“The Heritage Singers is a Non-profit organisation, which was founded in January, 1977 by its Musical Director, Grace Carter-Henry Lyons. Grace’s folk music experience began in her native Jamaica with the Jamaica Folk Singers under the direction of Ms. Olive Lewin.”
The 30-member group is a reflection of the Canadian mosaic to be found in Toronto, with members hailing from many parts of the world including Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, Guyana, The Congo and Jamaica.
The Heritage Singers have developed a rich repertoire of music, from sacred to secular, work song to lullaby, seasonal ditty to perennial ballad. The languages of these songs range from discernible Standard English Creole with an English-Lexical base, to French patois, informal Spanish and African dialect.
The late Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, 0.D., played an integral part in developing the group’s repertoire. She wrote many of the songs and the group performed with her occasionally. She was their patron for several stage productions and a Pantomime that was presented in 1977, 1978 and 2000.
The Singers have participated in international events such as the International Folk Fest in Lachine, Quebec, with representatives from countries such as Russia, China, Senegal and Croatia and have performed in Holland for the worldwide Sivo Folkloristic Festival in Odoorn in 1996. They visited Taiwan in October, 1998, Germany in July 2000, Zacatecas (Mexico) in 2001 and Venezuela in 2004. In North America, their performances have taken them to New York on numerous occasions and to Saskatchewan for a festival that resulted in a documentary produced by CBC.
Out of their limited proceeds from various efforts, The Heritage Singers have donated “in kind” to charitable organizations such as Ronald McDonald House, The Daily Food Bank, Jane-Finch Concerned Citizens Association, The Jamaican-Canadian Association, Sick Kids Hospital, The United Way Conference-Harbourfront and Barbados House.
Health-care facilities have also benefited from the group’s benevolence, including psychiatric wards, The Veterans wing of Sunnybrook Hospital. and nursing homes.
Other beneficiaries are community facilities, such as libraries, community festivals and various denominations.