About Us

About Toronto Mass Choir

We want to create and perform gospel music that will draw all people into the awesome presence of God.

The Toronto Mass Choir (TMC) continues to be on the cutting edge of the Canadian gospel music scene bringing their distinct gospel sound to the world stage.

Seeds of this traveling ministry were sown during the choir’s initial recording session in October 1988. The choir’s debut album, Great Is Thy Glory, released in April 1990 on the Micah Communications label was re-released as The Early Years. TMC’s second live recording, God is our Hope was released in 1994, followed in April 1998 by its Juno nominated album, Follow Him.

In February 2002, Instrument of Praise was released. That year the Gospel Music Association Canada (GMAC) awarded TMC a Covenant Award for Best Urban/Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year. In 2003, they picked up a Juno Award for Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year; the Vibe Award for Urban/Soul Album of the Year, and the Urban Music Association of Canada Award for Gospel Recording of the Year.

TMC’s music incorporates contemporary gospel, traditional gospel and Caribbean music influences. In particular TMC’s combination of gospel lyrics with a variety of musical styles has resulted in a style unique in Canada.

In November 2005, the choir broke new ground, using a 20-piece orchestra on The Live Experience, which also garnered a GMAC, Covenant Award in 2006 for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year. A Shai Award, the gospel music people’s choice prize, for Urban/Soul album of the year followed in 2007.

The September 2007 release of Going Home, a full Caribbean gospel album, showcased the choir’s soulful style of reggae, calypso, ska and new sounds with the fusion of jazz and reggae.

The release of their seventh album in 2010, A Christmas Gift marked the first Contemporary Gospel Choir Christmas CD release in Canada and showcases TMC at its best. A Christmas Gift also won 2 Covenant Music awards including ‘Seasonal Album of the Year’.

In 2012, as they entered their 25th performance season, Toronto Mass Choir released ‘25’, a CD featuring highlights from over their recording career as well as 4 previously unreleased songs from their early years. That same year, TMC was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gospel Music Association of Canada.

Karen Burke, a graduate of McMaster University, the Royal Conservatory of Music and a Professor of music at York University, is the director of the diversified group of singers and musicians along with her husband, Oswald Burke, who is their Executive Producer. “Toronto Mass Choir is proof that Gospel music is alive and well in Canada and it is has been our privilege to share the Good News of the Gospel for almost 25 years,” said Burke. Burke also conducts numerous gospel music workshops in Canada and internationally. TMC’s official 25th anniversary is October 15, 2013.

Now 35-strong plus a four-piece band, the not for profit choir consists of adult members who are from various local church denominations including Baptist, Church of God, Wesleyan, Missionary, and Pentecostal.

Toronto Mass Choir continues its busy concert schedule, appearing on many radio and television broadcasts for stations such as CTS, CBC Radio One, CITY-TV, FLOW 93.5 FM and been the focus for several television documentaries.

TMC’s travels abroad have taken them to several different countries including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Trinidad and Barbados.

TMC has also been a special guest at countless church services, festivals, award shows and venues such as The Ottawa Bluesfest, Quebec’s La Festival de Musique Sacree de Saint-Roch, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Canadian National Exhibition, Missionfest, the Empire Club of Canada, Roy Thompson Hall with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Hamilton Place with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Gospel Music Workshop of America conventions in Washington, DC, Atlanta and Detroit. The choir has also appeared with well-known Gospel singers such as Tramaine Hawkins, Alvin Slaughter and Take 6, Canadian recording giants such as Michael Burgess and Jane Bunnett and jazz legend, Jon Hendricks. (12/12)

 

About The Director

Karen Burke (Co-Founder & Director)


Born in Brantford, Ontario, Karen Burke entered McMaster University’s Honours music programme in 1979, where she developed an interest in choral conducting. During her time there, Burke received the Louise E. Bettger Scholarship recognizing excellence in choral work; the Humanities Medal for Special Achievement, and the Hamilton Alumnae Branch Award for outstanding graduating female student upon completion of her Bachelor of Music Degree in 1983. Burke also received the A.R.C.T. Diploma in Piano Teaching from the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1985.

Upon graduation from McMaster, Burke accepted a position as a church music director. She and her husband Oswald Burke co-founded Micah Communications Inc., a Gospel music production and publishing company, and established Burke Studios, a private piano teaching studio.

In 1988, Burke co-founded the Toronto Mass Choir’s diversified group of singers and musicians and continues to serve as its Director. She runs the choir with her husband, Oswald Burke, who is Executive Producer, and Assistant Director, Elvis Boddie. Along with her devoted choral staff, Burke develops the choir’s touring schedules and choral arrangements. Since its inception, she has also written many original songs for the choir’s recordings.

