Archive for the ‘Concerts’ Category

22nd Season Opens with a Sparkler

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Karen Schuesseler Singers presents MagnificatOur 22nd season opens on November 22 with John Rutter’s exuberant Magnificat. We will be joined by acclaimed London soprano, Sonja Gustafson, a harpist and an orchestral ensemble comprised of some of the area’s leading musicians. Working with my colleagues is always a special joy for me.

The Magnificat, or Song of Mary, is a canticle (song) in the New Testament. Mary sings it as narrated in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:39–56) when she tells her cousin, Elizabeth, that she will have a very special child.

One reason I love the Magnificat is because it was the song of a young woman, Mary, to whom a very great and wondrous thing was about to happen. It is a clear manifesto of social justice and equality. It was sung by a woman, who knew injustice and inequality, not just of social class, but of gender. It is a song of praise, thanksgiving, hope, affirmation and joy that bursts forth. I resonate with and respond to the spontaneous passion of it.

The text is the perfect precursor to the holiday message of ‘peace on earth, goodwill to all’. Rutter’s treatment of this text is unique, in that he portrays the excitement and party atmosphere of the Latin American countries when Mary is celebrated.

On this concert we will also be singing another Magnificat by C. T. Pachelbel, Johann’s son who emigrated to South Carolina in the American colonies. It is for double choir. In this performance the second choir will be performed by a wind ensemble, giving this piece a sparkling colour as well. Gabriel to Mary Came arranged by Willcocks, the lustrous Ave Maria for double choir by Franz Biebl, and the deeply moving O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen will further portray the message of miracle at this time.

Sonja GustafsonWe are greatly looking forward to having soprano Sonja Gustafson join us for this concert. Her beautiful voice and captivating presence are the perfect medium for the ethereal nature of this music, the warmth of the message and the sizzle of a Latino street party.

We will present Magnificat on Saturday, November 22 at 8:00 pm, at Wesley-Knox United Church, 91 Askin Street, London. Tickets and more details are available at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Show vs Rehearsal

Thursday, November 6th, 2014


image of an iceburg indicating that "The Show" is the top sixth and "The Rehearsal" is the remaining 5/6th.
So often what the audience sees in a concert is a small fraction of what went into that performance. I found this image on conductor Richard Sparks‘ blog. It’s an eloquent description for choral concerts as well as theatre. Right now we are in the thick mass of this image, getting ready for our November 22 season opener, Magnificat, with Sonja Gustafson. A hundred balls are in the air, which will all come together beautifully on concert night. That’s magic.

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The Excitement of a New Season

Monday, September 8th, 2014

We begin with our vocal warm-ups. The voices sound rested, yet a little out of shape. By concert time they will be as an athlete in top form. The many tiny muscles involved in the singing process will be ready to perform at their peak and deliver the thrilling sound of the many being one.

There is something fresh and exciting about the start of a new season. Everyone comes back rested and ready for another season of musical discovery and concert creation.

Me, I can’t wait to share and teach the new repertoire for our first concert. I know the choir will absolutely love it. The pieces will transport them to places in their soul they cannot reach on their own. They know it, too. That’s why they’re there. That’s why they come out every week to sing in choir. They miss it after a summer away and are glad to be back.

We sing through parts of most of the music to give the choir a sense of the beauty in store for them and for the audience. Nods and murmurs of appreciation. They like it. They scoop up the music to go home. They’re ready to dig in.

Another season begins. Here we go! Sing joy!

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In the Steps of the Lion – May 31, 2014

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

When I went to South Sudan in January of 2013 with Denise Pelley, Jane Roy, Glen Pearson and the mission team from Wesley-Knox United Church, I had no idea what to expect. My only experience of Africa had been on a television screen or in a magazine, that is, flat.

What I found was a complete surprise. First of all I found a land of vast beauty and wildness. That I expected. What I didn’t expect was the people. The people had a dignity and a warmth that was astonishing.

Life was not easy for them—indeed, I cannot imagine living in such dire need, but they walked with a tall grace and looked at you with an open kindness that, while unsettling at first, made you realize in a clear way that the important things in this world are not found in a store. In that look was no jealousy of our wealth, no reprisal of why us and not them. They didn’t want our pity. They didn’t want us to be sad for them. They are done with that. They just want to move forward, to better their life and the lives of their family. Eventually we came to realize that they were simply thrilled we were there and they were connecting with us in a totally unguarded way that none of us had experienced before. It was unforgettable.

This concert is about honouring these incredible people in this magnificent land. It’s about the strength and joy that’s found in their community. Yes, there are needs, but that’s not all there is. There is hope for a better future and gratitude for the opportunities received through agencies like CASS (Canadian Aid for South Sudan).

