Lucas Harris, lute & co-director
Lucas Harris leads a busy freelancer’s life as a lutenist, conductor, continuo player, teacher, lecturer, coach, researcher, and audio/video editor. His collection of nearly twenty plucked-string instruments includes various Renaissance & Baroque lutes/guitars as well as a theorbo, cittern, bandora, an original 1831 guitar, and a 7-string electric guitar with a Floyd-Rose tremolo bar.
After graduating summa cum laude from Pomona College, Lucas studied early music at the Civica scuola di musica di Milano (as a scholar of the Marco Fodella Foundation) and at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen. Since 2004 he is based in Toronto where he serves as the regular lutenist for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Lucas also collaborates with many other ensembles, and has worked in recent years with the Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations, the Helicon Foundation, the Smithsonian Chamber Players, Atalante, and Les Délices. He is also a founding member of the Vesuvius Ensemble and the Toronto Continuo Collective in addition to the Lute Legends Collective. An enthusiastic teacher and coach of early music, Lucas is on faculty at the Tafelmusik Summer and Winter Baroque Institutes, Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute, and the Canadian Renaissance Music Summer School, and served as vocal coach & accompanist at Vancouver Early Music’s Baroque Vocal Program.
In 2014 Lucas completed graduate studies in choral conducting at the University of Toronto, the degree having been funded by a prestigious SSHRC research grant not often awarded to performers. Upon graduating, Lucas was chosen as the Artistic Director of the Toronto Chamber Choir for which he has created and conducted over twenty themed concert programs. He has also directed projects for the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Ohio State University Opera Program, Les voix baroques, and the Toronto Consort. Recent projects include reconstructing/publishing/performing motets by the seventeenth-century Italian nun Chiara Margarita Cozzolani.
Wen Zhao, pipa & co-director
Wen Zhao is an acclaimed pipa virtuoso, “a sensitive and lyrical performer”. Born in Beijing, she began to learn the Pipa at the age of seven, eventually winning the first prize at the Beijing Youth National Instrument Competition, having studied under the renowned pipa master Wang Fan Di at the China Conservatory of Music . In 1990 Wen continued her musical journey in England, performing and leading Chinese music workshops throughout the U.K. Wen lives in Toronto since 1997 and teaches pipa at York University.
Wen has appeared at major ethnic music festivals worldwide, touring in China, Europe, Canada, and the USA, and has given solo recitals on many concert series and at universities. In recent years she has collaborated with some world’s top Western ensembles, including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Toronto Consort as well as other organizations dedicated to music education. Wen has been a key player in world-premiere productions by Western opera companies, including Guo Wenjing’s Feng Yi Ting at the Luminato Festival and Alice Ping Yee Ho’s The Lesson of Da Ji with Toronto Masque Theatre. She has also created several East-West music projects for Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum.
Wen directs the China Court Trio which performs traditional music from the Qing dynasty using the haunting combination of pipa, guzheng, and dizi. The trio produced narrative concert projects about Marco Polo (with the Toronto Consort) and Matteo Ricci (with the Toronto Chamber Choir). Wen is especially honored to be one of the featured musicians for the CBC award-winning documentary film The Four Seasons Mosaic. The Toronto Star described her as “a virtuoso player who displayed her dexterity and percussive skills on the pipa,” while a reviewer in WholeNote magazine described her as “the Jimi Hendrix of the pipa.”
Ronnie Malley, oud
Ronnie Malley is a multi-instrumentalist musician, actor, composer, sound designer, producer, playwright, educator, and executive director of Intercultural Music Production.
Ronnie earned a B.A. in Global Music Studies from DePaul University and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Linguistics at the University of Chicago. He is a teaching artist with Chicago Public Schools, an artist researcher with Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, and a guest lecturer at universities. As an instrumentalist he has collaborated with many music groups including Allos Musica, Apollo’s Fire, Diwan Al-Han, EMME, Lamajamal, Mucca Pazza, Newberry Consort, Surabhi Ensemble, the Toronto Chamber Choir, and the University of Chicago Middle East Music Ensemble.
Ronnie’s recent theatre credits include: Scenes From 73 Years - sound design (Medina Theatre Collective), The Shroudmaker - musician (Medina Theatre Collective), The Band’s Visit -actor/musician/Arabic dialect coach (North American Tour), American Griot - co-author/composer (MVCC/Silk Road Rising | Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award 2020), Macbeth - Hecate/musician (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Great Expectations - composer/sound designer (Silk Road Rising/Remy Bumppo | Jeff Nominated for Best Original Music), Ziryab, The Songbird Of Andalusia - author/solo performer (Silk Road Rising), The Jungle Book - musician/consultant (Goodman, Huntington), The White Snake - co-composer/musician (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), The Sultan’s Dilemma - actor/composer/associate producer (International Voices Project).
Diely Mori Tounkara, kora
Originally from Mali, from a large family of musicians called “griots,” Diely Mori Tounkara followed in the footsteps of his father to become a virtuoso of the kora. His deep knowledge of traditional Mandinka music have inspired his nuanced playing style, and his original compositions have moved audiences from Africa to the West.
