What We’re About

ECHO is a strong, varied and vibrant choir that cultivates the beautiful and powerful sound of adult women’s voices. We take great joy in singing together and in sharing a rich and diverse repertoire with our audiences at our concerts and at grassroots events around the city.

Each of our semi-annual concerts, in May and December, features a guest artist who has worked with the choir to bring us new skills, insights, and songs.

The music we sing reflects themes of joy, struggle, resistance, and love for one another and the Earth. It includes:

  • traditional folk songs in a variety of languages from around the world
    music we have learned from our guest artists
  • work by contemporary Canadian composers
  • music from the jazz, blues, classical, modern folk and rock traditions

One Voice, our 25th anniversary CD with our favourite songs from 2002 to 2018, is now available.

ECHO is dedicated to remaining an accessible community to all people in Toronto by allowing a sliding scale for membership fees and for concert tickets.

Meet the Choir

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Behnaz McCallum

Behnaz McCallum is a relatively new member, having joined Echo in the fall of 2023. She is very enthusiastic about the singing with the choir, and agreed to share her…

Meet more choir members here!

Echo began in 1991 when Sarah John and Becca Whitla formed this community-based women’s choir. After Sarah’s departure in 1993, Alan Gasser joined as co-director. From the original 16 voices, Echo has grown to a strength of 80 members.

Our Directors

Alan Gasser

Alan Gasser

artistic Director

Alan Gasser, conductor, professional chorister, singer and voice teacher, has co-directed the Echo Women’s Choir since 1993.

Alan has led countless choirs in Toronto over the past twenty-five years. He has sung Georgian folk music since 1985, with the Kartuli Ensemble, besides founding the Trio Kavkasia and the ensemble Darbazi. He worked with Village Harmony for many years in Vermont, and founded Worldsongs (in Canada) in 2005, as well as the hospice choir Singing Through Life (2015).

Alan grew up singing gospel and Anabaptist Apostolic hymns, leading him to his undergraduate degree in music (BMus) from the College of Wooster, followed by a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he studied opera and opera conducting. He also has an MA in Music Criticism from McMaster University.

His awards include the Silver Medal from the Georgian Ministry of Culture and the Award of Excellence from the Embassy of Georgia, both for his vocal work in the Georgian musical tradition. (Alan is thus one of the few people to be able to claim Georgian music awards in two successive millennia!)

His current practice incorporates his wide-ranging experience with American and world classical, pop, and folk traditions, in an effort to bring heightened authenticity to concert performances of these works within his own performing community, as well as bringing increased nuance and dynamism to all works through the cross-pollination between the various genres.

Becca Whitla

Founding artistic Director,
director emerita

Becca, now living and working in Saskatoon, has worked many years as a community music maker and teacher in Toronto. For Becca, music is a critical, vibrant and healing part of community life.

Becca:

  • Director Emerita of ECHO Women’s Choir
  • co-founder and former co-director of the Echo Women’s Choir
  • has a PhD in Pastoral Theology from Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto.
  • as of September 2019 is now teaching at St. Andrew’s College, affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

She has been the leader of the HERE Union Local 75 choir, the music director for over 20 years at the Church of the Holy Trinity, music coach and consultant for the innovative and ground-breaking Theatre Gargantua and a teacher for Worldsongs Vocal Camp and Village Harmony summer singing camps.

In 1998, she and Alan released the CD “Parlour Songs & Heart Songs.”

She also recorded a CD with HERE choir (I Still Have Joy) and Emmanuel College at the Univeristy of Toronto (One God, Many Peoples).

Katie White

New Assistant Conductor

Katie brings a wide range of musical and theatrical experience to Echo Women’s Choir. She is equally comfortable at the piano, at the conductor’s stand, and in the choir.

Katie’s decades of experience have given her performance opportunities all over Ontario. Singing is her first love, and sharing her joy and passion for music has grown into a lifelong calling. She still sings with several choral groups and solos frequently.

Her choral arrangements have been performed by school and community choirs as well as commissioned as competitive festival selections. She has a thriving music studio where she specializes in exploring creative ways of introducing music to students at the very beginning of their musical education.

Her proudest production, bar none, is her vibrant and spirited son Tommy.

Alida Doornberg

Alida Doornberg

Section Lead - first altos

Alida Doornberg has recently completed her Master of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Toronto where she studied under celebrated Soprano Monica Whicher.

While at U of T Alida completed a teaching practicum through the Vocal Pedagogy program, and has since enjoyed growing and learning as a teacher by offering private voice lessons to singers of all ages.

