We love to sing! We believe in the transformational and healing power of Music. Our services include a variety of exciting and moving music.
Our services also include congregational singing, with songs and hymns from our Unitarian hymnals, Singing the Living Tradition and Singing the Journey, which feature a wide range of music covering the sources and principles of our tradition.
We welcome guest musicians both from within and outside our congregation who perform in different styles and forms. In recent years we have featured the Windermere String Quartet, Passport Duo (cello/piano), a traditional Chinese Erhu player, a Middle-Eastern oud and ney player, our resident rock band consisting of members of our congregation, a Balkan choir, and a wide range of instrumental and vocal soloists.
For more info or to participate in our ever-evolving music program, please contact Dallas Bergen, our Director of Congregational Music by email.
Our Director of Congregational Music – Dallas Bergen
Dallas is an active singer, choral conductor and clinician. Prior to settling in Toronto, Dallas received his Bachelor of Music in Secondary Education from the University of Victoria, and later moved to New York where he conducted the New York Consort, and was a vocalist with the chamber choirs Canticum Novum, Cerddorion and Manhattan Concert Productions. He is a past member of the Canadian Chamber Choir and sang with the Elora Festival Singers for the 2008 Elora Festival where he also participated in the Festival Conductor’s Workshop with renowned conductors Stephen Layton and Noel Edison. Dallas was one of nine conductors selected to work with Dr. Stephen Alltop at the 2010 Unitarian-Universalist Musicians’ Network conference in Madison, Wisconsin.
Dallas is currently a member of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, conducts the Harbourfront Chorus, and is the founding Artistic Director of Univox, a Toronto community choir for young adults. Dallas’s service to the choral arts extends to his work with Regent Park School of Music as the conductor of their Parkdale Children’s choir and with the Toronto Arts Council where he is acting co-chair of the Music Committee.
Music for Children and Youth
Our children and youth sing at a number of services during the year, under the direction of our Director of Congregational Music or our Resident Musicians. With the continued growth of our music program and congregation, we hope to offer full-time choirs for children and youth in the near future.
Our Adult Choir
Our Adult Choir is a mixed-voice choir made up of non-auditioned singers. Choir members have a wide range of choral and singing experience, from those who have never sung in a choir to professional caliber singers, including our Resident Musicians who lead the choir sections.
The choir sings at about three Sunday services per month between September and June. We rehearse on Thursday evenings, 7-9 pm.
Much like the sources of our faith, we draw on music spanning five-hundred years, from the Renaissance to the present day; a cappella and accompanied, sacred (from many faith backgrounds) and secular, traditional and contemporary. Here is a sample of the repertoire performed by our Adult choir:
- Avinu Malkeinu – Srul Irving Glick, Jewish traditional
- Down to the River to Pray – Appalachian hymn
- Earth Song – Contemporary spiritual/environmental
- Esto Les Digo – Kinley Lange, Latin American, text: New Testament
- The Fire of Commitment – Contemporary Unitarian Universalist
- Freedom is Coming – South African Freedom Song
- That Lonesome Road – James Taylor, American folk-rock
- Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson (Pop), arranged by our resident musician, Lucas Marchand
- Requiem – Gabriel Fauré, choral setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead
Links to online recordings of songs in our repertoire, performed by us and others.
Information about joining the choir.
Our Resident Musicians
Resident Musician – Danny Fong
Danny Fong likes a cappella music more than you and all of your friends combined! In addition to his work with First, he sings Tenor 3 with the internationally-based, digitally-connected 6-member vocal group Accent, which debuted in Sweden in 2014 as “The vocal group that had never met in person before.” Danny has headlined festivals, judged competitions and lead coaching sessions and workshops across North America, Europe and Asia. His individual YouTube channel has garnered more than 6 million views and 20,000 subscribers. As a frequent content creator, he arranges, records and produces original a cappella arrangements twice a month. They are performed by choirs around the world and sometimes by resident musicians at First! He is funded graciously by patrons who pledge money to each of his releases on Patreon.com. Danny is also an in-demand vocal teacher with a strong focus on technique and artist development (some of his students are members of this congregation). You can listen to some of Danny’s music or become a patron of his creations.
