Elmer Iseler


In a career that spanned five decades, Elmer Iseler proved himself pivotal to the development of choral music in Canada. After founding Canada’s first professional choir in 1954, he became artistic director and conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. In 1979 he established Canada’s leading chamber choir, the Elmer Iseler Singers. He also enjoyed a long association with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducting more than 150 performances of Handel’s Messiah and premiering complex twentieth-century music.

Under his baton, choirs achieved international stature for technical brilliance and artistic versatility. He has, in the estimation of many, created a vibrant, world-class choral infrastructure in Canada.

The most decorated musician in Canada, honoured with many awards nationally and internationally, Iseler has made an impact that will continue undiminished through his many recordings, the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Elmer Iseler Chair in Conducting, and the Elmer Iseler National Graduate Fellowships in Choral Conducting at the University of Toronto.


"This biography of Elmer Iseler, the famous Canadian choral conductor, guides us from his childhood in a family headed by a Lutheran pastor to his death in 1998 with remarkable detail, precision, and openness."

The Music Scene, Winter (January, 2009)

"Walter Pitman's biography of Elmer Iseler presents a charismatic conductor whose impact on choral music in this country has never been matched. Pitman's own experiences with Iseler enliven this elegantly written, compelling biography."

WholeNote (October, 2008)

"Walter Pitman benefited from the full cooperation of the Iseler family as well as that of many friends and colleagues to bring readers as complete a picture as possible of this musical icon. The book reads well and will surely be of interest to veteran and younger choral musicians alike."

Anacrusis (January, 2008)

About the Author

Walter Pitman

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Walter Pitman

Walter Pitman was a federal MP and an Ontario MLA, president of Ryerson University, and director of the Ontario Arts Council. He was a Member of the Order of Ontario; an Officer of the Order of Canada; and the author of Elmer Iseler, Music Makers, and Louis Applebaum.