Who are we?

The Cardinal Consort of Viols is a group of four viol players, formed in 2007 to re-create music’s past and enliven its present. The group’s repertoire ranges from the last strains of Flemish polyphony to the golden age of English Renaissance music, and from the flowering of 17th-century Baroque to innovative renderings of later music when viol consorts were a nostalgic memory in the minds of writers and composers.

(Individual biographies are below)

What do we do?

The Cardinal Consort is gaining a following and reputation for presentations that are outside conventional concert parameters. Their performances are marked by a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, with talks from the stage (and responses from the audience!), general good cheer, and an after-concert ‘petting zoo’ where audience members can try the viols and ask questions about the instruments and their music. The ensemble is often augmented with invited guests and has collaborated with many singers and instrumentalists, most recently Baltimore Consort’s Mary Anne Ballard, and singers Amy Dodington, Dawn Bailey, and Peter Mahon.

The last several seasons have been increasingly busy ones for the consort. In addition to its own annual Thanksgiving Eve concerts, the ensemble’s performances have been hosted by several concert series, including Music Mondays, the Toronto Early Music Centre’s Musically Speaking, and the Associates of the Toronto Symphony. Cardinal Consort has also performed with several choirs, among them the Toronto Chamber Choir, Tallis Choir, and the choir of Royal St. George’s College. In October 2014 the consort collaborated with the chamber choir of Conrad Grebel College, University of Waterloo, Mark Vuorinen, director, for performances in Waterloo and Toronto. The consort has twice been the guest-artist ensemble of the Toronto Continuo Collective and has also given many popular and engaging performances and demonstrations at the Toronto Early Music Fair.

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The Consort:

Sheila Smyth is a busy performer with many ensembles, Baroque and modern, on violin, viola, and treble viola da gamba. She is principal violist of  Opera York and a founding member of Nota Bene Baroque Players. She has performed with many early music ensembles in and around Toronto, including Tafelmusik, Opera Atelier,  Aradia and Musicians in Ordinary.  Sheila is a frequent guest soloist with the Toronto Continuo Collective, and as a chamber musician, has performed on several concert series, including Scaramella, Luminato, Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, Primavera Concerts, and TEMC’s Musically Speaking. Sheila has worked with many orchestras throughout Ontario, including Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Windsor Symphony, Orchestra London, and Musica Viva. She has been heard live in performance with the Emperor Quartet on CBC Radio and on CFMX Radio, and has recorded with Aradia Ensemble for Naxos Records. Sheila is a founding member of Musathena and Harmonie, and The Cardinal Consort of Viols.

Linda Deshman is very active in the early music scene and performs regularly in Ontario and New York State.  She is a founding member of two viol consorts, the Cardinal Consort of Viols and the York Consort, and is the bowed-bass component of the Toronto Continuo Collective, Toronto’s favourite pluck band.  She has attended major viol workshops in the U.S., Italy and the U.K. A singer as well, she is a long time performer and member of the board of directors for the Toronto Chamber Choir, and has been active on other boards and volunteer organisations for several early music ensembles in the Toronto area. As a singer, she most recently joined Toronto Choral Artists, a 16-voice choir devoted to 21st-century music. Upcoming vocal work includes performances in Toronto’s Luminato Festival. Linda plays all sizes of viols and owns viols made by John Pringle.

Sara Blake is a founding member of both the Cardinal Consort of Viols and U.S.-based York Consort, and performs regularly around Ontario and the northern U.S.  She has attended early music workshops in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., and has studied viol with Susie Napper, Margaret Little, and Alison Crum. Sara has Toronto’s largest collection of music for viol which includes works for solo viol, viol consort, and voices & viols. She hosts consort workshops and coaching sessions for Ontario’s viol-playing community and administers the viol rental programme for the Toronto Early Music Players’ Organization.  She plays all sizes of viol, including the rarely-used alto viol, owning a model owned by the late musicologist, George Hunter.

Valerie Sylvester enjoys an eclectic career playing modern violin, Baroque violin, and bass viol. She received a Master’s Degree in violin performance from the Mannes School after undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. She is concertmaster of Niagara Symphony, Opera York, and Talisker Players Choral Orchestra. As a Baroque violinist, Valerie has performed with many ensembles including Opera Atelier, Aradia, and Tafelmusik, and is a founding member of Nota Bene Baroque Players. She also enjoys a busy freelancing schedule on modern violin, performing with many of the province’s symphony orchestras including Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and Esprit, and was a member of the ‘Canadian Idol’ onstage band for its last five seasons. She recently became a member of The Wintergarten Orchestra, an eleven-piece band specialising in prohibition-era music from the dawn of jazz. As a chamber musician, Valerie has performed in several series and summer festivals including Elora, Ottawa, Vancouver International, and Luminato. In addition to playing with Cardinal Consort, Valerie particularly relishes ‘double-duty’ concerts playing both violin and bass viol.