artistic team 2017-09-13T22:23:19+00:00

artistic team

Music Director Leonard Ratzlaff joined the Department of Music at University of Alberta in 1981 as professor of choral music, and at the same time was appointed the Music Director of Richard Eaton Singers. A native of Alberta, Ratzlaff took his music training in British Columbia and Manitoba, and his doctoral studies in conducting at the University of Iowa. In over three decades with Richard Eaton Singers, he has developed them into one of the leading symphonic choirs in Canada. In addition to their own series of concerts, Richard Eaton Singers collaborate regularly with the Edmonton Symphony and the Alberta Baroque Ensemble. Len has conducted the choir in most of the major choral/orchestral works from the oratorios of Bach and Handel to the present day, and has premiered commissioned works by Canadian composers Violet Archer, Allan Bevan, John Estacio, Malcolm Forsyth, Allan Gilliland, Christos Hatzis, Imant Raminsh and Mark Sirett. Under his direction Richard Eaton Singers have conducted tours to various parts of Canada as well as to Europe, and have produced several CD recordings. As a member of the faculty at University of Alberta, he has been instrumental in developing the most established graduate program in choral conducting in Canada, and he directs the U of A Madrigal Singers, one of the foremost university choirs in the country. Dr Ratzlaff is a member of the Order of Canada and the Alberta Order of Excellence, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Assistant Conductor, Ben Ewert, is a doctoral student in the DMus choral conducting program at the University of Alberta. He recently moved to Edmonton from Vancouver, BC with his lovely wife (Krista), three energetic kids (Jakob, Ella and Audrey) and neurotic labrador retriever (Søren). After completing undergraduate music studies at Prairie Bible College and Trinity Western University, Ben worked as the Executive Director of the Three Hills Arts Academy in Three Hills, Alberta where he had the opportunity to coordinate the ACSI Musicale Band and Choral Festival and conduct with the Wild Rose Chamber Choir, the Arts Academy Chamber Orchestra and the Canadian Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller.

In 2012, Ben completed his M.Mus in Choral Studies at the University of Cambridge, England where he studied conducting under Stephen Layton, Director of Music at Trinity College, Cambridge and Polyphony. While there, he held the post of conductor of the Churchill Chapel Choir and had the privilege of working with many of the other Cambridge College choirs, including King’s and Clare College.

Upon returning to Vancouver, Ben founded the Oculus Chamber Choir, an ensemble of young singers dedicated to the performance of sacred choral music. He also directed the University Community Children’s Choir and MGV Lyra, Vancouver’s German male chorus.

Resident accompanist Leanne Regehr is a sensitive musician who is committed to performing and teaching within solo, chamber music and operatic genres. Currently based in Edmonton where she serves on the faculties of the University of Alberta and The King’s University College, she has performed in music centres across North America, most recently as the soloist in a live recording of Victor Davies’ Mennonite Piano Concerto with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

She holds a Doctor of Music in Piano Performance from Northwestern University. Leanne’s reputation in opera has grown through engagements as a répétiteur with Shreveport Opera, Mercury Opera, and Edmonton Opera. Her dedication to the development of young singers has been recognized through her work as a faculty member with Opera NUOVA, a staff pianist for Sherrill Milnes’ VoicExperience Program in Florida, as well as a Coaching Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. In addition to her freelance career as a soloist, vocal coach, recital partner, and adjudicator.

After early studies in London, alternate accompanist Jeremy Spurgeon won scholarships to study both piano accompaniment and organ at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and later studied organ at the Geneva Conservatoire where he gained the Premier Prix de la Classe de Virtuosite. His teachers have been Eileen Sullivan, Eric Pask, Lorna Sergeant, Ronald Frost, Eric Chadwick, Lionel Rogg and Dame Gillian Weir.

In 1980, Jeremy took up the position as director of music at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral in Edmonton, Alberta. Since then, he has appeared in concert with many ensembles, singers and instrumentalists in Canada, the United States and Europe. As well as his many and varied cathedral duties, Jeremy has a busy concert schedule. During the past season, he has played in performances of Britten’s Canticles I and II, Britten’s Winter Words, Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin, Bach’s St John Passion, Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Shostakovitch’s 13th Symphony, Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to name but a few. Jeremy is the resident accompanist for Pro Coro Canada, Edmonton’s semi-professional choir and recently appeared on Bravo! TV with aspiring singers from western Canada. He is heard frequently on CBC radio.

His favourite pastime is cycling in rural France with the wind behind him.

Alto Section Leader Erin Craig

Janet SmithA native of Detroit, Michigan, Soprano Section Leader Janet Smith received a Master of Music degree in Voice and Opera from the University of Michigan, then immigrated to Canada to sing with the Elmer Iseler Singers in Toronto. During 10 years there, she also did many solo music broadcasts for CBC Radio, was soloist with orchestras and choirs, was a member of the Canadian Opera Chorus, and, later, a member of the Canadian Opera Ensemble.

She was invited to Edmonton on a one-year contract with Edmonton Opera and, after that initial year, she and her husband Derril Butler co-founded Alberta Opera Touring Association, a company that presented “fairy tale opera” to school students, and, on weekends, Broadway musicals to community groups. She performed throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan to thousands of children and adults. Thinking that she might be “aging out” of the character of Little Red Riding Hood, she went to U of A and got a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy and worked in rural home care for many years, continuing to make music with Pro Coro Canada, Da Camera Singers, and as a soloist and workshop/retreat teacher for local choirs.

Now “retired” from Home Care, Janet teaches voice to students from age 5 to 73, is section lead/vocal coach with Richard Eaton Singers and Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus, and also sings with Chronos Vocal Ensemble and Lac Ste. Anne Community Choir (based in Alberta Beach). There is still time in the schedule for new challenges, though, should they come along!

Bass Section Leader, Graham Fast

Tenor Section Leader, RJ Chambers began his love of music in early childhood. He started studying piano as a young boy and began vocal and choral training shortly after. After graduating from high school, RJ pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with an emphasis in vocal performance and graduated with honours. In the summer of 2014, RJ completed a Masters in Music degree in Choral Conducting at the University of Alberta under the direction of Dr Leonard Ratzlaff. RJ currently teaches voice, piano, and advanced music theory in Edmonton and accompanies vocalists at many local events. RJ serves as an executive member of the Alberta Music Festival Association and currently works as a tenor section lead in Richard Eaton Singers and Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus. As a conductor, RJ serves as the Choral Assistant for Ante Meridiem and as the Artistic Director for the Parkland Celebration Choir.