Information about the Choir and Artistic Staff
About the Oakham House Choir
The Oakham House Choir is a proud member of the Ryerson community. The choir is currently made up of Ryerson undergraduates and alumni, current and retired faculty members, university staff, and people of all ages and from all walks of life in the larger community. Accompanied by the Toronto Sinfonietta, we produce two major concerts every year. We enjoy performing at a wide range of events, with a particular emphasis on events associated with Ryerson University.
Oakham House Choir of Ryerson University excels in the artistic and expressive performance of classical music. Our musical community offers Ryerson students an opportunity to further realize their potential. We are recognized for our commitment to accessibility and lifelong learning and for our involvement in the wider community.
The Oakham House Choir was established in 1984 by Professor Marie Dowler of the Ryerson English department and Matthew Jaskiewicz, a former conductor with the Warsaw Chamber Opera, who had just arrived in Canada as a political refugee.
In those early days, many of the members lacked extensive choral experience, though they made up for it with their enthusiasm. Mr. Jaskiewicz, who spoke no English, gave his instructions in French or Polish – several other Polish immigrants had joined the choir – and relied on someone to translate for him.
Despite those tentative beginnings, the choir grew steadily under Mr. Jaskiewicz’s direction. As its musical standards rose, its repertoire expanded to include many of the best-known choral masterpieces. Today the Oakham House Choir is a respected ensemble and an integral part of Toronto’s music scene.
Oakham House Choir regularly performs on the Ryerson campus and at many downtown churches, and has appeared at other Greater Toronto Area venues, including Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre and the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The choir has also sung at Ryerson graduation ceremonies and has competed in the Kiwanis Festival.
For many years the choir has been presenting two concerts a year with the Toronto Sinfonietta chamber orchestra, which is also directed, and was founded by, Mr. Jaskiewicz. We take pride in being one of the few amateur choirs in Toronto that perform regularly with a professional orchestra.
Matthew Jaskiewicz received his musical training at the Warsaw Academy of Music in Poland, and after graduating, he soon established his reputation as a conductor with the Warsaw Chamber Opera, Ars Antiqua Chamber Choir and Orchestra, and the Warsaw University Choir. He also directed an award-winning men’s and boys’ choir in France.
Soon after arriving in Canada as a political refugee in 1984, Mr. Jaskiewicz founded the Polish Canadian Society of Music and the Musica Antiqua chamber orchestra (now the Toronto Sinfonietta), of which he is still the Music Director, and co-founded the Oakham House Choir at Ryerson University. Since then he has been instrumental in establishing both the choir and the Sinfonietta as respected performers on Toronto’s musical scene.
Mr. Jaskiewicz is also well regarded for his work with the Northumberland Orchestra and Choir in Cobourg, Ontario, which he directed for 17 years, and for his work with the Baycrest Music Society.
More recently, he has directed the Polish Symfonia Choir in Hamilton and the Angel Choir, for children in Toronto’s Chinese community.
In 2005, he helped to establish the Toronto Sinfonietta’s annual Concerto Competition for young musicians and, since then, has served regularly on the jury as Artistic Director of the competition.
In recognition of his contribution to the arts and culture in his adopted home, Mr. Jaskiewicz was awarded the “Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta,” one of the highest honours bestowed by the President of Poland, and the “Gloria Artis” medal for his contributions to Polish culture.
The Oakham House Choir’s long time rehearsal and concert accompanist is Alexander Kats, a Russian-trained concert pianist and teacher, who is a graduate of Moscow’s prestigious Gnessin Russian Academy of Music. In Russia he performed regularly in major concert halls as a recitalist, as a soloist with symphony orchestras and as an accompanist.
Since emigrating to Canada in 1991, Mr. Kats has become well-known to classical-music audiences as a recitalist and a collaborative artist. He has appeared at well-known musical venues in Toronto and throughout Ontario and has organized and performed in numerous concerts.
Currently, Mr. Kats is music director at St. Margaret’s in the Pines Anglican Church in Scarborough and is the accompanist for various musical ensembles.
For the last six years, Mr. Kats has served on the jury of the annual Toronto Sinfonietta Concerto Competition for young musicians.
Mr. Kats has always maintained a busy teaching schedule. Many of his pupils, both in Russia and Canada, have been winners in major competitions. At present he is a piano professor at the Mississauga School of Music and also teaches in his private studio in North York.
Oakham House is a historic building in Toronto, Canada. The house is located at the southwest corner of Gould and Church Street. It was designed by architect William Thomas as his own residence and office and completed in 1848. Additions were made to the original house in 1900, and later Oakham House served as a “working boy’s home.” The house was acquired by Ryerson in 1960, and after renovations, was reopened as the social and cultural centre of the Ryerson community. Today, Oakham House is part of the Ryerson Student Campus Centre and is home to many student groups, associations and societies.
Ryerson University is a public research university located in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its urban campus surrounds the Yonge-Dundas Square; located at the busiest intersection in Downtown Toronto. It is seen as one of Canada’s leading universities and has a focus on applied, career-oriented education. The university serves about 33,000+ undergraduate students, 2,300+ graduate students, and 65,000+ certificate and continuing education students.