Featuring London’s outstanding vocalist Denise Pelley and band, the music for this concert will highlight the unique culture of Africa, while affirming that on this beloved planet, we are all one. Uplifting and vibrant music from the Lion King, gospel, Michael Jackson, the Grammy award-winning Baba Yetu, and much, much more, with multi-media presentation.

Join us for this spectacular evening! Saturday, May 31, at 8:00 pm, at Wesley-Knox United Church, 91 Askin Street, London, Ontario. Tickets are available online,

The Gifts a Concert Brings

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

We have an opportunity to do something very unique and wonderful with our next concert, “In the Steps of the Lion”. Although based in form on our popular “Road To Freedom” concert, the difference between the two is striking. “Road To Freedom” is designed to honour the people who came to live in Canada by way of the Underground Railroad and all who descended from them. By implication, the concert is about the value of freedom worldwide—a very present concern.

“In the Steps of the Lion” is also about honouring. But it’s subject, the people of Africa (the issues are same across the continent), are alive now, vital, struggling, in need, and grateful for every handhold we, who have set the world standard, can give them to help them establish their own life and take their place in the world.

The world needs this concert. I am not being dramatic. It’s one thing to think these thoughts alone by ourselves, or even in small groups of three, ten, or twenty people on a committee, and quite another thing to think and be engaged in this issue as part of hundreds of people experiencing the same messages and emotions at a live concert. There are few of us, I would venture to say, that do not believe what goes around, comes around. That the ripples we initiate by our music, our voices, our faces (remember the mirror neurons at the back of our eyes), and our all-important intention spread far and wide where we cannot see.

What can we do to make the world a better place? —to give back? —to do something concrete and meaningful that will without a doubt make a difference in the world? I suggest that the answer is more than simply give money, although that is hugely important. I suggest that the most important thing we can do as an artistic musical ensemble is to take our passion for singing and put it in the service of the greater good for the benefit of the world, which is what we are embarking on with this concert. We can move the hearts of hundreds of people in ways they’ve never experienced to help people half way around the world who have no other hope. We can sing with vitality and commitment to the dream, and by doing so, make it our dream and their dream.

I visited South Sudan in 2013 as part of a mission team and I know first-hand from being there how much every single goat and chicken means to the people who receive them. It’s not a cute moneymaking ploy. It’s life and death. It’s food or starvation. It’s feeding your children for another day. And that’s just goats and chickens. How much more the bigger things like clean water?

The Jewish people have a wonderful saying that I learned from a rabbi I heard lecture on Judaism,

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

This leads to the crux of why KSS exists. We exist because every concert we do is done to the best of our ability to lead to a transformative experience for the listener (and ourselves along the way). We did that with the Brahms. We did that with “Voices of Light”—just to name two, and not mentioning all the others or our big concerts that we take on the road.

This is not to say that other performance organizations don’t perform beautifully with the best of intentions and love for the music. But our premise is different; our aim is different. I am passionate to share the depth, and the richness, and the transformative potential of every concert we do with our audience. For me, if it doesn’t do that, I would just go back to playing the organ for myself. That’s why I’m in this. That’s why I started a choir (to perform “Missa Gaia”).

That’s also why in KSS we do all types of music—to reach everybody regardless of the musical style they love. We do Beatles, et al, to lead people into a live choral concert experience so they will return and partake of the richness of the rest of what we offer. And we do Beatles to become better singers ourselves, so that when we perform “In the Steps of the Lion” we know how to make an impact. We know how to put it across. We know how to connect in a vital way with the people who came because they want to be moved! After all, what are the alternatives for one’s evening that can offer an impact far beyond ourselves?

“In the Steps of the Lion” can be a light in the darkness for so many people—people like us who want to make a difference in the world and are wondering how to best be effective, and for the millions of people in Africa who look to us to give them the tools and support they need to better their lives and rebuild their country into a place with food and freedom for all.

Together, we can make these things happen.

In the Steps of the Lion: music to celebrate and honour the courage and caring of the people of Africa and South Sudan.
Saturday, May 31, 2014, 8 pm, Wesley-Knox United Church, 91 Askin St, London, Ontario.

Tickets available online at

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20 years in the making.

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Today, I was sent this email message from a KSS bass, new to the choir this season. It’s good to hear how things seem from the choir’s perspective—or maybe we don’t want to know? Anyway, it made me laugh, so I share it with you…


This concert has been 20 years in the making. Did anyone envision this program during some of those rehearsals during that first year?

Both works are recognized within choral circles as challenging and not for the musically faint of heart. Compliments from the players from Orchestra London are not given out easily! We are in the “A” league of ensembles.

What makes KSS unique is the next concert. With equal technical finesse, we will take our LIVE audience down a different musical road with an entirely different style. Rare is the choir anywhere that can sing this with the KSS flair.

