Shannon Graham & the Storytellers

Shannon Graham is a composer/saxophonist/singer/violist. Her music blends elements of classical, jazz, and pop to create a style which is expressive, honest, and at times quite odd. She is pleased to have had her music described as "art for those who want art and entertainment for those who want entertainment".

Shannon performs with her ten person band Shannon Graham and The Storytellers and released their self-titled album in April 2013. Shannon Graham and The Storytellers do just what their name suggests; perform programmatic music to express narratives ranging from personal tales of heart ache and growing pains, to settings of texts from acclaimed writers. Click here to learn more.

Shannon is an Artistic Producer with Spectrum Music; an organization dedicated to presenting concerts that feature Toronto's emerging chamber jazz movement. For more information visit

Shannon was raised in Edmonton, Alberta and now lives in Toronto, Ontario. She has a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Performance from the University of Toronto.

Avon Yu

One of Canada's most exciting young pianists, Avan Yu achieved international recognition when he triumphed at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2012, winning First Prize along with nine special awards. Hailed as a "pianistic force with an astonishing sensitivity far beyond his years", Avan Yu has appeared as soloist with orchestras and conductors around the world, including Rafael Fruehbeck de Burgos and the Dresden Philharmonic, Pinchas Zukerman and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, and Christian Arming and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Morocco Philharmonic, Real Filharmonica de Galicia, Slovak Radio Orchestra, Victoria Symphony, Windsor Symphony, and Nova Scotia Symphony Orchestra.

In recital, Avan has performed at the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Salle Cortot in Paris, and the Nacional Auditorio de Música in Madrid. He is an avid chamber musician and has collaborated with celebrated musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Cuarteto Casals, Armida Quartett, Johannes Moser, and Geoff Nuttall.

Born in Hong Kong, Avan moved at the age of nine to Vancouver with his family. He studied with Kenneth Broadway and Ralph Markham in Vancouver, before moving to Berlin to study with Klaus Hellwig at the Berlin University of the Arts.

Avan won the Gold Medal at the Canadian Chopin Competition at the age of seventeen, and the Silver Medal and People's Choice Award at the Santander International Piano Competition in 2008. His performances have been broadcast on WQXR Radio in New York, Bayerischer Rundfunk, the CBC, the Australian Broadcasting Network, China Central Television and Radio, Radiotelevisión Española, Radio Nacional de España, the NDR Kultur Hamburg and the Südwestrundfunk. He has just recorded a CD of Liszt/Schubert Transcriptions for NAXOS which will be released later this year.

Ben Heppner

Ben Heppner is recognized worldwide as the finest dramatic tenor before the public today. He excels in the most challenging roles, from Wagner's Tristan and Lohengrin to Verdi's Otello and Berlioz' Aeneas. He is acclaimed in music capitals around the world for his beautiful voice, intelligent musicianship and sparkling dramatic sense. His performances on the opera stage, in concert with the world's leading orchestras, in the most prestigious recital venues, and in recordings have set new standards in his demanding repertoire.

During the 2007-2008 season, Mr. Heppner will make more than 25 concert appearances throughout Europe and North America, beginning with recitals throughout Ontario and a gala evening at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Fans can also look forward to seeing him perform at some of the most famous venues in the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie and the Metropolitan Opera. It is at the Met that Heppner will once again join with James Levine for a performance of Tristan und Isolde, which will be simulcast in movie theatres throughout North America and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Heppner studied music at the University of British Columbia. He first gained national attention in 1979 as the winner of the Canadian Broadcasting Company Talent Festival. In December 1998, CBC television's Something Special featured Ben Heppner in an hour-long portrait of the artist. He is a 1988 winner of the Metropolitan Opera auditions and is both a Grammy Award

Toronto Masque Theatre

Toronto Masque Theatre was founded by artistic director Larry Beckwith in 2003 as a multi-disciplinary performing arts organization dedicated to the revival of music theatre works from the 16th to 18th centuries and the commissioning of new works in the spirit of the masque from Canadian creative artists. Since then, TMT has produced close to two dozen critically-acclaimed productions.