Diely Mori spent his childhood and adolescence in the heart of Mandinka culture surrounded by a family of musicians as well as other great historians, storytellers and singers. In this environment he studied the kora, the guitar, and percussion instruments in a traditional manner, imitating his teachers and accompanying them to the traditional celebrations where they performed. One of these teachers, Toumany Kouyaté, was among his primary mentors for the kora. Another was his older brother, the renowned guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, with whom he played in the renowned Super Rail Band from Bamako.
Diely Mori has accompanied many different artists both in Mali and Senegal as well as in Montreal. Since his arrival in Canada in 2007, supported by Vision Diversité, he has collaborated with many diverse artists in Montreal’s thriving music scene. Dieli Mori teaches the kora, the guitar, and percussion (sabars and doundouns). In order to feature the kora, he founded the acoustic Tounkara-Lavoie trio which been awarded multiple awards: the Montreal Arts Council’s Coup de Coeur prize, Radio Canada’s award for local music in 2013 & 2014, as well as the Diversity Prize in 2014 offered jointly by the Montreal Arts Council, Vision Diversité, MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) and the Place des Arts.
Demetri Petsalakis, oud
Originally from Athens (Greece), Demetri Petsalakis is a Toronto-based musician performing in a variety of styles with a focus on Greek and Middle Eastern lutes. Influenced by the rich cultural diversity of Canada, Demetri incorporates musical elements from different traditions in order to create a contemporary sound that represents both his heritage and the community that he is a part of.
An active member of the Toronto world music scene, Demetri has composed for, recorded and performed with many groups including Kune, Niyaz, Tafelmusik, Sultans of Strings, Ventanas, Near East Trio, Zephyr, Turkwaz, Moneka Arabic Jazz and Moskitto Bar. In 2020 Demetri was appointed the musical director of Kuné, a Royal Conservatory world music orchestra with members from eleven different countries.
During his musical studies Demetri has been fortunate to learn from many great teachers including oud masters Bassam Bishara, and Christos Tsiamoulis as well as master of the Cretan Lyra Astrinos Zaharioudakis and renowned jazz guitarist Lorne Lofsky. Demetri has a Master of Music degree in jazz guitar performance from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from York University.
Kiya Tabassian, setar
Setar virtuoso and acclaimed composer, Kiya Tabassian has carved out a privileged place on the international music scene with his ensemble Constantinople and as a soloist. Past master in cross-cultural musical encounters, he travels across the five continents to present his creations and his music on stages all over the world. As a seasoned migrant, he never ceases to explore different trails: from medieval manuscripts to contemporary aesthetics, from Mediterranean Europe to the East, passing through the open spaces of the Baroque New World.
He has contributed to many eclectic projects as a composer, performer, and improviser. To cite a few, he regularly collaborated with the Société Radio-Canada since 1996 and actively participated in the international project MediMuses from 2002 to 2005. Numerous musical groups and institutions have called on his talents as a composer, including the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Bradyworks and the European Union from Radio-Télévision. His desire to establish a space for creation, meetings, exchanges, and the transmission of knowledge between professional musicians and the Quebecois public, led him to cofound the Centre des musiciens du monde. Founded in Montreal 2017, he also acts as Artistic Director of the Centre
Other Associated Musicians
Naghmeh Faramand, percussion
Naghmeh Faramand grew up in Iran with a house full of drums, and was playing the tonbak at age 6. She began to learn the rhythmic patterns of traditional Persian music with her father, Mahmoud Farahmand, one of Iran’s leading percussionists. She studied Sufi, Kurdish and Iranian drumming styles with mentors Faramasz Payvar, Pashang Kankar and Maussud Habibi. During this period she regularly appeared on Iranian television with major national ensembles. Naghmeh also developed an international following with festivals in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, England, France (La fête de la musique), Kuwait (Women’s Festival), and Japan (Min On Festival). She has enjoyed extended collaborations with Iranian percussion icon Hassan Nahid and the renowned singer of traditional music Hengameh Akhavan.
In 2010 she settled in Canada where she released her first recording Unbound, followed by A Tale of Two Cities and Refuge. She was welcomed by Canadian artists of the Sufi, Arab, Bulgar, Kurkish, Indian and jazz traditions as she established a reputation as a dynamic and innovative artist who straddles artistic boundaries. She has appeared with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto Consort, the Amici Ensemble, and David Buchbinder’s production of The Roots of Andalucia among others. She has performed internationally at many venues including the United Nations Assembly Hall and Metropolitan Museum in New York, Walt Disney Centre in Los Angeles, and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
A devoted teacher committed to sharing her passion for traditional Persian percussion, in 2016 Naghmeh released the instructional DVD The Iranian Daf in international drumming language. A published author, she has released her book Helheleh that includes pieces for the daf. She is currently preparing another launch for her CD Drums & Dreams.