Daniel Taylor is a countertenor with a unique voice, arguably Canada’s finest, with more than 100 recordings on Sony, DG Archiv, Decca, Harmonia Mundi, BIS, Analekta, Teldec, Erato and Universal.
Taylor has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Glyndebourne, Rome Opera, San Francisco Opera, Welsh National Opera, Montreal Opera, Canadian Opera, at the Edinburgh Festival and at the Royal Albert Hall/BBC Proms. He recently took a role in the world premiere of the Robert Lepage staging of Ades’ The Tempest. He works with the Tonhalle Zurich, Toronto, Gothenburg, Rotterdam, St. Louis and Cleveland Orchestras. In recital, he has sung at the Wigmore Hall, in Beijing, Barcelona and across North America. Taylor sang on Parliament Hill for Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister of Canada.
Founder and artistic director of Theatre of Early Music (TEM), Taylor was recently appointed head of Historical Performance at the Faculty of Music in Toronto. Taylor’s responsibilities include directing the Schola Cantorum Choir and Orchestra at the University of Toronto as well as coaching students in the Opera Department and maintaining a voice studio. Taylor is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa, Artist in Residence at the Opéra de Montréal and Artistic Director of the Quebec International Festival of Sacred Music.
On the occasion of this week’s concerts in Toronto, Ottawa & Montreal with TEM and Schola Cantorum, I ask Taylor 10 questions: five about him and five about his work with Schola Cantorum.
1) Which of your parents do you resemble (what’s your nationality / ethnic background)?
My Father is Canadian from Northern Ontario and my Mother is German…
2) what is the BEST thing / worst thing about launching a new ensemble such as Schola Cantorum?
The Schola Cantorum aims to present brilliant early choral and instrumental repertoire from across the centuries to a new audience. Our interpretations strive to recreate the original performances of musical works – interpretations led by the energy and insights of the gifted students themselves – in the belief that historical ideals and knowledge of the old world are essential for creating music anew.
The time is right for the early music to be introduced to the students at the University of Toronto. Our Faculty features well-known artists such as David Fallis, Ivars Taurins, John Abberger as well as Tafelmusik’s Director Jeanne Lamon and our guest artists Soprano Nancy Argenta and Dame Emma Kirkby.
3) who do you listen to or watch?
There are a number of early music groups that offer us the finest detail and inspiration: Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort, Harry Christophers and the Sixteen and, of course, John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir. I have worked with these individuals for years and I always turn to them for advice and guidance.
Harry Christophers and the Sixteen…
If I were allowed to go off on a tangent [why not?], I would mention world musicians such as the late Lhasa de Sela, Amina Alaoui and…Kanye…
4) what ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
Aside from rapping, I hope to become a better teacher and conductor. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with my colleagues and the students at the University of Toronto – I am learning much from them every day.
5) When you’re just relaxing (and not working) what is your favourite thing to do?
I spend a lot of time with friends, with family, outside hiking in the mountains or by the water.
Five more concerning Schola Cantorum
1)How does your role directing the University of Toronto’s new early music vocal ensemble Schola Cantorum challenge you?
Directing the Schola is challenging in the sense that we need to find a fresh and relevant way to bring this music to our audience.
Universities by their nature can be slow moving in their development, however the Opera and Voice Performance programs under Sandra Horst, Lorna MacDonald and Darryl Edwards in particular offer excellent opportunities with a rich variety of courses.
2) What do you love about Schola Cantorum, teaching, & your programme for the upcoming season?
Once the students arrive in Trinity Chapel, we feel our spirits lift.
The Handel Coronation Anthems are a remarkable selection of beautiful anthems while our Buxtehude, Bach and early German Baroque program brings us closer to the sacred. The Schola course, however, also offers students a chance to participate in weekly solo and duo masterclasses.
3) Do you have a favourite composition in the upcoming season of concerts?
It is difficult not to immediately be drawn to the glory of Zadok the Priest. I think the surprise this Season to some may be the eloquence of Buxtehude’s writing.
4) How do you relate to Schola Cantorum as a modern man?
My work – our work – is motivated by a desire to communicate both text and music to their audience. We explore the depth and substance of the early choral and instrumental literature, and we share their passion and ideas. The key aspect is revelation: just as in modern-day we have restored the frescoes of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, so does the TEM hope to reveal the original beauty of ancient works.
5) Is there anyone out there who you particularly admire, and who has influenced you?
My solo work has been influenced by countertenors Michael Chance, James Bowman and Robin Blaze.
My work as a conductor has been helped by Julian Wachner, Iwan Edwards, Ivars Taurins, Paul McCreesh, John Eliot Gardiner and Harry Christophers.
For information on the mini-tour of TEM and Schola Cantorum led by Daniel Taylor, click here.