Conductor Lydia Adams appointed to the Order of Canada

Order of Canada medals (photo: MCpl Anis Assari, Rideau Hall)
Lydia Adams (photo: Maura McGroarty, 2023)
Lydia Adams (photo: Maura McGroarty, 2023)

The Elmer Iseler Singers are thrilled to congratulate Lydia Adams, C.M. on her appointment to the Order of Canada, announced by Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, on June 30th, 2023. We join in honouring Lydia for her dedication and leadership in enriching the lives of Canadians through choral music.

In responding to this recognition, Lydia Adams said, “I am greatly honoured to have been awarded the Order of Canada. It is with deep appreciation that I thank my family, friends, teachers, singers, colleagues, managers and Board members, who are each an integral part of this amazing moment. This award honours each of you. I feel so fortunate in life to have been given the rich opportunity throughout my career to collaborate with such incredible people who share a passion for choral music. ‘Singing in community’ is described by the great conductor Robert Shaw as ‘ennobling’ to the human spirit. This is why we sing – to make music that sends much needed harmony into the world.  Singing inspiring music together ennobles our own spirit and creates a positive force in the world. Bringing people together in harmony helps us to gain a greater understanding of humanity, and helps make the world a better place.”

Adams, artistic director and conductor of Canada’s Elmer Iseler Singers for 25 years, and the Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto for 35 years, has led both choirs with distinction to national acclaim.  

Lydia Adams began her musical education with her mother, Florence Adams, and with Marguerite MacDougall in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Her musical studies flourished at Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, and the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio, both in London, England, where she studied and worked with the esteemed conductor, Sir David Willcocks. Subsequently, she worked extensively in Toronto with renowned Canadian conductor, Elmer Iseler.

Lydia Adams passionately promotes and builds the future of choral music in Canada through workshops, masterclasses, concerts and educational outreach initiatives, creating outstanding opportunities for choral musicians to develop and grow. Throughout her career, Adams has championed the works of many prominent Canadian creators, and she continues to inspire and promote the creations of emerging and established composers. She has toured extensively with her choirs and has recorded 18 CDs with them. She often collaborates with major orchestras and guest artists, and she has served as guest conductor and clinician throughout Canada and the United States.

Adams has received numerous recognitions for her contributions to Canadian music, including Honorary Doctor of Music from Mount Allison University (2003) and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Cape Breton University (2018).  She is the recipient of the 2000 Charles Frederick Allison Distinguished Alumni Award from Mount Allison University, the 2012 Toronto Arts Foundation’s Roy Thompson Hall Award of Recognition, and the 2013 Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Her work has been recognized by the City of Scarborough, the Women’s Intercultural Network and Choirs Ontario. Awards from Canada’s national choral organization, Choral Canada, include Outstanding Choral CD (2002), Outstanding Choral Event (2012), Outstanding Innovative Choral Performance (2014) and the 2018 Distinguished Service Award.

In 2016, she was appointed Visiting Associate Professor in Choral Studies at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University, and Director of the Western University Singers. 

She was named an Ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre, and has conducted the premières of hundreds of choral works, including the world’s first opera in the Cree language, Pimooteewin: The Journey, by Tomson Highway and Melissa Hui; Music of the Land, by Kathleen Allan, featuring the Ullugiagâtsuk Children’s Choir, and dancers and throat singers from Northern Labrador; Om Saha Nãvavatu, a meditational work by Timothy Corlis written on Vedic mantras and texts of spiritual masters, and Nur: Reflections on Light by Hussein Janmohamed, based on Islamic chant. 

She initiated, developed and carried out many innovative concert and program concepts, including those focused on the earth and water with Canadian astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar. Ms. Adams has conducted several provincial youth choirs and the National Youth Choir of Canada.

Jessie Iseler, General Manager of the Elmer Iseler Singers comments: “Throughout Lydia Adams’ career, she has shared her creativity, wisdom, expertise, and passionate dedication through professional music making with the Elmer Iseler Singers.  She has inspired lifelong skills and passion for music in young people, and has been a mentor to both professional and amateur musicians throughout her life. Lydia enjoys tremendous collaboration with her contemporary colleagues, with Canadian and International composers and musicians, and she exemplifies the role of women in leadership positions.”

Admired by all who have experienced and reveled in her phenomenal musicianship, it will be thrilling for the thousands of musicians whose lives Lydia Adams has inspired, to share in the excitement of Lydia Adams receiving the Order of Canada. 

The Order of Canada was created in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to honour people whose service shapes our society, whose innovations ignite our imaginations, and whose compassion unites our communities.

Our united congratulations to Lydia Adams, C.M.
We celebrate with you!