In case you’re still trying to decide whether or not to come, here are some bios of the performers whose talents you will enjoy immensely if you do. In addition to the amateur – but hardly amateurish – Woodbine Heights Singers & Players, here’s a sample:
Ali Berkok is a Toronto-based pianist and composer known for his versatility and drive. Born in Norwich, England, Ali Berkok’s early piano lessons revealed a talent for music that eventually led him to complete a Bachelor of Music degree from Queen’s University. Relocating from Kingston to Toronto in 1999, Ali continued to play professionally and collaborate with groups such as the Toronto Jazz Orchestra and Mike Anklewicz’s Klezfactor.
In 2005 Berkok laid the compositional foundation of Arkana, a five-piece jazz outfit whose albums (Hyprovisation 2007, Kaleidoscope 2009) received critical praise. Ali was also a key member of Mike Smith’s Muskox, a banjo-prog band which released several critically-acclaimed albums and were dubbed “best jazz band” of 2008 by NOW Toronto.
Ali’s current projects include Aurochs, an improvised piano/bass/drum trio, and Battleship Potemkin, a 12 piece re-imagined chamber score for Eisenstein’s iconic propaganda film. Potemkin was recently premiered to two nights of packed houses.
Other important collaborations include Caitlin Smith’s Tiny Alligator Large Band and The Earthtones. In addition to these, Ali has performed as a sideman with Kurt Elling, Jane Bunnett, Alex Dean, David Buchbinder, Shannon Butcher, Don Palmer, Nick Fraser and Andrew Downing. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Toronto under the instruction of David Braid. Ali’s other instructors past and present include Dave Barton, Greg Runions, Don Thompson, Dave Restivo, Mark Eisenman, Andrew Markow, Andrew Downing and Nick Fraser.
Anika started improvising at the piano at 2 years of age. She began in a group keyboard program called Music for Young Children at the age of 3. For 5 years, she performed in many recitals and master-classes through that program. At 8 years of age, she began private piano lessons in classical piano with Andrea Botticelli at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She received bronze standing with a mark of 84% in the Royal Conservatory School Festival (2009) in the Grade 5 class.
At 10 years of age, Anika switched from classical to jazz piano, studying with professional jazz pianist Carissa Neufeld. She performed for jazz pianist & Juno Award winner David Braid in the ORMTA Jazz master-class November 2011. She was a keyboardist in the junior jazz band at the National Music camp this past summer. Anika placed first in the Level 5 Pop piano category at the Toronto Davenport Festival (April 2012) and received an ORMTA Scholarship in the Intermediate Jazz Piano category in May 2012.
In addition to music studies, Anika loves dance and currently studies ballet, Modern, hip-hop, Caribbean and West African dance. She is currently a member of the youth CORE company at the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre and it is her goal to work her way up to the main company by the time she starts high school.
Brian McIntosh was ordained as a United Church minister in 1988, and currently serves Bloordale United Church in Etobicoke. His greatest joy is being a parent to two young women, Lydia and Sarah. He is active in various social justice pursuits at the local, regional and national levels, and is an avid supporter of the Mission & Service Fund.
Brian is also a virtuous vocalist; he has been a chorister and soloist, in live performances, on tours and for various recordings, from 1983 to the present. He has sung with numerous choirs, large and small, and is proud to have worked alongside Maestro Mervin to create The Four Men.
Colin is a painter, a musician – both vocalist and multi-instrumentalist – and a magician with a long and rich history in theatre.
George Kopulos graduated in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto. He spent 15 years making paint and then, for 18 years, switched to a ‘green’ industry – waste management/solvent recycling.
It would appear that solvents were in his blood. One MBA later, George, now ‘retired’, has more time to spend with his wife Susan and in various volunteer and musical activities. He acts as a conversation facilitator with the Aphasia Institute.
George and Susan have spent many enjoyable years singing with church choirs and other groups, and in community musical theatre. Replacing solvents with songs: a ‘green’ solution for our times.
