CRMSS Ontario 2024 Course Description

CRMSS Ontario 2024: How to apply CRMSS Ontario 2024 Application Form

CRMSS Ontario 2024 Dates:

Saturday, May 18th


Sunday, May 26th



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CRMSS Ontario 2024 Theme

The theme of CRMSS Ontario 2024 is Polyphony Top 40: Tallis' Spem in alium and other extravagances.

Shakespeare's First Folio. The Mona Lisa. Beethoven's 9th symphony. The Sagrada Familia. There are a few works of art that stand out across history as being legendary, monumental, and truly iconic. Thomas Tallis' 40-voice motet Spem in alium is Renaissance polyphony's answer to Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings (or perhaps it's the other way around!) While this piece is certainly unique in Tallis' output, and among all English composers from the time, there are - believe it or not - other motets also written for this enormous number of separate voices, and Tallis wasn't even the first person to do it! An Italian by the name of Alessandro Striggio not only wrote a 40-voice motet but also an entire mass setting!

At CRMSS Ontario 2024, we will be exploring this fascinating, extravagant, and enormous choral texture. We'll also sing other large-scale works from the Renaissance, including canons by Josquin des Prez, and multi-choir works by Francisco Guerrero, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Tomás Luis de Victoria. All of this largesse will be presided over by none other than Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, who for the last 50 years has been the leading global ambassador for the performance of Renaissance polyphonic music.

Spem in alium is such a thrill to be a part of and we're so glad to be working on it this coming year. CRMSS Ontario 2024 will be about pushing the boat out, shooting for the moon, and generally going big or going home.

What types of singing will happen at CRMSS Ontario 2024?


A major focus of the week's work is singing together as one large choir, exploring larger scale, mainly sacred a capella music of the Renaissance. The specific repertoire chosen to complement our 40-part pieces will depend on the distribution of voices amongst the course participants and we will endeavour to explore what 'extravagant' meant during the Renaissance in different countries and at different times.

We will also divide the participants into two smaller chamber groups which work separately, and look at repertoire different from what is covered in the tutti group.


While the majority of our time is spent preparing ensemble music in choral and small group contexts, good solo vocal technique is of course essential for good singing. This applies to music written in any style and during any time period, including the Renaissance.

Matt Long will lead the solo singing side of CRMSS Ontario 2024. Solo singing and good vocal technique are core parts of CRMSS and we believe that solo and ensemble singing can sit comfortably side by side, one informing and enhancing the other.

Participants are enthusiastically encouraged to bring their own solo repertoire written before 1630.

We are lucky to have had Lucas Harris, one of Canada's most prestigious lutenists, on our tutor team since 2018. Lucas will again lead Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2024, and will be available to work with solo singers, accompanying them on the lute in lessons and repertoire coaching sessions.

Consort singing: one and two per part vocal chamber music

Any serious amount of time spent getting to know the music of the Renaissance must include small-ensemble singing. The tutors will chose groups and assign them repertoire before the week begins, sending out scores and reference recordings so participants can prepare in advance and come with one or two pieces already learned.

It is in these small group settings that we can best explore secular repertoire from the Renaissance. We believe it is of particular importance that the secular music of this period be covered, as it provides a more vivid picture of the sorts of musical lives these musicians actually lived, be they composers or singers or both.

As with solo repertoire, there will be opportunities to work on small ensemble music that participants bring themselves.

The pre-formed small groups will all be at least two-singers-per-part. Everyone will be allocated into one of these small groups, and perhaps more than one if numbers allow. There may also be time set aside for even smaller, one-per-part consorts to form and experiment with other repertoire, both on an ad hoc basis and under the direction of a member of staff.

Tutor Team

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The tutor team for CRMSS Ontario 2024 will be:

Peter PhillipsGreg SkidmoreMatthew LongTom CastleVictoria MeteyardSharang SharmaLucas Harris, and Dr. Kate Helsen.

We're also glad to have CRMSS International Scholars with us again this year. This will be a group of students studying on the Solo Voice Ensemble Singing master's degree programme at the University of York in the UK.

Click on each name to be taken to the Tutors page to read about that person.


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The details of the performances we will give as part of CRMSS Ontario 2024 are still being finalised. Below are descriptions of the performances that took place at CRMSS Ontario 2023 to give you an idea of what to expect this coming year. As the details of CRMSS Ontario 2024 firm up, we will post information here.