Choir of Trinity College Cambridge

Recently voted the fifth best choir in the world in Gramophone magazine's "20 Greatest Choirs", The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge comprises around thirty Choral Scholars and two Organ Scholars, all of whom are ordinarily undergraduates of the College. The College's choral tradition dates back to the all-male choir of the fourteenth century, when former Chapel Royal choristers studied in King's Hall which later became part of Trinity College. Directors of Music have included Charles Villiers Stanford, Alan Gray, Raymond Leppard and Richard Marlow. Female voices were introduced in the 1980s by Richard Marlow, in a new departure for Cambridge choral music. Stephen Layton has been Director of Music since 2006. During term the Choir's main focus is the singing of the liturgy in the College Chapel, exploring a wide-ranging repertoire drawn from both Catholic and Protestant traditions. Outside term, the Choir's programme ofperformances and recordings recently included a BBC broadcast of Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in London, Haydn's Nelson Mass with the City of London Sinfonia in Aldeburgh and Cambridge, Poulenc'sGloria with Britten Sinfonia in Norwich Cathedral, and Handel's Dettingen Te Deum with the Academy of Ancient Music in London and Cambridge. Recent additions to the Choir's extensive discography include Howells' Requiem & other works, which won a Gramophone Award in 2012; Beyond All Mortal Dreams, settings of contemporary American a cappella music, which was nominated for a US Grammy Award in 2012; Baltic Exchange, choral music from the Baltic region; David Briggs' Mass for Notre Dame; Handel's Dettingen Te Deum; Handel's Chandos Anthems; Britten's A Ceremony of Carols & St Nicolas and new works by Polish composer Pawel Lukaszewski, all released on the Hyperion label. The latest release is a recording of Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Beyond All Mortal Dreams was described by Classic FM Magazine as a "glorious album ... that will repay repeated listening for years to come"; the Lukaszewski disc was hailed as "magical and sophisticated" by International Record Review; and the Briggs disc was described by Gramophone as "one of the finest CDs of sacred choral and organ music you'll ever hear". Its ambitious programme of tours has taken the Choir to destinations in Europe, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Peru. In 2010, the Choir spent a month touring Australia, and in 2012 tour concerts included sold-out performances at the American Guild of Organists National Convention and the Cathedrals of Atlanta and Memphis.

ANAHTAR – Sketches of İstanbul

 Andrew Downing & Friends

featuring Güç Başar Gülle
(from Turkey)

and guest vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon

The great city of İstanbul, Turkey with its history, culture, scenery and politics is reflected in this musical celebration of the world's great meeting point of East and West Canadian musician and composer Andrew Downing has been spending time each year in Turkey's largest city and has formed a musical partnership with ud (Turkish lute) player Güç Başar Gülle. Their shared interest in developing music across borders mixed with immersion in centuries-old Ottoman music has culminated in a unique collaboration with the depth, warmth, complexity and soul of the legendary and timeless city of İstanbul. Joining Güç and Andrew in this concert will be Peter Lutek (clarinet), Ben Grossman (percussion) and special guest Brenna MacCrimmon, an internationally acclaimed singer of Turkish folk music.

Cecelia String Quartet

Min-Jeong Koh | Sarah Nematallah | Caitlin Boyle | Rachel Desoer

Taking their name from St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, the Cecilia String Quartet continues to win praise following their 2010 First Prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition.

The CSQ is currently in residence at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, a position that has been made possible by a generous gift from BMO Financial Group and, until recently, they were Quartet Fellows at The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory. They have presented educational programs for elementary and high schools across Canada, the USA, Italy, and France. European tours have taken the four Toronto-based Canadian musicians to the Concertgebouw Kleine Zaal (Amsterdam), Beethoven-Haus (Bonn), Wigmore Hall (London) and venues in Italy, Belgium, Canada and the United States.

In addition to performing, they have a four-CD contract with ANALEKTA. The first recording of music by Dvořák was released in March 2012. The second recording of music by Janáček, Berg, and Webern, entitled Amoroso, was released in spring 2013.

Min-Jeong Koh plays on the ca. 1767 Joannes Baptista Guadagnini violin and Sarah Nematallah plays on the 1851 Jean Baptiste Vuillaume violin, both on loan from anonymous donors. Rachel Desoer recently won the use of the 1929 Carlo Giuseppe Oddone cello from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Donna Bennett

Donna Bennett

Westben Concerts at the Barn — Advancement & Marketing Director

Co-Founder and Advancement & Marketing Director of the Westben Arts Festival Theatre in Campbellford, Canadian soprano Donna Bennett is active on both sides of the concert stage.

Since co-founding Westben in 1999 with Brian Finley, she has acted as the organization’s principal administrative coordinator, a position which grew into Assistant Managing Director in 2001, and now includes her duties as Marketing Director. With her wealth of international experience on stages around the world, she brings a great deal of practical experience to the operations of Westben, as well as to its stage.

 “…from opera and musical comedy…a glorious voice!” (Harry Currie, Kitchener Record)

Canadian soprano Donna Bennettis known to audiences internationally for her performances ranging from opera and oratorio to Broadway and musical theatre.  Operatically, she has performed leading roles at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the London International Opera Festival, the Henze Festival in Montepulciano, Italy, as well as in Berlin, Neuberg, Torontoand New York.  Other career highlights include the role of Dede in the British premiere of Bernstein's A Quiet Place and Ariana in the world premiere of R. Murray Shafer's The Enchanted Forest.

 In Canada, Donna has sung with the Canadian Opera Company, the Royal Opera, Opera Atelier, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Tafelmusik, Toronto Symphonietta, Orchestra London, Victoria Symphony and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.  Having toured extensively across Canadawith pianist and husband Brian Finley, Donna’sdiscography includes Henze's opera The English Cat and a collection of Mozart Arias and Lieder recorded live at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, A Christmas of Love & Light, Lullabies for Benjamin, andLove's Old Sweet Songs.  In addition to several recitals and orchestral appearances, her performances with Westben include roles ranging from Maria in The Sound of Music, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar , Delilah in Brian Finley’s opera-musical SAMSON, the title role in Brian’s Rapunzel opposite Michael Burgess and in June 2010 Donna created the role of Linette in The Selfish Giant a new musical by Brian and Ken Tizzard.  Several of her performances have also been recorded for CBC, CFMX, KING-FM (Seattle), and the BBC in London.

