Concert Organizer

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Marcia Swanston, mezzo-soprano

Marcia Swanston’s voice has taken her to opera stages around the world. Today, it’s brought the mezzo-soprano to Dalhousie where she is a professor of voice. Originally from Alberta, Prof. Swanston did post-graduate studies in concert and opera in London, England, at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. As a professional opera singer, Prof. Swanston has performed with orchestras and opera companies in more than 50 roles across North America and Britain. Learn more



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Betty Allison, soprano

B.C. soprano, Betty Waynne Allison has performed a diverse repertoire demonstrating her natural ability and talent on operatic stages and in concert across Canada and abroad. Major credits include the world premiere of Mary’s Wedding with Pacific Opera Victoria; the title role in Floyd’s Susannah with Florentine Opera; Alice in Verdi’s Falstaff with L’Opèra Thèâtre de Metz Mètropole; and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus with Edmonton Opera.

Betty recently joined the Voice Faculty at the Dalhousie Fountain School of Performing Arts for the 2019/2020 school year. She is an alumnus of the University of Victoria where she completed her Bachelor of Music and Education degrees before joining the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Toronto with Wendy Nielsen, researching non-musical stressors and the coping strategies that elite singers use to maintain their careers and voices.

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Christina Haldane, soprano

Canadian British soprano Christina Raphaëlle Haldane enjoys an active career in the UK, Europe, Asia and North America. She has sung principle roles for The Finnish National Opera, Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera and Musica Viva Hong Kong, as well as for festivals Iford Arts, Longborough, Swansea City and Buxton, in the UK in roles such as Cleopatra in (Julius Caesar), the title role in La Fille du Régiment, Fiorilla (Il Turco in Italia), Nella (Gianni Schicchi), Adina (L’elisir d’Amore, Clorinda(La Cenerentola), Lucinda in Mendelssohn’s Die Hochzeit des Camacho, both the Vixen and the Fox (The Cunning Little Vixen), Rapunzel in Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte). She has performed with many renowned orchestras, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Capella Cracoviensis. Christina is also a dedicated interpreter of song repertoire, regularly performing on the recital platform in both the UK and Canada. Learn more


Recent highlights include covering the role of Silvia in Thomas Adès’ exciting new opera The Exterminating Angel, for both the Salzburg festival and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and also covering the role of Sifare in Graham Vick’s acclaimed production of Mozart’s Mitridate, for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Christina made Canadian operatic 2017, performing the title role in Handel’s Rodelinda for Opera in Concert. Christina’s debut album, ‘Let Me Explain’ a collection of Canadian art songs, will be released in October of 2019 with Redshift records. Christina is thrilled to be joining the Voice Faculty at the Fountain School of Performing Arts for the academic year 2019/ 20.


Speakers & Performers

Alan Syliboy and the Thundermakers, band

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Visit their website

Alan Syliboy

Mi'kmaq artist, Alan Syliboy, lives on the Millbrook First Nation reserve at the edge of Truro, Nova Scotia. His work is representative of the traditional rock art made by the Wabanaki who were part of the ancient Eastern Woodland Indian culture. "Like many others in my generation, I grew up believing that native art was generic - what you see on TV and in other mass media. But", he argues, "Visual expressions are part of what makes a culture unique, and, although Mi'kmaq designs are similar to other North American woodland tribes, you can easily recognize the difference." As a youth, Alan was unsure of his talents. "In the beginning I found painting painful and difficult because I was unsure of my identity.".


But his confidence grew when he studied privately with Mi'kmaq artist Shirley Bear and then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, (where 25 years later, in 1997, he was invited to sit on the Board of Governors.). Alan Syliboy uses the indigenous Mi'kmaq petroglyph traditions for inspiration and developed his own artistic vocabulary out of those forms. His brushes and pens most often lead him to images of family and friends.

"Most of my subjects deal with the concept of family - their searches, struggles and strength. All of these things are part of my art, and my art gives me strength for my continuing spiritual quest."

With two sons and a daughter to support Alan experimented with ways of marketing his art. He had some of his images printed on T-shirts and began selling them door to door - first on his own reserve then to other reserves in Nova Scotia and the Maritime Provinces. His intuition was well-founded.

"Most of my native customers hadn't known the traditional designs of their own people. Most Mi'kmaq don't go to museums on Sunday afternoons,"he quips. "But there was a sense of pride in being able to recognize the images as part of their personal heritage and wear it emblazoned on their chest.". Alan says of his art, "As my exploration of painting and my understanding of Mi'kmaq spiritualism expanded, my confidence and ability grew with it. Since my family is where I'm centered, everything else is exterior."


Betty Allison, soprano

See biography above under “Co-hosts”.