From 2017-2019 Alida performed with Voicebox: Opera in Concert and was featured as a soloist in their “Chorus Fire” concert with Russell Braun and and Isabel Bayrakdarian, and “Comedy Unbound;” a tribute concert for Stuart Hamilton. Opera roles include Ino in Semele with the Toronto Lyric Opera Centre, Dorabella in Cosi fan Tutte and Cornelia in Julius Caesar with the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre of Toronto (SOLT). Additional chorus credits include La bohème with Against the Grain Theatre and Candide with Toronto Operetta Theatre.

Alida has participated in many prestigious summer festivals and Young Artist training programs including the Vancouver International Song Institute’s French Melodie Immersion program, the Cowtown Opera Summer Academy in Calgary, the Taos Opera Institute in New Mexico, and “Si parla, si canta” Italian language and opera program in Urbania, Italy.

Alida is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where she earned her Bachelor’s of Music degree with Honours.

Guest Artists

Echo has the pleasure of performing with many wonderful artists.

annabelle

Annabelle Chvostek

Annabelle Chvostek is a dynamic Toronto singer-songwriter whose long relationship with Echo includes having been our guest artist and artist-in-residence.
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Tahirih Vejdani

Tahirih Vejdani was the Assistant Artistic Director and Conductor with Echo Women’s Choir for the 2019/2020 season.

See more of our Guest Artists

Meet the Choir

ECHO!! Revived CCA

Canada Council Digital Now Project

Earlier in 2022, Echo received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts under its Digital Now initiative. The impetus for this 18 month long project initiative was to give performing artists, hit so hard by Covid-related restrictions, a chance to present their work to audiences through digital media. By the time we were offered the grant, restrictions had loosened somewhat, and we were running hybrid rehearsals. As Alan, our Artistic Director enthused, “We are coming back to life!” We named the project “ECHO!! Revived. 

From this past September and over the next year, Echo is working with guest artists to produce digital content which will be available for viewing on this website, our YouTube channel and Facebook. To date, the grant has enabled us to run workshops with Edmonton-based Maria Dunn when she visited Toronto in November, and to create two new videos featuring Maria and her music: a documentary-style video (A Conversation with Maria Dunn), and a shorter version that we incorporated into our December concert.  We have also been able to produce a high quality recording of the Echo Winter Concert, Through Darkness into Hope. See video below!

In our May 2023 spring season special guest artist  Annabelle Chvostek  joined us, leading two amazing singing workshops. This helped us prepare to blend our voices in harmony to produce a high quality recording of our Spring Concert, Enough is Enough! See video below!

Annabelle is a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter, composer and producer whose musical achievements span multiple genres. She has composed music for dance and film, co-written songs with Bruce Cockburn, and toured the globe as a member of The Wailin’ Jennys. Her most recent composition, commissioned by The Primavera Project for cellist Matt Haimovitz, had its world premiere in April 2022 at the Venice Biennale and was released on PENTATONE in June, 2022.

Annabelle’s latest album String of Pearls brings together the tradition of the Canadian singer-songwriter and the nostalgia of her Eastern European heritage with a long-standing connection to Uruguay. String of Pearls was nominated for a 2022 Canadian Folk Music Award.   

In fall 2023 Andrew Craig was the final guest artist to be featured in ECHO!! Revived.
A singer, instrumentalist, composer and teacher, Andrew calls himself an “artivist”—one who brings together music and social justice.

Andrew has directed the music for Harbourfront’s tribute to Quincy Jones, performed twice for Nelson Mandela, and contributed to the public tribute for the late Oscar Peterson in 2008. In 2013, Andrew founded Culchahworks Arts Collective, a Toronto-based arts organization that celebrates figures and events from African-Canadian, Caribbean-Canadian and African-American cultural legacies.

Andrew led a workshop for Echo on September 30 that included singers from the Toronto Children’s Concert Choir (TC3), an Afrocentric youth choir. In the winter concert on December 3, he conducted Echo performing the songs he had taught: Just like Flame, Love is the Greatest Gift, Sisi Dolada, and Shalom, Salaam.

A second workshop featuring South African composer and choir leader Bongani Magatyana was held on October 24 for Echo and friends. Later that week, Mr. Magatyana led workshops at Chief Dan George Public School and for Sistema Toronto, which were facilitated by Echo, as well as a three-day public workshop, before returning home to Cape Town.

The “Digital Now” grant enabled Echo to commission two high quality videos of Andrew Craig’s and Bongani’s workshops for Echo, produced by Carlos Coronado.  Soon to be debuted on the Echo YouTube Channel.

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Echo Sponsors

Echo is grateful for the ongoing support of the Toronto Arts Council

As well as our other generous sponsors!  See more here.