Concert Programme

Welcome Note

“I have come to you tonite because no people
have been asked to be modern day people
with the history of slavery, and still
we walk, and still we talk, and
still we plan, and still we hope,
and still we sing;

~Sonia Sanchez, from ‘Reflections After the June 12th March for Disarmament’

Greetings Friends,

We extend a warm welcome to our Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community members and are again grateful to the ASL artists and interpreters of Phoenix the Fire for working with us to amplify tonight’s performance.

The excerpt by the celebrated poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, referenced above, gave birth to the title ‘And Still We Sing’ that has been the impetus for the Spring concert series of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale since its inception. To this overarching theme we have always chosen a subtitle to further expand the general idea. ‘Lift Every Voice’ brings our 24th Season to a close with a program that takes us on a profound journey from fear to optimism, from despair to hope, from grief to jubilation. It is an invitation to let our voices be heard – in lamentation, against injustice, and in celebration of the good.

We are particularly delighted to present the Canadian premiere of ‘Cantata For A More Hopeful Tomorrow’ by Damien Geter. The work was commissioned by The Washington Chorus in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and other events that heightened awareness of the challenges faced by Black communities; and was recorded virtually and released digitally. In November 2020, the composer stated, “It is a fact that the pandemic has touched the Black community in a much more aggressive manner than other communities. To highlight this atrocity, I chose to pay homage to the ancestors and Black [folx] by incorporating spirituals in this Cantata…2020 has been a tough year: not only because of the pandemic but because of the various other traumas that have been continuously inflicted on the Black community and our world at large… Even though things may seem tough in the present moment, there is a light that shines toward the future.”

Tonight, we invite you to read, listen and reflect on this premiere, and indeed the entirety of the evening’s repertoire, with our theme and title in mind. In the words of featured poets: “Look everywhere: the deepest stars, your innermost, the farthest cry, the closest breath”; “Go back to the parts of you that house ambitions. Where you’ll find your glory, The drive to endure. Learn again to just breathe”; “Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost… To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns, With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.” Welcome to ‘And Still We Sing…Lift Every Voice’.

D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor
Artistic Director

And Still We Sing…Lift Every Voice

Grace Church-on-the-Hill, 300 Lonsdale Road, Toronto
Saturday May 27, 2023, 8:00pm
D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, conductor; Christina Faye, collaborative pianist
Gaitrie Persaud & David Hughes, ASL Interpreters


Welcome & Opening Remarks

Lift Every Voice and Sing | J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954); arr. Roland M. Carter (b. 1942)
Libretto by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938)

The Chariot Jubilee | R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Tyrese Walters, tenor

Cantata For A More Hopeful Tomorrow * | J. S. Bach (1685-1750)/Damien Geter (b. 1980)
Anika Venkatesh, soprano
Samuel Bisson, cello
Chamber Singers:
Anaïs Kelsey-Verdecchia & Ineza Mugisha, sopranos
Sarah Mole, alto
Leon Page & Arieh Max Sacke, tenors
Matheus Coelho & Martin Gomes, basses

1. Fear
2. The Prayer
3. Breathe
4. The Resolve
5. Hope


I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes | Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941)
Arieh Max Sacke, tenor
Kaisha Lee, soprano
Ianjai Mounsey-Ndemo, alto

1. I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes
2. How Long?
3. The Lord Is My Shepherd, Alleluia

Shout For Joy | Adolphus Hailstork



Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

~James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

The Chariot Jubilee

Tenor: Down from the heavens, a golden chariot is swinging …
Comes God’s promise of salvation
Hallelujah, hallelujah!
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home. …

Chorus: God made a covenant, for the glory of His grace,
Thru our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; …
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home. …

Chorus: God made a covenant, for the glory of His grace,
Thru our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ;
His gospel flowing free, like a chariot swung from heaven,
Shall bear the true believer home, safely home.
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Sweet covenant of salvation,
Swing low, O swing low!

Chorus: Salvation, sweet covenant of our Lord,
I shall ride up in the chariot in that morning! (repeat)

Tenor: He who doth on Christ believe (Chorus: Swing low, sweet chariot!)
Tho’ he were dead, yet shall he live. (Sweet chariot, swing low!)
King Jesus triumphed o’er the grave, (Swing low, sweet chariot!)
His grace alone can sinners save! (Sweet chariot, swing low! Hallelujah!)