Chris Mitchell Quintet, jazz quintet
David Burton (drums), Jamie Gatti (bass), Scott MacMillan, Dave Staples (piano), Chris Mitchell

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Chris Mitchell, saxophones

Chris Mitchell is an engaging and innovative saxophonist. Heralded as one of Canada’s finest instrumentalists, Chris has contributed to the music scene in a number of diverse and exciting ways. A versatile player, Chris is a sought-after talent across a variety of genres performing with a myriad of artist’s including David Foster, Natalie Cole, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Phil Woods, Kenny Wheeler, Robben Ford, Michael Kaeshammer, Colin James, Jackie Richardson and Doug Riley to name a few. Chris recently toured with Michael Kaeshammer and also the Afro Cuban Jazz and Beyond Quintet which features Ignacio Berroa, Hilario Duran, Roberto Occhipinti and Jorge Luis Torres. Chris has toured extensively in North America, Europe and in Asia and has also performed with a numerous symphony orchestra’s across Canada. His extensive experience as a performer, composer and arranger has culminated in the production of four solo instrumental albums to date. As a result of his 1997 release “The Witches of Redbeard” featuring jazz icon Phil Woods The Chris Mitchell Quintet was the recipient of the prestigious “Prix De Jazz DuMaurier” performing at the 1999 Montreal Jazz Festival.

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As a sideman Chris has also performed and recorded with numerous Juno and ECMA winning artists. Chris also was an East Coast Music Award recipient for Best Jazz Recording. As a composer Chris has written numerous songs and works and has been contracted to compose and arrange small ensemble, big band charts as well as orchestral arrangements for countless live shows, CBC, Symphony Nova Scotia and the Fountain School of Performing Arts. Chris has recently been commissioned to compose a work for the UpStream Music Association. Chris runs his own successful production company MitchMusic. Chris’ understanding of multi-media presentation has resulted in compelling commercial music and marketing materials for a number of clients including both the public and private sectors. Currently active in numerous musical groups, Chris also holds a longtime teaching position at the Fountain School of Performing Arts, Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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Scott MacMillan, guitar

Born in Halifax, Scott Macmillan enjoys a stellar reputation in Nova Scotia and abroad for his unusual versatility working in the fields of classical, pop, jazz, blues and celtic music. Once inked, a Scott Macmillan biography is at once out of date, for he and his passion for creating music have already moved on to a new composition, arrangement commission, collaboration, performance, musical directing live or in the studio, conducting, teaching, or as a clinician.

Music has taken Macmillan to many places, to Carnegie Hall in New York twice, to perform his much loved ode to our world’s oceans Celtic Mass for the Sea, with his partner and librettist Jennyfer Brickenden. He has performed in the British Isles and Germany, the US and has crossed Canada many times to conduct orchestras, perform, make television and radio shows and sound tracks for films. Yet the many who seek out his talents know that Nova Scotia, the home of his birth, is where to find him. 2016 saw the completion of 3 new recordings. In April, Macmillan released Scott ’n the Rocks, Live at Stayner’s featuring his original music composed for his 12-piece jazz ensemble, celebrating their 10th anniversary.


In July Scott and Cape Breton fiddler Colin Grant launched their 1st duo recording GOOD2GO and in September Scott released his serious music recording, Currents of Sable Island, an extended composition for solo voice and chamber ensemble based around his experiences on Sable Island. All 3 were nominated for 2017 East Coast Music Awards, Currents of Sable Island garnered Classical Composition of the Year while GOOD2GO took home Trad. Instrumental of the Year.

Inspired by his desire to learn and expand his own musical knowledge and knowing that the best students make the best teachers, Scott began mentoring a new generation of guitarists in 2008 at the Fountain School of Performing Arts, Dalhousie University.

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Rachel Desoer, cello

Rachel Desoer is a cellist from Hamilton, Ontario. She studied at the Juilliard School, Oberlin College, McGill University and the Banff Centre.  She graduated from Oberlin in 2008 with a Bachelor of Music degree.

Rachel was the cellist of the Cecilia String Quartet from 2010 to 2018.  In this ensemble Rachel toured extensively around the world, recorded 4 albums on the Analekta label and taught chamber music at the University of Toronto.

Touring has brought Rachel to inspiring venues such as Wigmore Hall, The Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Konzert Haus Berlin and many more.  The Cecilia Quartet also made educational programming a priority and performed hundreds of presentations for schools. In 2014, the quartet created a concert series called Xenia concerts specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum and their families.  Exemplifying their commitment to the equal representation of women in music, Rachel spearheaded the commissioning of 4 string quartets by Canadian women composers in 2016.

Throughout her schooling and career Rachel has also played recitals and concertos with orchestra. She has also worked in other orchestras, most notably, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company.


Rachel plays the 1929 Carlo Guiseppe Oddone cello generously on loan to her from an anonymous donor. She is currently the principal cellist of Symphony Nova Scotia.

