Counterpoint Community Orchestra is unique in Canada and in North America and is an important artistic, cultural, and educational outlet for music in the Toronto gay community. It had its humble beginnings in 1984 at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. Not long after, these young, ambitious gay and lesbian musicians formed their own independent organization in order to move closer to the gay community at large, and with this vision became the first secular Lesbian and Gay orchestra in Canada and the world.
Back then, rehearsals were held at the old Parasol Rehearsal Studios on Jarvis Street. At the Parasol, they also began giving frequent concerts which were well attended right from the beginning. The music presented at that time consisted mainly of Baroque and Chamber Music. As the orchestra grew in size and experience, it began to explore other forms of music and moved its rehearsals to the Auditorium of the 519 Centre on Church Street, where it rehearses to this day.
Over the 38 years of its existence, Counterpoint has benefited from a number of experienced conductors, most notably from the University of Toronto School of Music. These especially included Doreen Rao, who holds the University of Toronto Elmer Iseler Chair in Conducting and heads the Faculty of Music graduate program in conducting. An early conductor of the Orchestra, Rosemary Thompson went on to be the Resident Conductor and member of the artistic staff of the Calgary Symphony and is currently the Chorus master of the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus. She is also an Assistant Conductor at the Canadian Opera Company. Another former conductor, Judith Yan went on to become a resident conductor of the Canadian Opera Company, was a staff conductor with the San Francisco Opera, and is currently an assistant conductor of the National Ballet of Canada.
During the last thirteen years, under the leadership of Music Director Terry Kowalczuk, and the guidance of Concert Master Paul Willis, who led the Orchestra for one season when we were without a formal director, Counterpoint has matured greatly. Terry vitalized the orchestra by bringing in new soloists and performers, and by developing a challenging music programme that has inspired the Orchestra members.
In 2005 Counterpoint underwent a significant organizational change, building toward a promising future. By incorporating and forming a Board of Directors it was hoped that the Orchestra’s ability to create a more effective organizing body as well as increase opportunities for funding future seasons would be greatly enhanced.
In the end, and because of the several hundred loyal and vigorous community musicians and volunteers who figuratively “passed through our doors” over the years, Counterpoint has continued resilience for the future and continues to support the principles of the spirit and muses of music, and in the advocacy of equality and diversity that builds community.