Chorus: Salvation, sweet covenant of our Lord,
I shall ride up in the chariot in that morning!
Salvation, sweet covenant of our Lord,
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home,
God made a covenant for the glory of his grace …
O hallelujah!
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home,

Tenor: Swing low, sweet chariot, sweet covenant of God’s grace!
Chorus: Coming for to carry me home. O hallelujah! …
~R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), with Biblical text and folklore

Cantata For A More Hopeful Tomorrow

  1. FEAR

Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
J.S. Bach (1685-1750) – BWV 12;
Text by Salomo Franck (1659‑1725) & Megan Levad (b. 1978)

Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,
Weeping, lamentation, worry, despair,
Angst und Not
Fear and need
Sind der Christen Tränenbrot,
Are the Christain’s bread of tears,
Die das Zeichen Jesu tragen.
Who carry the sign of Jesus.

First we sought to tame the fire, the flood,
the mountain and its bear.
We worshipped where we walked,
and praised each day.

We learned: look everywhere
for danger –
poison berry, poison charm;
sudden precipice. The stranger.

For we are born to trouble,
we are built for trouble.
We seek, we seek,
we seek and reach.

All our cares become shadows
on a long day.
All our cares become sorrows
as the sparks fly.

We seek to tame the fire, the flood,
the mountain and its bear,
the poison, the precipice. The stranger.

Look everywhere: the deepest stars,
your innermost,
the farthest cry,
the closest breath.

All our cares become sorrows
as the sparks fly.
All our cares become shadows
on a long day.

For we are born to trouble,
for we are made for trouble –
we are made to seek,
and try, and dream.


I Want Jesus to Walk with Me
Traditional African American Spiritual

I want Jesus to walk with me.
All along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.
In my trials, Lord, please walk with me.
When my heart is almost breaking,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

Text by Aminata Sei (b. 1973)

With effortless, simple repetitions,
No complex expectations shrouded by worry,
No disappointments imagined,
Just breathe.

Then interruptions,
Devastations leaving the world feeling sorry,
Questions, uncertainty emerge,
Now we don’t know how to breathe.

Standing in confidence of our decisions.
Shaken, with little hope to carry,
Movement halted, emotions stirred,
We must continue to breathe.

Go back to the parts of you that house ambitions.
Where you’ll find your glory,
The drive to endure.
Learn again to just breathe.


There’s a Balm in Gilead/By and By
Traditional African American Spirituals

There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead,
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain.
But then the Holy Spirit,
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead,
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged.
Just lean on your friend.
And if you lack for knowledge,
They’ll never refuse to lend.

There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead,
To heal the sin-sick soul.

By and by, when the morning comes.
All of us are here together as one.
And we will tell the story of how we’ve overcome.
And we will understand it better by and by.
There is a balm in Gilead.

  1. HOPE

Text by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
[From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist.]

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.


I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes

  1. I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes

Psalm 121:1-4, 6-7
I will lift up mine eyes to the hills;
From whence cometh my help?
My help surely cometh from the Lord.
Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
He that keepeth thee shall not slumber nor sleep.

The sun will not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
He shall preserve thy soul.

  1. How Long?

Psalm 13:1-2a, 3
How long, O Lord, will Thou forget me?
How long will Thou hide Thy face from me?
How long must I suffer anguish in my soul and grief in my heart?
Look now and answer me O Lord.
Give light to my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.
How long, O Lord? How Long?
I will lift up mine eyes to the hills;
From whence cometh my help?

  1. The Lord Is My Shepherd, Alleluia

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside [the] still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
[He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.]
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
I will lift up mine eyes to the hills;
Lift up mine eyes. Alleluia!

Shout For Joy
(The Bank Street Festival Anthem)
Psalm 33:1-11, 20-22
Shout! Alleluia!
Shout! Shout for joy, all ye righteous.
Give thanks to the Lord.
Rejoice! Hallelujah!
Sing Him psalms, shout in triumph,
Praise the Lord, shout for joy.
Shout! Shout for joy, all ye righteous.
Sing to the Lord a new song.

The word of the Lord holds true,
And all His work endures.
His love, never failing, fills the earth,
The word of the Lord holds true.

The word of the Lord made the sky,
And my Lord made the sea.
He spoke, and the world came to be,
And the Word of the Lord made me.

The Lord is our help and our shield;
We put our trust in Him.
At the sound of His voice our hearts shall rejoice;
The word of the Lord holds true.

Give thanks to the Lord.
Rejoice! Hallelujah!
Sing Him psalms, shout in triumph,
Praise the Lord, shout for joy.
Shout! Shout for joy, all ye righteous.
Sing to the Lord a new song.
Sing Him psalms, shout in triumph,
Praise the Lord. Alleluia! Shout!