Resident Musician – Tom Lillington
Tom Lillington, a professional vocalist and pianist, keeps busy with a wide range of activities in the Toronto area. As well as maintaining a full schedule as a Certified Piano Technician, Tom is also an accomplished composer (BFA, York University 1994), accompanist, arranger, director and vocalist performing widely throughout Canada.A founding member of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and sub with the Elora Festival Singers, he is also an original member of The Canadian Chamber Choir, a professional ensemble comprised of singers from across the country, mandated to promote Canadian composers and conductors while bringing top-level choral music to smaller Canadian communities. He sang with 80’s band Retrocity as well as Hampton Avenue, an award-winning acappella group (1999’s Jazz Vocal Group of the Year, Jazz Report Magazine) which performed on CBC’s The Vinyl Café and has three popular albums to its credit. Tom’s bass voice can be heard singing in many jingles, soundtracks and recordings, and as a writer he is entering his 10h season as composer and music director of the Driftwood Theatre Company, a touring outdoor Shakespeare company dedicated to reaching out to audiences in urban and rural communities across Ontario.
Congregational Pianist – Adam Sakiyama
Adam brings a wealth of experience, with an extensive background in classical piano and accompaniment, as well as in musical theatre, as a music director, coach, and composer.
Resident Musician – Tahirih Vejdani
Tahirih Vejdani has been known to grace the stage and screen as a singer, actor and dancer. Most recently she appeared in the contemporary opera Paradises Lost at the 2013 SummerWorks Festival and in 2012 performed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the productions of Elektra and The Pirates of Penzance. She has performed with the Regina Globe Theatre, Regina Symphony Orchestra, Regina Philharmonic Chorus, Regina Lyric Musical Theatre, Regina Summer Stage, Regina Male Voice Choir, Halcyon Chamber Choir, Do It With Class Young Peoples Theatre, The Expressions and has appeared on APTN’s renegadepress.com and CBC’s InSecurity. As a chorister, she has sung with The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Elmer Iseler Singers, BlackCreek Festival Chorus, Univox Choir, Toronto Choral Artists, Cantabile Chamber Choir and Toronto World Unity Choir.
Tahirih works as a private voice teacher and teaches for the Regent Park School of Music as an assistant choral director and piano instructor. She is also the new director of the Toronto World Unity Choir. Tahirih graduated with great distinction from the University of Regina with a double major in Vocal Performance and Music History and in 2009 received the Luther Medal of Distinction Award.
On Friday, May 27, 2018 we presented a moving concert, Let Love Be Heard: Musical responses to events of the 20th Century, featuring our Adult Choir and Resident Musicians, led and organized by our Director of Music Dallas Bergen.
On Friday, May 27, 2016 we presented our 3rd annual commemorative fundraising concert Celebrate with Song, again featuring our Adult Choir and Resident Musicians.
On Sunday, March 9, 2014 our Resident Musicians and Choir Director, in the septet Seventh, performed a fundraising concert featuring popular pieces from services as well as selections from each musician’s unique repertoire, spanning jazz, classical, opera, musical theatre and much more.
On Saturday, March 31, 2012 we hosted our 4th annual Benefit Concert to support the programs of the Regent Park School of Music. This concert included performances by the Regent Park choir, the First Unitarian choir, accomplished musicians from the Regent Park School of Music, and Resident Musicians of First Toronto.
On Saturday, May 7, 2011 we presented our third annual Choral Extravaganza of area UU choirs in concert, this year featuring more than 100 choristers from the following southern Ontario Unitarian-Universalist choirs:
- First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto
- The Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough
- The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton
- Don Heights Unitarian Congregation
- Neighbourhood Unitarian-Universalist Congregation
This concert was a fundraiser for the Regent Park School of Music, and we were joined by Richard Marsella, the RPSM’s Director. Our concerts in each each of 2009 and 2010 raised roughly $2400 to help support the RPSM. Toronto First has adopted the RPSM as a social responsibility project, and has a team of volunteers working with them on a regular basis.