Latin Choral Vespers at St Peter's Seminary

For a few years now, a special highlight of our Ontario course has been singing a Choral Vespers service at St Peter's Seminary. This service, conducted entirely in Latin and using the Tridentine Rite, involves a large amount of Gregorian plainsong interspersed with polyphonic motets and psalms.

Choral Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral

In 2023 we travelled to St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown London to perform an English cathedral choir style Evensong service on Friday, May 19th. We sang the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis from William Byrd'sGreat Service, one of the masterpieces of the English cathedral choir repertoire.

Final course concert

The culmination of any CRMSS week is the final public concert given by the participants. It is during this concert that we showcase all the different sorts of music that have gone on over the course of the week, including all of our different ensembles: tutti, chamber choirs, small groups, and soloists. St. Paul's Catherdal hosted this concert us in 2023.

Daily evening church services

Throughout the week, at the end of each day, we will sing Compline in Huron chapel. Our Compline service is simple, sung in English, and is largely made up of plainsong, with a few simple motets for contrast. It is designed not as something pressured or necessarily to be worked towards, but rather as a way of bringing our day together to a peaceful close - precisely as the service was designed to do in its original monastic context. These services mainly serve as a way for us to come together as a course and to experience the daily rhythm of liturgical music making that formed the wider context for most of the music we will be studying.

Internal 'sharing' concert for CRMSS participants

Everyone who participates in CRMSS Ontario 2024 will have a chance to perform any of the music they work on over the course of the week, be it in their pre-formed smaller groups or in groups they form themselves or the solo repertoire they work on or music they bring themselves... or anything else! This event will take place on Saturday, May 25th and will not be open to the public.

A Typical Day

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We are always in the process of tweaking the daily schedule to get things just right, and pacing our time together is very important to us. At CRMSS Ontario 2024 we will follow this basic outline, but the schedule below is very much subject to change. Special events happening throughout the week will mean any given day's schedule may deviate from this significantly.

Full course warmup
Full course choral rehearsal - 2.5 hours, including a 20 minute tea break
Small group work and/or solo sessions, including a 10 minute break
Lecture / Symposium / Round Table / Masterclass, including a 10 minute break
Continued small group work, ad hoc, or solo sessions, including a 10 minute break
Full course choral rehearsal - 1 hour, including a 10 minute break
Full course choral rehearsal - 1 hour, including a 10 minute break
Compline rehearsal (approx. 45 min)
Compline (approx. 30-45 min)
Pub / Home / Sleep / Late night singing!

Soft launch

CRMSS Ontario 2024 will begin with a 'soft launch'. The course will begin on the afternoon of Saturday, May 18th 2024 with a longer registration period and time for you to find your feet in our venue, New St. James Prebyterian Church. The singing that day will only consist of a tutti rehearsal, followed by drinks and nibbles (that might perhaps extend well into the evening!). We will sing Compline on the evening of the 18th, but this service will be simple and not contain the more sophisticated polyphony we will incorporate into Compline later in the week. More information on this 'soft launch' will be available soon.

The right pace

The week is a busy one and it's important that everyone gets enough down time.

Attendance at Compline each evening will not be compulsory, but is greatly encouraged! The feedback we've received from those who did attend every night in previous years has been that it is a wonderful way to bring each day to a close, but we also understand that some of you may need your sleep! You will be entirely welcome to attend Compline and not sing if you need some vocal rest.

Attendance at the talks will also not be compulsory, but very much encouraged. These are excellent opportunities to get a glimpse into the context behind the music and hear from world renowned experts in Renaissance music and culture.

Of course, if you feel at any time that you need a break, you are welcome to approach any tutor and ask.

Lectures, Symposia, and Round Table discussions

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The course will include some sessions in which we - don't - sing! These discussions will provide context for the practical music making which is the focus of the course, and highlight the importance of scholarship in performance.

We are so thrilled to have Peter Phillips of The Tallis Scholars with us. There will be many opportunities to learn from him and ask about his extraordinary experiences over the past many decades travelling around the world singing Renaissance polyphony. Some of these will be in a more structured environment, the precise format of which hasn't yet been confirmed. Fear not! Your many questions will all be answered.

Our complete line up of talks and lectures at CRMSS Ontario 2024 isn't yet confirmed. We will update this page when it is.

