Christopher Dawes, Musician and Meta-Theorist

CHRISTOPHER DAWES, numbered among Canada’s leading church musicians, concert organists and choral accompanists, is a freelance musician and consultant based at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music.  Following a 20-year career serving churches and cathedrals of the Anglican Church of Canada in September 2013 he will commence a new chapter in his varied musical story as Principal Organist to Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto, its Choir School and Radio Ministry.

Mr. Dawes currently divides his professional time between freelance performing across a wide spectrum of the Toronto music scene, the Directorship of Canada’s Summer Institute of Church Music in Whitby and the Organ Concerts and Academy at Stratford Summer Music.  Since 2003 at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music he is accompanist and coach to the graduate and undergraduate choral and instrumental conducting programs and to U of T’s MacMillan Singers, and since 2006 he has also served as a staff accompanist to the Toronto Children’s Chorus.  Following on recent graduate work in Music Criticism in the area of musical genre, he publishes and presents papers at academic conferences and through the website

He is known for a musicianship that freely crosses classical and popular styles and eras; for his imaginative, informed and approachable presentation of both the familiar and the obscure, and for his love of history, people, and all that is unusual and inspirational in music. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Chris lives with his wife Marcia, and their children, Nathaniel, Simon, and Charlotte in Georgetown, 50km northwest of Toronto.

This area of the OrgAlt site divides Dawes’ biographical information according to different areas of his diverse sphere of artistic work.  All text and photographs may be used freely for promotional purposes. For any additional information use the Contact page.

Chris on organ small03As a Fellow of the Royal Canadian College of Organists, Dawes holds the College's highest distinction in organ performance.  He has given recitals in most of Canada's major cities and all ten provinces, including many at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and Jack Singer Hall in Calgary.  A frequent international traveler with choirs, his major European venues have included the Domkirk in Koln; Gloucester, Hereford, Canterbury, St. David’s and Wells Cathedrals in Britain; the Cathedral of Ghent, Belgium; in Austria the Salzburger Dom and Mozarteum, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Musikverein in Vienna; and in the Netherlands, the Jakobkerk in Leeuwarden, Joriskerk in Amersfoort, Grote Kerk in Apeldoorn and the Bovenkerk in Kampen.  American engagements have included a lecture-recital for the University of Michigan's 1996 Conference on Organ Music; guest soloist appearance with the Purcell Consort for the Renaissance and Baroque Society of Pittsburgh; the opening concert of the 1997 New York Region Convention of the American Guild of Organists, and in October 2000, an International Symposium at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee celebrating the legacies and relationship of Albert Schweitzer and Johann Sebastian Bach. In Québec City in 1995 he performed the opening concert of the Festival de musique anciènne de Sillery; in Calgary in 1998 he was featured in the 2nd Royal Bank Calgary International Organ Festival, and in Toronto in 2002, performed as part of the reopening of the rennovated and acoustically enhanced Roy Thomson Hall.  In 2004-2005 he has appeared as soloist in two Soundstreams Canada productions and CBC broadcasts, “University Voices” by University Choirs from across Canada under Swedish conductor Robert Sund, and “Sacred and Secular”, a performance of works of Omar Daniel and Arvo Part by the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Britain’s Hilliard Ensemble.  His second performance for royalty was for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at St. James' Cathedral on June 29th, 1997 at the festal service culminating the Cathedral’s bicentennial celebrations.

He collaborates frequently with many fine Toronto-area choirs, including Elmer Iseler Singers, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, MacMillan Singers and Bach Festival Singers (at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music), Guelph Chamber Choir, John Laing Singers, Nathaniel Dett Chorale, the Toronto Children’s Chorus and the Georgetown Choral Society and Children’s Chorus.

Chris has played for choral tours to the north- and southeastern United States; Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, England and Ireland, and throughout Ontario, Québec, and the Maritimes, his most recent being a two week tour of Ireland with the Georgetown Choral Society.  He appears on some two dozen CDs to date, the most recent being as soloist and ensemble performer on NAXOS recordings of Bach, Charpentier, Vivaldi and Handel with the Aradia Ensemble; and with saxophonist Daniel Rubinoff, a full-length CD release of organ/saxophone music, The Dance of the Blessed Spirits, and a shorter release, Daniel Rubinoff plays Denis Bédard for the international Saxophone Journal.

A long-time champion of his country’s music, he has premiered many new works, and performed or lectured about Canadian music in nine countries.  In 1996/1997 he introduced the Toronto Organ Series to American organists at the opening concert of the New York Region Convention of the American Guild of Organists and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s annual Conference on Organ Music.  In 1999 he premiered Departure Point by John Burge, a 40-minute solo organ suite based upon melodic fragments by Bach, Mozart and Alban Berg. In 2003, independent CD releases of organ/saxophone music featured the first recording of Denis Bédard’s Sonatas for saxophone and organ, and the world premiere of Blues of a Chagall Window by John Burge.  Also in October of 2003 he assisted Michael Cumberland in the world premiere of Le Cor Magique, a Canada Council-supported commission by the late Montréal composer Bengt Hambraeus for the unusual combination of organ and alphorn. In 2005 he joined Soundstreams Canada’s Canadian premiere of Arvo Part’s Miserere Mei and the World Premiere of Omar Daniel’s Lavinia Andronicus, collaborating on that occasion with Britain’s Hilliard Ensemble and the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir.