Office: TC 227
Phone: 519-661-2111 x85104
Robert Toft arrived at Western in 1989 and over the years has pursued a variety of interests. He has been involved in the performance practices of singing for most of his career and has given master classes and lectures on historical principles of interpretation in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and the United States. He first became interested in coaching as an accompanist (lute), when he realized that he could help vocalists animate songs in exciting ways by rooting their performances in period treatises. In the early 1980s, very few researchers studied historical approaches to singing, and so he embarked on a long and rewarding journey to base his vocal coaching on older principles of interpretation.
Along the way, he wrote a doctoral dissertation and published five books on the history of singing:
Aural Images of Lost Traditions: Sharps and Flats in the Sixteenth Century (1992)
Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart: The Art of Eloquent Singing in England 1597-1622 (1993)
Heart to Heart: Expressive Singing in England 1780-1830 (2000)
Bel Canto: A Performer’s Guide (2013)
With Passionate Voice: Re-Creative Singing in 16th-Century England and Italy (in press)
A grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the project ‘From Research to Public Performance: Historically-Informed Re-creative Singing’ will allow Robert not only to train singers in the styles of performance in vogue between the 16th and early 19th centuries but also to issue recordings which demonstrate how lute songs, recitatives, and arias may be brought to life using historical principles of interpretation.