Brian Finley

Brian Finley

Brian Finley – Pianist, Composer, Conductor, Director
Artistic & Managing Director – Westben Arts Festival Theatre

Brian Finley is the co-founder of Westben Arts Festival Theatre as well as its Artistic & Managing Director. He also continues his multi-faceted career as a pianist, composer, director and impresario.

As a pianist, Brian has performed with numerous orchestras including the Dallas Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic as well as at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington, Wigmore Hall in London, England and the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.  He has appeared in over 10 international piano competitions including the 8th International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, and he won the third prize in the AMSA International Competition in Cincinnati as well as the Gina Bachauer Award in Dallas.

Brian’s compositions range from solo piano music to songs, choral works and arrangements for full symphony orchestra that have been heard from Victoria to Vienna. Many of his compositions, including his 70-minute Requiem for a Millennium, have been published internationally by Boosey & Hawkes in New York. His recordings include a collection of solo piano music from Wigmore Hall, three critically acclaimed CDs with his wife, soprano Donna Bennett as well as several recordings for CBC, CFMX, KING-Fm in the US and Soviet Television. As a director he has staged musical productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music, Requiem for a Millennium, his own musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for Westben.  In addition, he has written and produced opera-musicals: SAMSON (2001) and Rapunzel (2005) and The Selfish Giant (co-written with Ken Tizzard in 2010). Other original projects include music-dramas (The Loves of Clara, My Brother Wolfgang and Notes of Mozart), A Westben Christmas Carol (2002), The Match Girl Messiah (co-written with Ken Tizzard in 2006), The Littlest Angel (2007), and The Magic Ornament (co-written with Michael Nitsch in 2008)

Winner of two Floyd S. Chalmers Awards from the Ontario Arts Council, Brian holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto as well as an ARCT.  Principal teachers include William Aide, Boris Lysenko and the Schnabel pupil Maria Curcio with whom he worked in London, England. He has been a full scholarship student at the Banff Centre and the Victoria International Festival, as well as a frequent performer at the Olympic Music Festival in Washington.  In 2002, Brian was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his work within his community and with his fellow Canadians.

Performer Website

Virginia Hatfield

Virginia Hatfield


As Leila in The Pearl Fishers with Opera Hamilton – "The Pearl Fishers’ priestess, Léïla, as depicted by soprano Virginia Hatfield is a woman of formidable strength and dignity. In Bizet’s plugged-in, highly charged work, the goal is to sing with an absolutely clear sense of emotional purpose, honestly, directly, with great engagement. Hatfield hits the mark with seeming effortlessness. Leila’s enchanting cavatina in which her love for Nadir overflows in a wave of heartfelt expression, Comme autrefois dans la nuit sombre becomes a moment of intense beauty in Hatfield’s meticulously focused rendition."


Soprano Virginia Hatfield is becoming known across Canada for her 'beguiling' performances (The Globe and Mail) and 'gobs of charisma' (Toronto Star). Recent opera roles for this versatile artist include Zerlina (Don Giovanni) and Marzelline (Fidelio), both with the Canadian Opera Company, as well as debuts with Pacific Opera Victoria - Italian Singer (Capriccio), Opera Hamilton - Musetta (La Bohème), and Toronto’s Opera in Concert, singing the title role of Elena in Rossini's La Donna del Lago. Highlights of the 2010/2011 season include premieres of Canadian and Mexican works with Soundstreams Canada and renowned Mexican percussion ensemble Tambuco for the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico and at Koerner Hall in Toronto; performances of Messiah with the symphony orchestras of Thunder Bay and Windsor; Bach’s Ich habe genug with Kevin Mallon and the Aradia Ensemble at Glenn Gould Studio, and her debut with Saskatoon Opera as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. As a member of the prestigious Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio from 2005-07, Virginia performed the roles of Pamina (The Magic Flute), Miss Wordsworth (Albert Herring), Frasquita (Carmen), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), the Fifth Maid (Elektra), and Laura (LuisaMiller). With the COC Ensemble, Virginia created the role of Leah in James Rolfe’s Swoon. Virginia debuted with Montreal’s Ensemble Caprice in 2011 (Matthias Maute, conductor), singing arias from Handel’s Alcina. Further concert performances for this expressive artist include Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Guelph Chamber Choir, Christmas Oratorio with both Windsor and Kingston Symphony and Haydn’s Creation with Vancouver Bach Choir. In her hometown of Campbellford, Virginia joins Westben Concerts this July for “Mozart in Vienna”. Virginia's performances in in 2012/13 include Angelica in Handel’s Orlando with Opera in Concert, and Leila in The Pearl Fishers with Opera Hamilton. as Musetta in La Bohème with Opera Hamilton as Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Canadian Opera Company.



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