“It has been very important for us to showcase Canadian gospel songwriters, share culture and provide an environment for music to be created and recorded,” Burke said of the choir’s latest CD, Going Home.

After a twelve-year stint as a high school music teacher at Toronto District Christian High School, Burke became a Professor in the music department at York University in 2005 and established the York U Gospel Choir. Her music career also includes work as a busy guest speaker, classical piano teacher, adjudicator and clinician offering gospel music workshops. Her venues have included the University of Western Ontario, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Metropolitan Separate School Board and the Ontario Mennonite Music Camp. Burke is often asked to conduct gospel music workshops abroad, most recently in Poland.

Message From the Director

”our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”2 Corinthians 4:7

Many people who have witnessed an appearance by the Toronto Mass Choir often tell us of a powerful, uplifting experience. Our goal is that everyone, including us, will remember where that great power comes from and because of Him, the commitments that we have made as an organization.

First of all, we have a commitment to worship. This is our outward expression of our desire to go deeper in Him and to lift Jesus up so that all men, women and children around the world would know that He is the Christ and be drawn to Him!

Our worship is supported by our commitment to excellence in our music. We strive to create and perform Gospel music, which honours God with meaningful lyrics, excellent presentation and performed by musicians of the highest calibre.

Our worship is also supported by our commitment to excellence in our relationships. We seek to find people who will partner with us with one goal in mind. That is, to share their deep and abiding faith in Jesus through the medium of Gospel music. Our desire is to nurture those relationships and function as a family showing our love for each other.

As we enter into our third decade of ministry, we are amazed at what God has done. Our enduring commitment is to maintain a renewed, unified body of singers and musicians who are sold out to God.

Our vision also includes a new van, our own rehearsal and office facility and future mission trips. We need you to partner with us to meet these very real needs by becoming a regular supporter. Sign-up is also available for our monthly newsletter so that we can keep you informed of the progress in all of these areas and exciting upcoming events.

Our prayer is that GPS (God’s Power Solely) is directing your life and that you run the race that He has set before you. Remember to stay plugged in…

Karen Burke
Director

Frequently Asked Questions

“To create and perform Gospel music that will draw people into the awesome presence of God”.
  1. Initial introductory interview
  2. Completion of Toronto Mass Choir’s official application form
  3. An opportunity to to sing in a choir rehearsal
  4. Successful vocal/musical audition and a personal interview by Director and/or by Membership Panel
  5. A pastoral reference letter
  6. A probation period of not more than 3 months, such period ending at the discretion of the Director and during which the prospective member may attend all rehearsals and other activities of the choir, but may not appear in choir performances.
No. The Toronto Mass Choir is a multi-denominational choir with members from many different evangelical Christian denominations.
The Toronto Mass Choir has a busy touring schedule which is has been primarily in Ontario, Quebec, Eastern States and on a limited basis Western Canada and the Caribbean. The choir has also travelled to 8 different countries including Italy, Romania, England and Poland. Schedules of these ministry opportunities including rehearsals are given out about 3-4 months in advance so members are able to plan their lives around them. The majority of this choir’s engagements include church services and large-scale events and the rest include appearances at ticketed concerts, high schools, banquets, television and radio appearances and other special events such as jazz festivals and benefit concerts.
The choir rehearses on average about twice a month on a Friday evening and sings out on average 2-3 times a month for a total of about 20-25 engagements a year. The choir travels by bus to engagements more than an hour away at no cost to themselves except incidental expenses such as a meal en route. Members are expected to secure their own transportation for engagements in and around the GTA.
It is important for the well-being of the choir that members remain accountable to their families and churches all the while recognizing that our touring schedule often takes place on the weekends including some Sunday mornings.

Achievement Awards

  • 2007 — Shai Award

    Urban/Soul Album of the Year — The Live Experience CD

  • 2006 — Covenant 2006 Award

    Traditional Gospel Album of the Year — The Live Experience CD

  • 2003 — JUNO Award

    Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Yearr — Instrument of Praise CD

  • 2003 — Vibe Award

    Contemporary Urban Gospel Album of the Year — Instrument of Praise CD

  • 2003 — Maja Award

    Gospel Choir of the Year

  • 2003 — Urban Music Association of Canada

    Gospel Album of the Year — Instrument of Praise CD

  • 2002 — Covenant Award

    Gospel Album of the Year — Instrument of Praise CD

  • 1999 — JUNO Award Nomination

    Follow Him CD