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Philippe Djokic, violin

Canadian violinist Philippe Djokic has had a long distinguished career as a soloist, camber music player and pedagogue. He was Professor of violin at Dalhousie’s Fountain School of Performing Arts for over forty years. A former prize winner in international violin competitions such as Jacques Thibauld in Paris and Nicolo Paganini in Genoa, he has performed throughout Europe and North America as a soloist with many major orchestras to critical acclaim. His recordings can be found on the C.B.C. And Naxos labels. He performs on a rare Guarnerius violin from 1740.


Christina Haldane, soprano

See biography above under “Co-hosts”.

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Jennifer King, piano

Jennifer King is known as an energetic, insightful and versatile pianist. She recently recorded an album of night-inspired solo piano music O Mistress Moon, available from her directly or through Leaf Music and all online platforms. Jennifer teaches at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts and from her home studio. She worked at Acadia University as staff pianist and part time piano instructor from 2003- 2016. Ms. King has performed in hundreds of recitals and concerts as a collaborative pianist, and as a solo artist. Jennifer can be heard in concert alongside some of Canada’s most respected singers and musicians and on radio. She has performed a number of Canadian premieres recently and loves exploring new music.

Ms. King holds a Masters of Music degree in solo piano performance from McGill University, a Bachelor from Acadia University and has completed postgraduate diplomas at the University of Reading in the UK as well as the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London, England.


Her accolades include two scholarships from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, and an Award of Appreciation from the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in recognition of her contributions to musical life in the province. In 2015 Jennifer performed outside for 6 hours on the Halifax waterfront with artist Holly Carr for Nocturne Art at Night Festival.

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Geri Musqua-LeBlanc, Dalhousie University Elder-in-Residence

As the coordinator of the Dalhousie Elders in Residence program, Geri coordinates the Elders' availability. She is a member of the Nakawe Nation (Keeseekoose First Nation), Saskatchewan and a member of the Bear Clan. Her traditional name is "Miskwe Ginew ikwe," meaning "Red Eagle Woman." Geri is retired from the public service where she received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work in employment equity. She is also a residential school survivor.

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Leonardo Perez, violin

Praised for his “assured and lovely” playing by the Classical Voice, Leonardo Perez is currently Head of Strings and Lecturer of Violin and Viola at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Previously, he held the position of Instructor of Violin and Viola at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was the Orchestra Director of the IUP Symphony Orchestra.

In Canada, Leonardo has appeared on the Music Room Chamber Players series in Halifax, NS, as well as the Musique Royale series in Mahone Bay, NS. He was the violinist of the Litton Piano Trio at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, regularly as a Next Generation Artist of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival in Greenville, NC, with  artists such as Xiao Dong Wang, Michael Kannen, Hagai Shaham, Colin Carr, Melissa Reardon, Raman Ramakrishnan, Hye-jin Kim, Emanuel Gruber and Ara Gregorian.  Leonardo has premiered and recorded music for composer John Ross as violinist of the University of Iowa Center for New Music Ensemble.

Leonardo performed with multiple orchestras throughout the United States, including the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Long Bay Symphony and Richmond Symphony, and as a soloist with symphony orchestras throughout North Carolina, including the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra.


Leonardo received his Bachelor of Music degree from East Carolina University. He holds a Master of Music degree in Violin Performance from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from East Carolina University with doctoral studies at the University of Iowa. His principal teachers include Ara Gregorian, Hagai Shaham, Scott Conklin and Dora Mullins.

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Elizabeth Upton Perez, viola

Elizabeth Upton Perez, originally from North Carolina, is currently teaching and performing in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area. Recently, Elizabeth has appeared as an artist on the Music Room Chamber Players Series in Halifax, NS, as well as a Cecelia Retreat Artist at the Musique Royale series in Mahone Bay, NS.

Previously, Elizabeth was the violist for the Center for New Music Ensemble and performed with multiple symphony orchestras in the Midwest region, including the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and the Des Moines Symphony. During the 2017-2018 season, she was invited to perform as guest principal viola for the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (PA) and Altoona Symphony Orchestra (PA). As an avid chamber musician, she has performed alongside artists including Ara Gregorian, Michael Kannen, Hye-Jin Kim, Xiao-Dong Wang, Nicholas Cords and Natasha Brofsky as part of the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival Next Generation concert series. She is currently the violist of the Voce String Quartet, and this fall was invited to perform and teach as Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Iowa String Quartet Residency Project.


Elizabeth completed her Master of Music in Viola Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from East Carolina University with doctoral studies at the University of Iowa. Her principal teachers include Atar Arad, Ara Gregorian, Christine Rutledge, Melissa Reardon and Kevin Lawrence.



Cancelled due to hurricane Dorian.


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Thank you to Dalhousie University for their continued support and encouragement.

We respectfully acknowledge that this concert is being held in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) People first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.