Brainerd Blyden-Taylor

Founder and Artistic Director

D. 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, preservation, and performance of Afrocentric choral music of all genres. Mr. Blyden Taylor has worked extensively as an educator at the university, public school and community levels; and was awarded the degree Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from York University, Toronto for his service to education. He is in demand as a guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and lecturer, both nationally and internationally. Mr. Blyden-Taylor is also an active and dedicated church musician.

Christina Faye

Collaborative Pianist

Christina Faye is an accomplished pianist making her home in Toronto. Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Christina truly discovered her love for music at the age of nine when she began playing for a local children’s chorus. In 2007 she earned a Bachelor of Music from Brandon University and graduated from the Eastman School of Music with a Master of Music in 2009. Christina has held collaborative pianist positions at several major summer music programs, including Opera Nuova, the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory in Colorado, Canadian Operatic Arts Academy and the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.

One of Christina’s exciting projects is a collaboration with coloratura soprano, Kyra Millan. Their two-woman opera comedy show ‘Millan & Faye Present: The Opera!’ has been touring across Ontario for the past season with much acclaim. Christina also works with a number of choirs and opera/theatre organisations currently, including the Pax Christie Chorale, Canadian
Children’s Opera Company, Nathaniel Dett Chorale, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s ‘Singsation’ series; and is Organist/Music Facilitator at Donway Covenant United Church. Christina performs frequently with instrumentalists, small ensembles and as a soloist, and she has toured across North America and Great Britain.

Education is also a vital part of Christina’s life, and she maintains a small studio of private students, coaches professional and amateur singers and has adjudicated for ORMTA. For several years, Christina has been on staff for the Canadian Opera Company’s summer youth programming, and for TDSB music events. When not at the piano, Christina is most likely to be found riding her horse, Rain, or experimenting with vegan baking!

Samuel Bisson


Originally from Ottawa, cellist Samuel Bisson is quickly distinguishing himself in Canada as a versatile soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player. Currently based in Toronto, he performs frequently in the GTA and has performed and toured across Canada, the US, Austria and China. Samuel is the cellist for the dynamic Odin Quartet in Toronto. He also currently holds the position of principal cellist with the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra and has appeared as principal and section cellist with numerous orchestras including the Toronto Concert Orchestra, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Brantford Symphony Orchestra and Niagara Symphony Orchestra.

Beyond the boundaries of classical performance, Samuel is an active studio session musician and performer/arranger in a variety of genres. He has worked and collaborated with artists such as Drake, Sarah Brightman, Bryan Adams, David Usher and members of Barenaked Ladies, Platinum Blonde, Crash Test Dummies and Our Lady Peace.
Samuel is also an established musicians contractor in the GTHA. He is the regular contractor for the Brantford Symphony Orchestra, the Ontario Philharmonic, the Toronto Mozart Players and the Urban Orchestra and contracts orchestras for a variety of clients including TAIWANfest, ORGANIX Organ Festival, the City of Toronto, and various film score recording sessions.

As a composer, Samuel is at home with a broad range of musical styles, from concert music to pop songwriting. He is at ease writing for solo instruments, to small chamber ensembles to full orchestral scores. His concert music has been performed by many ensembles throughout Canada. He has arranged orchestral accompaniments for several rock/pop bands and has written music for animated and live action films. He has score music for 6 feature films as well as numerous short films, including the National Film Board supported short film “Nuit Blanche”, which went on to win the grand prize at LG’s Life’s Good FilmFest.

Gaitrie Persaud

ASL Interpreter

Gaitrie Persaud (She/Her) is a Queer Tkaronto-Indo Caribbean raised. Growing up as a Deaf Guyanese/Canadian, Gaitrie always had a passion for music & performance. She believes you don’t have to be hearing to enjoy music – music is already within you, it is the natural rhythm of our being.

Her close-knit family influenced her relationship with music; she & her hard-of-hearing brother would attend family gatherings with traditional music & dance. They would sign the lyrics & move to the bass, feeling it within their bodies.

As an artist, she has worked with multiple hearing performers creating accessible performances, recently alongside Rosina Kazi of LAL, Christopher Corsini of MDL CHLD (live showcases) and collaborating with an Australian Musician to create Accessible Videos. She is gaining popularity and has been recognised as the top emerging Deaf musician in Canada. Creatively translating lyrics into accessible movement, spoke at Montreal’s POP Music Festival alongside panelist/activist Deaf Rapper Matt Maxey of Deafinitely Dope.

Acting is her passion that she lives for. She has been involved with different theatres for almost 4 years. She has been involved in a big play “The Two Natashas: Our life in Guyana” with her co actor Natasha Bacchus.

She is the founder and Artistic Director of Phoenix The Fire which is a theatre community hub for IBPOC Deaf artists.