John was born into a musical family in the Eastern Townships of Québec. He scored and arranged choral pieces for a youth choir of 45 at the age of eleven. John formed his first dance band orchestra in Grade Seven and sang in many folk groups.
He plays and performs stand-up bass, piano, accordion, guitar, trombone, trumpet. A social justice activist, John wrote, arranged, conducted, recorded, staged original music for five musical comedies, on contemporary issues.
John sang in the Montreal Bach Choir, the 400-voice McGill Choral Society (as well as the Martletts, a 16-member group), the Deep Purples at Bishop’s University, France’s l’Ensemble vocale Phillippe Caillard in Paris, and toured Europe with the Caillard Ensemble. Accordianist for many groups, especially les Ballets Arméniens SOSSI playing throughout France, at the Opéra in Leningrad, Moscow and Yerevan, Armenia, and in Paris with Charles Aznavour.
Mervin Fick has been transforming choirs, inspiring individuals, and raising the performance levels of community, church and professional choirs for over 30 years. He finds it a refreshing challenge to return to doing the singing as opposed to talking about it…to the five choirs he conducts and the many students he teaches each week!
Mervin is the Artistic Director of the Mississauga Choral Society, the conductor of the PCS Singers of Brampton, Toronto Beach Chorale, and the National Award-winning Esprit Chamber Choir, as well as Minister of Music at Bloordale United Church. He also maintains a busy vocal studio.
A graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music (MUS BAC), he has diplomas in vocal performance and vocal pedagogy from the Royal Conservatory of Music, as well as a Colleague Diploma and a Certificate in Service Playing from the Royal Canadian College of Organists.
RUDY di PAOLI
After enjoying 5 years in Civil Engineering Rudy De Paoli switched tracks and spent 18 years in the Office Products Industry in Product Marketing, Sales Management, and finally as Canadian President of a $120 million dollar company only to switch tracks again to spend the last 8 years heading up Canadian operations of the largest Water Features company in North America.
Finding that all executive powers are for naught in the realm of music, Rudy is delighted to explore the lessons of teamwork in ensemble singing. From engineering, to selling binders, to building ponds … how much lower can he go…as Bass vocalist for The Four Men?!!
WOODBINE HEIGHTS SINGERS & PLAYERS, in alphabetical order
Daniel Pinsent is a high school English teacher who has always had music in his life and who is sometimes (he thinks) a little rusty when it comes to the instruments he uses to make that music.
Daphne Hunt, alto, is a graphic designer and cat sitter; she volunteers with WH’s community ministries.
David Allen‘s day job is carpet-cleaning; he moonlights as a stand-up comic, tenor, guitar and banjo artist.
Elizabeth MacLeod, soprano, is a renowned author of children’s books and Woodbine Heights’ baker extraordinaire.
Graham Carter is retired from the City of Toronto, a former merchant marine and our talent at the drums.
Lee McKenna is principal of Partera International, producer, choreographer and soprano for the Cabaret.
Lynn Carter directs the Sports Medicine programme at Women’s College Hospital; she is an alto and pianist and the music director at Woodbine Heights.
Marlene Ronson During 45 years as a nurse, Marlene laboured in L&D (labour & delivery) and emerg. At WH, she keeps us tuned up as our parish nurse and an alto.
Murray Stainton, in his non-musical life, is a professor of Psychology. He lives in the little town of Sharon with his three dogs and one cat. Over the years he has been in several choirs, quartets, bands and musical theatre groups.
Natalie Wall Pinsent is ‘on a mission’ to change the world and is also a creative musician.
Paul Wilson works in the IT world in the daytime, with a focus on Security. At night and on weekends he likes to sing with others at Woodbine Heights, bake bread, cook, and tinker with things that need fixing. Elizabeth MacLeod reads him bedtime stories.
Sherri Richardson-Smyth works in the non-musical world of business and banking – where from time to time she has been known to hum or sing a tune while at her computer.
Tim Smyth is a “singing” Chef by day – known more for his cooking than his singing.