A spirit of unity, rendered in song.
~ The Globe & 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. The 21 classically trained outstanding vocalists of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale have shared the stage with internationally recognized artists such as Juno Award-winning jazz pianist Joe Sealy, singers Molly Johnson and Jackie Richardson, and opera star Kathleen Battle and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The ensemble has performed for such luminaries as opera singer Jessye Norman and Dance Theatre of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell. The Chorale has performed at events honouring world leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, personality Muhammad Ali, and pianist Oscar Peterson and was the only Canadian ensemble invited to perform as part of the celebrations surrounding the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama in January of 2009.
The multi-faceted vocalists of the Chorale, whose talent stretches beyond the traditional expectations of a classical chamber choir, seek to broaden their vision to include all styles and genres of music, from classical to jazz, folk, blues and popular music, as appropriate to the traditions of the African Diaspora.
The Chorale’s vision is to be a premier performer of Afrocentric composers – past, present and future – and to be a touchstone for the education of audiences and communities regarding the full spectrum of Afrocentric choral music.
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale’s mission is to build bridges of understanding, appreciation, and acceptance between communities of people, both Afrocentric and other, through the medium of music. The Chorale seeks to dissolve the barriers of stereotype, to empower humans in general, and those of African descent in particular.
The Chorale adds another dimension to all of its activities by creating a cultural and historical context for its music. All of the Chorale’s concerts and outreach initiatives include an educational element, and our conductor and singers draw audiences together by increasing their knowledge of Afrocentric music and culture, with the aim of fostering pride in those of African heritage, and informed admiration in those of other cultural backgrounds. The Chorale builds vibrant and healthy communities by uniting its audiences in a love of Afrocentric choral music, and by creating a deeply-contextualized understanding of the complex roots of this music.
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.
There was poured into the astonished and delighted ears of the world an indigenous music, sung by its own creators, a music as fresh as the morning, as intimate as the breath and as vital as the heartbeat.
~ R. Nathaniel Dett
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Celebrated composer Nathaniel Dett was born in Drummondville (Niagara Falls), Ontario on October 11, 1882. He died on October 2, 1943 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Dett studied piano as a child and was church organist in Niagara Falls, Ontario from 1898-1903. During this period he composed numerous works, including the well-known The Cake Walk and After the Cake Walk. Among his other works are Listen to the Lambs (1914), an eight-part anthem that was recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Juba Dance (1913), a piano solo that has appeared in the Royal Conservatory of Music syllabus and was a favourite of Dett’s friend, Percy Grainger; and the oratorio The Ordering of Moses (1937).
Dett earned several degrees at prestigious educational institutions, including Oberlin College (Bachelor of Music, 1908; Honourary Doctor of Music, 1926); Howard University (Honourary Doctor of Music, 1924); and the Eastman School of Music (Master of Music, 1932). Dett studied composition in Paris with the internationally renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger, and performed at Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall. Dett also performed for two American presidents, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Dett was also in demand as a teacher, and held positions at Lane College, Jackson Mississippi, 1908-1911; Hampton Institute, Virginia, 1913-1932; Samuel Houston College, Austin, TX, 1935-1937; and Bennett College, Greensboro, NC, 1937-1942. Nathaniel Dett was dedicated to the cause of Black music, winning the Bowdoin and Frances Boott prizes in 1920 from Harvard University for his paper The Emancipation of Negro Music, and for his motet, “Don’t Be Weary, Traveller.”
Dett also explored and promoted Black music by editing collections of spirituals and folk songs, and was President of the National Association of Negro Musicians from 1924 to 1926.
Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?
Joy – featuring Jackie Richardson
Rocking the World
The Chorale at the Obama Inauguration
Nguzo Saba, the higly anticipated third recording from The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is a beautiful blend of classical, gospel and jazz. Joined by guest artists Joe Sealy, Paul Novotny, Joy Brown and Larnell Lewis, the Chorale performs an exquisite collection of repertoire from the African diaspora.
Listen to the Lambs
The debut recording of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale features the some of the most beautiful compositions and and arrangements of spirituals by the choir’s namesake, Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett. From the deeply moving ‘O Holy Lord’, written in honour of soldiers fallen in battle in the First World War, to the poignant ‘Listen to the Lambs,’ to the jaunty ‘Chariot Jubilee’, this disc shows Nathaniel Dett’s unique and distinctive voice, his exceptional range, and his flawless assimilation of a wide variety of musical influences.
Immerse yourself in the musical history of R. Nathaniel Dett, and the foundation of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale.
An Indigo Christmas – Live!
A 15-track CD of live performances featuring The Nathaniel Dett Chorale with guests Jackie Richardson, Joe Sealy, Kwanza, Kenneth & Nation.
The word indigo calls to mind many things: colour, spirituality, mood, reverence, blues, soul, synthesis, unity, invocation, and ritual, to name a few, and we can each add something from our own experience to that list. Designated as one of the seven prismatic or primary colours, indigo has a unique harmonic vibration and energy that seems fitting to surround a concert of Christmas music with a distinct Afrocentric vibe.
Join The Nathaniel Dett Chorale as they tell the age-old story of expectation, hope, redemption and freedom wrapped up in the promise of a newborn child. An Indigo Christmas – Live offers arrangements of carols spirituals and songs, some with an African shout, a Caribbean twist, a Jazz treatment, or a Gospel blast of hope and joy. African percussionists Kwanza, Kenneth and Nation as well as the Joe Sealy Trio and blues diva Jackie Richardson combine their talents to help us create an overarching mood of festivity. I trust that you will enjoy this exciting variety of seasonal music drawn from a cross section of African heritage traditions as you celebrate with us An Indigo Christmas.
An Indigo Christmas LIVE! (DVD) – The Nathaniel Dett Chorale in Concert
Join the renowned Nathaniel Dett Chorale at their Indigo Christmas concert, with special guests award-winning jazz pianist Joe Sealy and the legendary jazz and gospel singer Jackie Richardson. Spend an hour with with this inspiring 20-member choir as they sing a rich blend of music from traditional carols to Nigerian spirituals to jazz.
Photographed on film, bridged by interview and shot on location at the Church of St. George the Martyr in the heart of Toronto, An Indigo Christmas captures the spirit of the season for viewers of all cultural backgrounds.
Carry Me Home – The Story & Music of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale
In Carry Me Home – The Story and Music of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, filmmakers Liam Romalis and Gerald Packer create a Gemini award-winning portrait capturing conductor Brainerd Blyden-Taylor and his extraordinary 21-member Chorale. This acclaimed ensemble brings fire and energy to some of R. Nathaniel Dett’s most inspirational works, along with the music of other famed Afro/American composers.
Through interviews with such luminaries as jazz pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, the late conductor and composer Moses Hogan, Grammy-winning musicologist, Rob Bowman, and Canadian singer Mary Lou Fallis, the film provides insight on Dett’s path-breaking compositions and his influence on black music in North America.