  • Greg Skidmore led a round-table discussion entitled "Renaissance Music Performance in Canada: Past, Present, and Future". On the panel were David Skulski, Christina Hutten, Gerald King, Sharang Sharma, and Jonathan Stuchbery. The discussion involved descriptions of early experiments at the beginning of the Early Music movement, topics related to the current state of post-secondary education in Renaissance music, how to programme Renaissance music for a modern audiences, and much more.
  • Our very special guest, Dr. Susan Lewis, Vice-Provost (Academic Programs) of Western University and Professor of Musicology in the Department of Research and Composition at the Don Wright Faculty of Music gave a talk on her research interests: Renaissance Garden Culture and the Madrigal in England
  • Dr. Kate Helsen, our Academic Lead at CRMSS Ontario 2023, gave a talk entitled William Byrd: Wanted dead, alive, or Catholic
  • Our CRMSS 2022 Guest Artist, Robert Hollingworth, gave a talk entitled Method to the Madness in which he outlined the history of his group I Fagiolini, as well as its performance philosophy.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen secured special access for us to rarely viewed manuscripts and prints from the Renaissance held in the archives of Western University.
  • Dr. Aaron James gave a talk about how musicians in the time of Josquin des Prez actually learned music as students, using a system known as the Guidonian Hand, and entitled A Helping Hand: Guido, Hexachords, Solmization, and Musicianship in the Renaissance.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen showed us how Josquin des Prez was actually a pretty slippery character to pin down - who was he, actually? How many 'Josquins' were there? Her talk was entitled Josquin: Choose your own adventure.
  • Dr. Patrick Murray took us through the process of preparing a piece of Renaissance polyphony for modern day performance in his talk entitled Anything but ‘Ordinary:’ Bringing a Renaissance mass to life in contemporary performance.
  • Sharang Sharma took us through an introduction to some practical methods we can use to help learn the required musical skills to sight-read Renaissance music and chant effectively.
  • Dr. Roseen Giles gave a paper entitled “‘Don't worry, this will sing itself', and other musical fictions" about the practice of musica ficta.
  • Andrew Pickett presented “‘Drop the beat’ - Introduction to the theory and practice of vocal ensemble intonation”.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen introduced us to some of her fascinating new research in “What's in a Riff - Chant DNA in modal polyphony”.
  • Greg Skidmore, Matt Long, and Emily Atkinson took part in a round table discussion led by Dr. Giles entitled “Being a Professional Singer in the UK”, taking questions on every aspect of their professional lives in the UK.
  • Lucas Harris gave a lecture entitled “Musica Transalpina: The madrigal in Italy & England, c1600”
  • Dr. Kate Helsen gave us a crash course in Renaissance musical notation with her workshop entitled “Partly Useful: Renaissance notation”
  • Dr. Troy Ducharme of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University wrapped our heads around Gesualdo's wild sounds with “Beyond Rules: Counterpoint Technique, Musical Meaning, and Style in Selected Works of Gesualdo.”

CRMSS Ontario 2024 Lute Day

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A mini-CRMSS course just for lutenists!

Following on from the success of Lute Day at previous CRMSS courses, we will be offering Lute Day again as part of CRMSS Ontario 2024 on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. The day will begin in the mid-morning and finish around dinnertime, the exact start/finish times to be determined according to input from the participants.

Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2024 will again be run by Lucas Harris, and he will be in touch with participants about the content. Possibilities include:

How to participate

If you’d like to come to Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2024, please fill out the form at this link.

The cost of attending Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2024 is $125.

On our contact page you can also follow us on social media and fill in a web form that will send us a quick email if you want more information.


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Full price for a singer


Student rate

This year we have changed our pricing structure, introducing a separate student discount. We believe both rates still represent extremely good value.

Anyone who is enrolled in full or part-time education at the time of the course (May 18th to 26th, 2024), studying any subject, qualifies as a current student. If you are scheduled to graduate at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, or have just recently finished your studies or written your final exams, you also still qualify as a student.

If finances are a barrier to participation, please speak to us about it and we will try to assist, as we're able. If you would like to support the tuition fees of others who need it, please get in touch with us about making a designated donation.

Lute Day

The cost of attending Lute Day in 2023 was $125 and we are glad to keep this price the same in 2024.

Travel and Accommodation

If attending either the full course or just Lute Day, you will need to cover your travel to London Ontario and your accommodation, if required. While CRMSS doesn't bear these costs, we do try to help as much as we can with your logistics, including arranging for you to be picked up and dropped off at local bus or train stations or London International Airport.

We can also help you find your accommodation, by helping arrange the sharing of Airbnbs or similar.


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CRMSS Ontario 2024 will be held primarily at New St. James Presbyterian Church in London, Ontario.

The address is: 280 Oxford St E, London, ON N6A 1V4

You can find directions to New St. James on our conact page.