Arieh Max Sacke


Tenor Arieh Max Sacke is establishing himself as a versatile performer of opera, oratorio, concert, and choral repertoire. Arieh has previously been featured with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale as title role in The Ordering of Moses and as tenor soloist in Amina Claudine Myers’s Improvisational Suite. Upcoming and recent stage credits include Ferrando in Così fan tutte (Opera by Request); the Narrator in a co-produced performance of Bach’s Coffee Cantata, delivered in a newly co-authored translation; and Alexis in The Sorcerer (MADS).

Arieh looks forward to joining the chorus of Cincinnati Opera this summer for their production of Il barbiere di Siviglia. He was previously a Festival Artist with Opera Saratoga, with whom he portrayed Elder Three in Sky on Swings and covered Pirelli in Sweeney Todd. Arieh’s oratorio and concert performances span Southern Ontario and beyond; this season has notably three Mozart masses in three different cities. Arieh recently attained his Master of Music at the University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music following undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto.

Anika Venkatesh


Anika Venkatesh is a queer South-Asian vocalist, originally hailing from “Vancouver, BC” in Coast Salish territories. They are a genre-defying musician whose multifaceted voice leads them to sing in jazz, pop, and R&B styles alongside their classical music studies. They recently made their opera debut at Opera NUOVA as Drusilla in Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea” this past summer. Anika also performed with Couch Jams, a local Vancouver-based R&B collective founded by good friend Matt Yang, as part of the in-house band and as a featured soloist. They are currently based in Tkarón:to while pursuing their fourth year of a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice Performance at the University of Toronto. Anika believes in making music that crosses boundaries both musically and socially, and they are currently working towards their graduating recital at the University of Toronto under the tutelage of Laura Tucker and alongside collaborative pianist Joel Goodfellow.

Tyrese Walters


Tyrese Walters (he/him) is a graduate of Western University with a Bachelor of Music with Honours in Voice Performance, where he studied Voice with Prof. Torin Chiles and Conducting with Prof. Kathleen Allan and Dr. Mark Ramsay. Tyrese is an experienced choral singer and conductor. He is the Assistant Conductor of the Soprano/Alto Chorus at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. He is also the conductor of the low-voice ensemble, “Rocambolesco,” the associate conductor of the 60-voice youth choir “Frisson” in the MSC Choirs organization, and the Assistant Conductor of “Encore” in the Young Voices Toronto organization. As a singer, Tyrese sings with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Concreamus Chamber Choir, and MacMillan Singers. He is passionate about social justice and exploring new, innovative ways to interact with and perform choral music.


D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, Conductor
Christina Faye, Collaborative Pianist

The multi-faceted vocalists of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale perform all styles and genres of music as appropriate to the traditions of Africa and its Diasporas. The Chorale’s mission is to build bridges of understanding, appreciation, and acceptance between communities of people through the medium of Afrocentric choral music.

Founder D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor named The Nathaniel Dett Chorale after internationally renowned African Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) to draw attention to Dett’s legacy, to the breadth of Afrocentric choral music, and to be a professional choral ensemble where persons of African heritage can be well represented. Currently in its 24th Season, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is also Artist in Residence at The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas at York University.

The Nathaniel Dett Chorale


Anaïs Kelsey-Verdecchia
Kaisha Lee
Ineza Mugisha
Alison Ryan
Jewel Scott
Karen Weigold

Jenna Cowans
Alexandra Garrison
Sarah Mole
Ianjai Mounsey-Ndemo
Anika Venkatesh

Thomas Burton
Nicholas Gough
Leon Page
Arieh Max Sacke
Tyrese Walters

Wade Bray
Matheus Coelho
Martin Gomes
Andrew Gunpath
Aidan Reimer
Dérrell Woods

NDC Patrons



Individuals & Foundations

Beverley Bennett
Donald Clements
Sharon Conway
Sheila Flood
Robert Feldman
Alexandra Garrison
Gen Three Ltd.
Yola Grant
Patricia Harland
Wayne Horchver
Aaron Huntly
Stephen & Cheryl Holmes
Ellen Jaaku
Munjeera Jefford
Angela King
Stefan C. Laciak
Gerry Lavallee
Anne Layton & Jamie Isbister
Diana Massiah
John McCracken
Sarah & Mark Perry
Jane Ricciardelli
Celeste Richards
Jackman Family Foundation
Janet Roscoe
Alison Rose
Rita Sanford
Ruth Schembri
Jennifer Singh
Conrad Thomas
Alex Thomson
William Thomson
Six anonymous donors
One anonymous Foundation

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