From the ranks, an apology is in order for all the unspoken rehearsal utterances and e-mail note comments – things like “If she goes over this ONE more time!!” or “we weren’t THAT far out of tune!!” or “where in the @#$&% are we supposed to get that pitch from?” & “how are we supposed to count when the time signature and the @#$&% tempo keeps changing every bar!?!”

In strange way and a first for me as a singer, am looking forward to late Saturday afternoon, after a long nap, to listening to the recordings one final time (a suggestion from Paul Grambo to get my head in the right space), then to the church for warm ups and all those vocal exercises that back in January made no sense.

Kudos are earned for all your work, patience and shear determination over the last few weeks.

Now at that bar I have to remember to…

Dave Burnett

What a beautiful voice!

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Soprano Virginia HatfieldWhat a beautiful voice! Soprano Virginia Hatfield was stunning last night at dress rehearsal for our April 6 concert, “Pathways to Paradise”. I’d heard her last about three years ago and she is even more gorgeous than I remembered! Professional in every way. Perfectly prepared and wonderful to work with. I’m so glad she is our soloist for our big celebration concert with orchestra of the exquisite Duruflé Requiem and the sparkling Poulenc Gloria.

Can’t wait ’til Saturday!


Desert Island Dream Come True

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013


Pathways to Paradise posterOne of my desert island pieces is the Duruflé Requiem, written in 1947. I have loved it since I first heard it back in my undergrad music history course. I remember it to this day, I walked out of the music listening lab (turntables back then) stunned. I was in another world floating down the hall of the music building. I was raised Lutheran and I remember thinking that this work made me wish I were Catholic so I could fully sink into the text of a Requiem mass.

Well, today I can. Still not Catholic, I now have the mental breadth to hear the words in metaphor for life here on earth and they pack a wallop. While listening to it in the Nairobi airport this past January on my way home from Southern Sudan, I remember a particularly emotional reaction to the middle of the fourth movement, the Sanctus. “Hosanna in excelsis”, mean “Deliver!, Save me! (request for God’s deliverance) in the highest”. The tremendous climax that Duruflé wrote for these words gripped my heart as I remembered the people of war-torn Southern Sudan and what they had been through and what they are continuing to suffer in some regions. This text is current; it is powerful today in a deeply human way that transcends denominations and religions.

Musically, Duruflé was influenced by the French Impressionists of his day, Debussy and, especially Ravel. And yet, he used as his main musical inspiration the ancient Gregorian chant, often in it’s entirely, for the Requiem mass. His musical language still resonates with us today while throwing us back across the centuries with the chant, gathering up eons of human experience. Unbelievably beautiful.

Pairing that with Poulenc’s sparkling Gloria—one of the sacred masterworks of the 20th century (1960)—is amazing. This work, too, I fell in love with back in undergrad. Very much not in the expected “sacred” mold, this work states that all of human existence is a holy thing. French cathedral solemnity contrasted sharply with Parisian street flair. Poulenc is unabashed and simply out there. Very funny and very sensual at the same time. He said himself, like Maurice Chevalier! These two works heighten each other wonderfully.

Preparing for this concert has been a true labour of love. Challenging on many levels, for every minute of work put into it, it pays back triple. It The depth of richness one uncovers is endless. The choir has risen to every expressive demand of the music and I have had to grapple with conducting dozens of tempo changes and easily a hundred meter changes, which are at the heart of each work’s rhythmic sinuousness and vigor. We are all better musicians for it.

A watershed concert, to be sure, in the middle of our 20th anniversary season. It doesn’t get better than this. Do come hear it!

Pathways to Paradise – 8 pm, Sat. April 6, 2013 (click to purchase tickets)


The Peacekeepers: Canadian contributions to world peace November 17, 2012

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

This is the music that will be performed this Saturday, November 17, at the first concert of our 20th anniversary season. Interwoven with the music be stories and quotes narrated by Ted Barris, Canadian journalist, author and Canadian war historian.

I am very proud of this concert. It will be moving and uplifting.

Soldier’s Cry

Roland Majeau, arr Trent Worthington

Edmonton singer-songwriter Roland Majeau is a talented and passionate Canadian artist who is writing and recording real music for real people. Often likened to James Taylor, Roland’s unique blend of country, folk and pop is a style of music that tells a story.

This poignant song was arranged by Roland’s friend and fellow musician, Trent Worthington.


In Remembrance
Eleanor Daley
Toronto composer, Eleanor Daley, is world renowned for her exquisite setting of this moving poem by Mary E. Frye, which is from her Requiem. It speaks of the eternity of the soul.



In Remembrance
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


Abide With Me
Henry Francis Lyte, arr Greg Jasperse
This popular hymn was said to be a favourite of King George V and Mahatma Gandhi.

The hymn is sung at the annual ANZAC Day services in Australia and New Zealand, and in Remembrance Day services in Canada and Great Britain. This stunning arrangement is by Greg Jasperse, a composer and arranger currently living in Chicago. Blessed with an incredible gift of arrangement and harmony, he has composed for and conducted Vocal Jazz Choirs across North America and Europe.


