Melos Past –
Founded in 1984 by Music Director David Cameron as an ensemble of sixteen singers, Melos expanded in 2000 to become The Melos Choral Ensemble, a mixed-voice community choir of about 30 members. The Choir and any associated instruments have been administered by the Kingston Melos Society, a non-profit organization with registered charitable status. Membership in the choir is established on an annual basis, over late spring and summer, by audition. Membership in the period instrumental ensemble is accomplished by invitation and/or audition.
Melos Choir turned its focus to period performance of music from the Baroque and Classical eras in 2009, when Dr. Cameron raised funds towards the purchase of Baroque bows for a small orchestra to accompany the choir. Since then Melos has become a magnet in Eastern Ontario for players and singers with expertise and interest in early music. Holly Gwynne-Timothy took over the direction of Melos in December, 2013. She has a wealth of experience singing and conducting music of the 12th-18th centuries and has steered Melos’ musical focus back in time to include Medieval and Renaissance music in addition to the Baroque.
In the past, Melos’s repertoire ranged over the choral music of six centuries, renaissance to 21st century. Performances have included music sung a cappella, and music accompanied by piano, organ and various instrumental ensembles. In its early years Melos combined with the Choir of Chalmers Church to perform a major choral work with guest soloists and orchestra for the annual Good Friday concert at Chalmers, a tradition now over a century old. The roster of featured compositions has included Bach’s B Minor Mass and the Requiems of Mozart, Brahms and Fauré; both Bach Passions; new works by Graham George, Clifford Crawley, David Cameron himself, and other Canadian composers. For many years, Melos regularly revisited Handel’s Messiah in the December holiday season, and it has also presented more unusual Christmas repertoire by composers such as Lully and Charpentier. Under the auspices of Music West, Melos presented staged productions of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
The Melos choir, soloists and instrumental ensembles now perform music of the 12th -18th centuries, at times drawing on oral or chant traditions that well precede the 12th century and exploring the stylistic exchange between western and eastern cultures that characterized early European music. With our varied combinations of singers and replica instruments we explore sacred chant, polyphony and courtly music of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. We also expand forces to include our symphonic players on Baroque bowed strings and period winds, portraying the height of 17th and 18th century music with full choral works and chamber orchestra. Our players of earlier instruments use gut-stringed medieval vielles, rebec, Renaissance viols, recorders, crumhorns, shawms, gemshorn and racket, as well as early harp and innovative percussion.
Our Baroque programs include violins, viola, cello, harpsichord, organ, recorders, Baroque oboe and Baroque flute at 415 pitch standard. The instrumentalists join the Melos singers in thematic programs, yielding unexpected insights into Europe’s musical past. Since 2015 we have been exploring the influence of middle eastern/ north African musics on western European early music. We have folded in the Arabic lute- the old – and skin drums -dumbek and darabukka – to convey these influences.
Melos incorporates many periods and styles of early music into its programs, showcasing the talents of Melos’s local instrumentalists who have special training in playing their replica instruments. We invite period performance specialists to give workshops to our singers and players most every season. We also offer opportunities to the wider community of music students and performers in Kingston and surrounding area, to audit or participate in these workshops, reaching out to early music specialists and students in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and the United States.
Holly uses her expertise in period vocal performance and functional vocal training to develop the demanding agility and expressive subtlety of early vocal music, and to refine their grasp of period interpretation. As such she invites a wide range of voices in the choir, from the elder to less trained voices, and can call on the most skilled members regularly in small ensembles and solos. Most every concert includes instrumental works, works sung by full choir as well as works sung by small vocal ensembles and soloists, both a cappella and with instrumental accompaniment. In developing a strong solo core ensemble within the choir, and in sponsoring workshops by specialists for our singers, instrumentalists and for interested musicians in the community, Melos attracts and provides a training ground for young soloists and professionals who seek experience in early music.