Helios is Atlantic Canada’s premier vocal ensemble, performing sacred and secular music from the Renaissance and beyond. Its members include Eszter Horvath (soprano), music director at All Saints Cathedral, Halifax; Elisabeth Stones (soprano), National Youth Choir alumna; Andrew Pickett (alto), former lay clerk at Manchester Cathedral; Garth MacPhee (tenor), music director at St George’s Round Church, Halifax; and John Mark Dawson (bass), former boy chorister at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa. They made their début in early 2015 with “Madrigal Mystery Tour,” for the Conference of the Early Modern at the University of King’s College.
Eszter Horvath (soprano) holds a BMus from Dalhousie University, is pursuing an MMus in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Toronto, and is equally versed in orchestral and choral conducting. She has a special interest in Renaissance and Baroque music, and is the past president of the Early Music Society of Nova Scotia (EMSNS). Eszter was the interim music director at the Cathedral Church of All Saints in 2015–15, and at St. George’s Round Church in 2010–11. She was associate conductor of the Nova Scotia Youth Choir in 2013 and 2014, and also directs the the EMSNS Madrigal Group, which she founded in 2012. She was music director for Cosi fan tutte at the Halifax Summer Opera Festival in 2016. Eszter is also proficient on violin and viola, having served as concertmaster at Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts (Toronto) and principal second violinist in the Chebucto Symphony Orchestra (2006-2011).
Elisabeth can't remember a time when she did not sing, having sung with her large musical family from an early age. Her first foray into choral sacred music was as an 8-year-old in the Junior Choir at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in St John's, NL, which turned out to be only the beginning of her life in the choir loft. While completing her degree in Classics and English at the University of King's College in Halifax she joined the King’s Chapel Choir and the choir at St. George's Anglican Church, which led her to pursue interests in oratorio and chamber music. In 2012 she represented Nova Scotia in the National Youth Choir of Canada, and in recent years she has taken part in various chamber music vocal ensembles, including Lingua Dulcis, The Halifax Camerata Singers, The Prince Edward Consort, and The St George's Consort.
When she is not singing (and sometimes even when she is!), Elisabeth is usually knitting.
Counter-tenor Andrew Pickett's singing has been described by Opera Today as “the sweetest liquid legato.” He received his Master of Music from the University of Western Ontario, and then spent four years in the UK, earning a graduate diploma at the Royal College of Music and studying with such notable experts in the vocal Baroque as Dame Emma Kirkby, James Bowman, and Michael Chance. Andrew has performed major roles in operas by Handel, Monteverdi, Cavalli, Purcell and Jonathan Dove, and been a soloist in works by Purcell, Charpentier, Handel, Britten, and Bach in the UK, Europe, and Canada. He is an alumnus of the National Youth Choir of Canada and the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. Andrew lives in Halifax where he works as a voice teacher and early music clinician, and is president of the Early Music Society of Nova Scotia.
Garth MacPhee is a native Nova Scotian and a graduate of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University (M.Mus '06), where he studied organ with John Grew and Dr William Porter. Garth currently serves as Director of Music at Saint George's Round Church. He also serves as the resident musician for the Anglican Formation Class at the Atlantic School of Theology, teaching voice to postulants and playing for class liturgies. Garth draws particular inspiration from Gregorian Chant, Renaissance polyphony and the music of J. S. Bach. Whether playing the organ, singing or conducting, Church Music is the heart of Garth's musical vocation.
Michael van der Gaag
Hailing from Canada’s smallest province, Michael van der Gaag graduated from UPEI with a Bachelor of
Music in 2010, with a focus on Vocal Performance under the direction of Stephen Bouey. During his time at UPEI. Michael is honoured to have been part of countless choral experiences, including singing with the National Youth Choir of Canada
in 2008, 2010 and 2012 (under Julian Wachner, Viki Meredith, and Ivars Taurins respectively.) Michael also
had the privilege of singing in Vancouver as a guest ensemble member of musica intima during their 2012
Michael has performed as a tenor soloist for Handel’s “Messiah”, Haydn’s “The Creation”, Mozart’s
“Requiem”, Rossini’s “Petit Messe Solennelle”, and Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater”. He currently lives in Halifax, NS, actively singing with the Halifax Camerata Singers, under the direction of Jeff Joudrey. He also regularly tours with the Canadian Chamber Choir, under Dr. Julia Davids. He currently studies with Lucy Hayes-Davies, and works as a freelance musician in the Maritimes.
He is the proud father of Lillian van der Gaag, a mischievous five-year-old and a budding triple threat, who enjoys Disney songs and dancing to whatever she can find on YouTube.
Spencer hails from Kitchener, Ontario. His choral experience began at a young age, with the Grand Philharmonic Youth Choir (directed by Nancy Tanguay and Howard Dyck), with highlighted performances including Bach's St Matthew's Passion featuring Ben Heppner, and Carmina Burana with the Mendelssohn Choir in Toronto, and a tour to England for the Shrewsbury International Music Festival. A participant in choirs and operatic courses at Mount Allison University (Gayle h. Martin and Helen Pridmore), Spencer continued to practice music through his graduate studies, including singing with Toronto's Amadeus Choir (Lydia Adams).
Since moving to Halifax in 2014, Spencer has sung with the Halifax Camerata Singers (Jeff Joudrey), Vox: a Choir for Social Change (Scott Jones and Jack Bennet), the 19 (Tristan Cleveland-Thompson), and Eastern Horizon (Jack Bennett and Christina Murray). He has also worked with conductors Charles Bruffy, Mitchell Pady, and Kellie Walsh.
When he's not singing in public, you'll find him singing to his son Elliot, his wife Jessica, and his long-suffering asthmatic cat, Artemis.