The Nathaniel Dett Chorale of Toronto:


Dirge for Two Veterans (Dona Nobis Pacem: IV)
poem by Walt Whitman, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams

This intensely moving piece was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the most influential British musicians of the twentieth century. He was a composer, arranger, editor, collector of folk tunes, and conductor. His outlook was human and social. An important experience in VW’s life was his time in the British Army in WW I. He volunteered for service at age 42, and served as an ambulance driver and as an artillery officer. The impact of the war on his imagination was deep and lasting. His cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem, (Give Us Peace) was written in 1936. VW meant it clearly as a warning against war.


Performed by the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Robert Shaw


Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Pete Seeger, arr Mark Sirett
Singer-songwriter and American activist, Pete Seeger, has long been at the forefront of Civil Rights and the peace and anti-war movements, as well as the fight for a clean environment. After reading Soviet author Mikhail Sholokhov’s epic novel about the Cossacks pre-World War I, And Quiet Flows the Don. Seeger wrote this song in 1955, adapting it from a Cossack folk song mentioned in the novel. Arranger Dr. Mark Sirett is an award-winning composer living in Kingston, Ontario, whose works are frequently performed by Canada’s leading ensembles.



He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
Bob Russell & Bobby Scott, arr John Coates, Jr.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, one of the most defining and enduring tunes of the 1960s was by The Hollies and became one of their biggest hits. The origin of the title of the song is often associated with Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. In 1941, Father Flanagan came across a drawing of a young boy carrying his brother with the caption reading “He ain’t heavy Mister – he’s m’ brother!” It is sung here to emphasize the need to help each other if we are to heal the divisions that lead to conflict.


A men’s chorus singing this:


Dona Nobis Pacem (Mass in B Minor, final movement)
J.S. Bach
The Mass in B minor is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of all time and is frequently performed. The work was Bach’s last major composition. As the final movement of such a monumental work, the prayer, Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace), is the culmination of the entire mass that precedes it. As the first piece of our second half, it heralds the desire for peace in all its forms, going beyond the absence of war. It states our intention and serves as a starting point to explore what might be the work for peace here on this earth.


Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw


Al Shlosha D’Varim
Text from the Pirkei Avot (1:18) Allan Naplan
The Pirkei Avot is an important compilation of the ethical and moral teachings of the Rabbis from around 220 CE. The piece is, appropriately, a partner song of two interweaving melodies.

Melody 1:  Al shlosha d’varim haolam kayam,
The world’s sustained by three things, by truth and justice and by peace.

Melody 2:  Al haemet v’al hadin v’al hashalom, hashalom.
By truth and justice and by the work for peace, the world is sustained for us all.

Treble, Christian Haworth, sings this with us.



Distant Land (A Prayer for Freedom)
John Rutter
Words and music were written by John Rutter in 1990, soon after the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. It was premiered in Carnegie Hall, New York.


Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this


Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword (Dona Nobis Pacem: VI)
Ralph Vaughan Williams
The final section of Dona Nobis Pacem is an affirmation of peace as justice with mercy. Confident and joyful, it then breaks into a blaze of glory. It fades to the soprano soloist’s repeated prayer for peace, ending the work as a benediction.


Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra – Robert Shaw


I Dream a World
André Thomas
American composer and conductor, André Thomas, set this inspiring poem by Langston Hughes, American poet, social activist, and playwright. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. His main concern was the uplift of his people, whose strengths, resiliency, courage, and humor he wanted to record.
We are joined by treble, Christian Haworth.



I Dream A World – Langston Hughes
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!


This Little Light of Mine
Harry Dixon Loes, arr Mark Hayes
“This Little Light of Mine” is a gospel song written by American composer and teacher Harry Dixon Loes in about 1920 and arranged by the talented and popular composer, Mark Hayes.

In closing with this song, we join the millions around the world who are working for peace in ways big and small by letting our light shine. By letting our light shine in the ways of peace, we remember those who have gone before, and honour their gifts of sacrifice and love.




Ted Barris, narrator
Christian Haworth, treble
Ron Fox, piano, organ

Trumpet – Shawn Spicer
Timpani – Greg Mainprize
Percussion – Greg Mainprize

Gifts of Festival 500

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

The experience at Festival 500 in July was priceless. The choir worked so hard to take their music to the next level for our three concert performances there and they did it. They’d never sung better. All aspects of our performances were complimented on enthusiastically all week. What a thrill it was to be in that warm, embracing atmosphere on an international stage and know we measure up. How good is that? The best! Now we know our musical skill and artistry are effective across the board. Why is that so great? Because we can use them with greater confidence to tell the stories that make our world a better place. It strengthens the power of our intention. It frees the imagination!