VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto is a vibrant, innovative choral organization for children and youth, ages four to young adults.

2016-17 marks VIVA!’s 17th anniversary season as a downtown group of choirs whose mission is to offer youth the opportunity to achieve artistic excellence through innovative education in a singer-centred, inclusive community.

Founded in 2000 by Carol Woodward Ratzlaff in response to widespread cuts to school arts programs, VIVA!’s membership is drawn from the downtown area and across the GTA, with a current membership of more than 130 choristers. All choirs welcome and provide support for youth who have disabilities.

VIVA is comprised of five youth choirs: the Preparatory Chorus (ages 4-6), Junior Choir (ages 6-10), Main Chorus (ages 9-16), SATB Chamber Youth Choir (senior high school students, university age, and young professionals), and ECS, an entry-level training choir.

Unique to Toronto, VIVA!’s programming culminates in the SATB Chamber Choir, and SATB repertoire is an integral part of each VIVA! concert. The Chamber Choir has performed under the direction of Helmuth Rilling; in a joint concert with the Master Chorale at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto; and as guests of the Orpheus Choir under the direction of (VIVA! Artistic Advisory Committee member) Robert Cooper. They perform one work with orchestra annually.

VIVA! has an enduring relationship with the National Ballet of Canada, performing in 25 shows of the Nutcracker each December for the last 17 years. They have also sung with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; onstage at Roy Thomson Hall; and in Carmina Burana with Hart House Chorus, University of Toronto, alongside soloists (VIVA! Artistic Advistory Committee member) Darryl Edwards and Kevin MacMillan. Recognized for diverse programming, VIVA! has collaborated with such artists as Gary Relyea; Monica Whicher; George Sawa and Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble; Shannon Mercer; Giles Tomkins; Kenny Kirkwood, saxophone; dancers from the Native Canadian Centre and the Toronto Consort.

In November 2012, VIVA! and Trinity-St. Paul’s Church jointly staged to great acclaim four performances of Benjamin Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludde. The production included both professional and amateur actors and musicians with more than 150 performers in each show.

Teaching assistants and vocal coaches are drawn from the Chamber Youth Choir to mentor and work with the younger singers. VIVA!’s Mentoring Program forms an integral part of the curriculum, providing young leaders and aspiring educators with vital opportunities to work with children and youth. Each choir boasts a number of Teaching Assistants and vocal coaches who are selected to assist with and instruct various activities with the choirs. The Choral Mentoring Leadership Program has included participants Ayanda Dalamba, Adam Mason, Laura Menard, Sarah Morrision, Maria Riedstra and Louise Simone.

Our choirs have toured to Greece, New York City and Wales, London, and Oxford, England, under the direction of composer Bob Chilcott.

Recordings include last year’s Carols by Candlelight, the 2010 CD The Best Years and, for CanStage in the summer of 2012, a recording of the Shakespeare in the Park commissioned songs by James Rolfe.

Canadian composers whom VIVA! has commissioned / premiered include James Rolfe and Juliet Palmer (Dopey, The Moon, 2010),  Alice Ho (Earth Songs, 2008 and Bridge of One Hair, 2006), Leslie Arden (The Best Years, 2005), Wende Bartley (Once a Shoreline, 2004, with Jumblies Theatre), Andrew Ager (The North Wind, 2002), Norman Gabriel Nurmi (The Night Was Cool, 2001, and Sleep, 2006) and Dean Burry for an opera based on Arthurian legends, entitled “The Sword in the Schoolyard” (2016).

VIVA!’s goal of authentic music-making and community-building through the best possible repertoire is achieved by a team of fine musicians, members of the Mentoring Program, and a dynamic Board of Directors.

VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto is a member of Choirs Ontario.

Website Photography by: Erika Jacobs, Bill Fallis, Ria Tzimas, Kate Fowley