festival Singers, the Larkin Singers, St James Cathedral Toronto, Grace Church on the Hill, The Cellar Singers, and The University of Guelph Choirs & Guelph Chamber Players. Mississauga-born, Julia currently resides in Toronto with her husband and her crazy husky/lab mix, Daisy. (1st year)
Soprano Lindsay McIntyre has appeared as a soloist with UBC Opera, UBC Symphony Orchestra, University Singers Choir, Vancouver Bach Choir, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Since moving to Toronto, she has performed as a soloist with The Elora Singers, The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, The Theatre of Early Music, and MYOpera, and in chorus with Opera Atelier. Lindsay is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Historical Performance at the University of Toronto under countertenor Daniel Taylor, where her research focuses on negative self-talk in undergraduate voice majors.
Norm Nurmi (bass, human pitch pipe) is a singer, accompanist, teacher of voice and piano, musical director, and sometimes composer. Oh, and generally a nice person. Oh, and mostly modest. (11 years)
Conrad Siebert (tenor) spent his childhood in Colombia and returned to Winnipeg where he studied philosophy and music before beginning a career in opera. He has since portrayed the roles of Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte (Manitoba Underground Opera), Ottavio in #Uncle John (Banff Centre), Neomorino in L’Elisir d’Amore (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy). A graduate of the U of T Opera School, where he was Peter Quint in Britten’s Turn of the Screw, Conrad was a concert soloist in Handel’s Messiah this past season with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and he has appeared with the Orpheus and Durham Philharmonic choirs. (1st year)
Walter Soles (bass) is a multi-talented individual who began his career broadcasting on CHUM and CHUM-FM. His passion and mellow voice were perfect voicing radio and TV commercials for such companies as TD Bank, Shell, Air Canada and many more. His voice elected Pierre Trudeau, helped elect Barack Obama and started the Cola Wars. His commercials have won numerous International awards including the French Palme d’Or, Japan Commercial Festival etc. He is a rare Jewish bass who loves choral singing and has shared his talents with many synagogues. (11 years)
Steve Szmutni (tenor), Newfoundland native and long-time Saskatchewan resident, got his musical education at Brandon University and Humber College. Since settling in Toronto, he has performed, taught and recorded consistently around the city. Steve is now a part of the music faculty at Humber and is working regularly with the Elora Festival Singers, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Leaside Presbyterian, and most notably the Toronto Festival Singers. Steve is proud of his over 10 years singing with Simon Spiro and the opportunities to share the stage with many notable Canadian artists, as well as many memorable performances, and recordings in his ensembles.
Michael Uloth (bass) is a Canadian graduate of the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program, the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio and the Glimmerglass Opera Young American Artists Program. His credits include the title role in Don Pasquale, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Leporello/Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni and Sparafucile in Rigoletto. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, and also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Michael is excited to be performing with Simon at The Song Shul! For more information, please visit michaeluloth.com.(1st year)
Lawrence Shirkie (bass) is an established baritone on the Canadian stage, both in musical theatre and opera. A graduate of McGill with a Bachelor of Music in Voice and a Master’s Degree in Voice and Opera, Lawrence made his operatic debut in Hansel und Gretel with Opera McGill. In concert he has performed Handel’s Messiah with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Choir, Mozart’s Coronation Mass for the inauguration of Archbishop of the Regina Diocese, and Dvorak’s Mass in D Major. (2 years)