Elixir Baroque Ensemble was founded in 2010 by harpsichordist Sara-Anne Churchill, viola da gamba player Justin Haynes, and violinists Elyssa Lefergey-Smith and Valerie Gordon. Elixir gives new life to 17th and 18th century music by serving up intoxicating programs combining the lyrical with the virtuosic and the well-known with the newly discovered. Elixir’s innovative programming and bold performances have swiftly established the group as a major proponent of early music in the Greater Toronto area. Elixir has been a frequent guest on series at Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church, St. David’s Anglican Church (Musically Speaking Series), and at the University of Toronto as part of the Toronto Handel Festival. The group also has its own series based at Bellwoods Academy of Music where it is often joined by members of Tafelmusik. In April 2014, Elixir gave the world premier performance of “The Sad Life of Laure Beausejour,” composed specifically for Elixir by Frank Horvat.
Drawing on the group’s extensive experience performing in masterclasses for leading baroque violinists such as Stefano Montanari, Elizabeth Wallfisch, Manfredo Kraemer, and Stanly Ritchie, Elixir seeks to share its knowledge of baroque performance practice through community outreach and education of all ages. In 2011, during a brief residency at the University of Fredonia (SUNY), the group performed and gave masterclasses for the students of the faculty of music. In 2012, Elixir was invited to coach and solo with the Community Baroque Orchestra of Toronto. The collaboration proved so successful that Elixir was invited back to lead CBOT in a concert of Bach concertos in 2013. Elixir is also a regular guest of the Kingsway Conservatory of Music where the group teaches and performs alongside the Kingsway Chamber Strings, inspiring young minds with a curiosity for gut strings, pointy bows, and harpsichords.
Elixir Ensemble has most recently been named a finalist of Early Music America’s Baroque Performance Competition. This October they will be traveling to Chicago to perform in the finals alongside five other ensembles from North America.