Interview – Resources provided by Susan Farrell

As part of the podcast series, “ArtsAbly in Conversation,” Diane Kolin interviewed Susan Farrell, choir director, musical director, and conductor of several choirs in Edmonton in Alberta.

A white woman with dark red hair wearing glasses with blue frames and semi circular golden earring. She wars a black cardigan over a black and white top.

This post presents the resources that she mentioned during the conversation. The episode will be published soon.

Susan Farrell

Nova Scotia native Susan Farrell (B.Mus. Mount Allison University, M.Mus. University of Alberta Choral Conducting) has been making waves in Alberta the last several years as a rising choral conductor. Susan conducts the Braille Tones and Semitones choirs, which serve adults and children with disabilities in Edmonton. She can be found leading music at St. Paul’s United Church on the weekends, too! Susan’s sense of fun guides her singers to create a sense of community and her enthusiasm for singing encourages them to find and celebrate their own unique voices.

Visit Susan Farrell’s page on The Braille Tones’ website

Visit Susan Farrell’s page on Korora choirs’ website

The Braille Tones

The Braille Tone Music Society of Canada is a Registered Charity that provides musical enrichment for persons with disabilities in the Edmonton area. Their programming currently includes the Braille Tone Choir, the Semitones Children’s and Youth Choir, and funding for private music lessons. The organization originally offered services geared towards persons with visual impairments (thus the name) but has since expanded to serve persons with all disabilities. They are an inclusive artistic community that pursues engaging and rewarding musical experiences for all of its members, beyond any limiting factor. Their mission is to empower individuals of varying abilities to pursue professional instruction in music through our choirs and lesson subsidies, without significant cost to these individuals, in an inclusive and fun atmosphere.

Visit The Braille Tones’ website

Tamariki, Korora children choir

Tamariki is Korora’s youngest ensemble. With an emphasis on play and discovery, this group explores singing and music in a secure but exciting environment. In a typical season, Tamariki’s members rehearse in several separate groups of 15 to 30 singers, combining for performances into a full choir with around 45 members. ‘Tamariki’ (tah-mah-REE-kee) is the Maori word for ‘children’—because nothing goes better together than children and music, after all!

Visit Tamariki’s page on Korora choirs’ website

Orán, Korora adult choir

Centering authenticity and expressiveness in performance, Òran is the busiest adult choir in the Korora Choirs family. Along with many Korora alumni, the group has singers from many other walks of life, but all share a passion for choral music and singing. Òran has garnered a growing reputation for excellence in choral singing as well as innovative and eclectic programming. Òran has toured extensively over its nearly twenty years, with destinations including Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Cuba, Germany, France, and the Czech Republic. The choir has also been honoured by two invitations to sing at Podium, Canada’s biennial national conference for choral music. Closer to home, Òran is thrilled to share the stage with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra a few times every season.

Visit Orán’s page on Korora choirs’ website

Carmen So

Carmen So is the former artistic director of the Braille Tones before Susan Farrell. She was the student of Scott Leithead. Carmen So fell in love with the world of choral music at first sing, when she joined Korora in 1997! Experiencing human connection through voices in harmony inspired her to pursue a career in music education. Ms. So is the founding director of Korora’s award-winning children’s choir, Kikimasu. In her seventeenth year with the Edmonton Public School Board, she is currently the music specialist at Rutherford School. Ms. So attained her Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Education combined degrees (2004) and Master of Education degree specializing in Elementary Music (2015) from the University of Alberta. She holds level III certification in both Kodály and Orff Schulwerk, and annually travels out east to further her studies in Dalcroze with Dalcroze Canada. As a lifelong learner, she is always searching for opportunities to learn and adores all things involving artistic and creative pedagogical practices.

Visit Carmen So’s page on Korora choirs’ website

Scott Leithead

Scott Leithead is the founder of the Braille Tones, and the founder and Artistic Director of Edmonton’s Korora Choir Association and TIME Association. He has been invited to conduct provincial and state honour choirs on twenty-six occasions and he has presented workshops in North America and beyond. Notable appearances include: adjudicating the Tampere International Festival in Finland; conducting the 2013, 2015-2019, 2023 Ellison Canadian Honour Choir. He has adjudicated both the ACCC National Competition for Amateur Canadian Choirs and the Kathaumixw International Choir Festival (2014, 2016, 2023). Under his direction, Korora was the winner of both the 2015 CBC National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs and both the 2015 and 2016 Canadian National Music Competition.  In the summer of 2019, Korora was invited to perform at the IFCM World Choral Expo in Portugal, where they represented Canada on the world stage.  Also in 2019, Korora was featured on an episode of CTV’s “The Amazing Race Canada”.

Visit Scott Leithead’s page on Korora choirs’ website

Scott Jones

Scott Jones is a writer/director and playwright from Nova Scotia, Canada. After a homophobic attack paralyzed him, Scott has gravitated towards forms of artistic expression that ruminate on and examine disabled grief, resilience, and hope -stories that dive into the depths of the human experience. He explores these themes through live action, animation, and documentary work. Scott loves film and TV narratives that boldly convey the intersections of disability, queerness, and/or sexuality. Ten years ago, choral conductor Scott Jones was stabbed outside a bar in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and left paralyzed. His story received extensive media attention when he publicly forgave his attacker, and was featured in the 2018 documentary Love, Scott. Opening next week at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the play I Forgive You, which he wrote in collaboration with Robert Chafe and the theatrical production company Artistic Fraud, revisits this experience and includes Jones conducting a children’s choir live on stage.

Read more about Scott Jones

Read the article “Scott Jones on Forgiveness” on Akimbo’s website

Watch the documentary about Scott Jones “Love, Scott”

Alexis Hillyard

Alexis Hillyard is Braille Tones’ ukulele instructor. She is the founder of Stump Kitchen, centring disabled bodies and celebrating the unique ways we move through the world. She has transformed her stump into playful, intricate cosplay characters, cooking tasty recipes using her stump as a kitchen tool, and sharing her content through social media. She is driven by society’s lack of authentic disability representation, hoping to fill that gap with her magical stump characters and delicious one-handed recipes. As an educator by trade, she is passionate about speaking with audiences of all ages about the importance of disability representation, accessibility, cooking, and cosplays, and share stories that centre her experience as a disabled, queer creator. Her Stump Kitchen work has spoken to many different audiences, places, ages, and her online content is enjoyed by folks globally.

Visit Alexis Hillyard’s page on the Braille Tones’ website

Visit Alexis Hillyard’s Stump Kitchen website

Visit Alexis Hillyard’s Stump Kitchen YouTube channel