The American-born Canadian tenor, Lawrence Wiliford, grew up in many towns throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and New York. At the age of 10, he became a member of the American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey, under the leadership of James Litton. While a student at St. Olaf College, he sang with the St. Olaf Choir, became a published choral arranger, and was one of the founding members of the male vocal chamber ensemble Cantus, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Wiliford holds a Bachelor of Music in Church Music from St. Olaf College and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Toronto. He has studied at Tanglewood, the Internationale Bachakademie of Stuttgart, the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival, and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme. He is a recent graduate of the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio and is a recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
Lauded for his luminous projection, lyrical sensitivity, and brilliant coloratura, Lawrence Wiliford is in high demand in concert, opera, and recital repertoire ranging from works by Monteverdi to contemporary composers. Critics have acclaimed him as an “amazing tenor” (Vancouver Sun) having “exceptional power throughout his range” (Boston Globe) and as a “phenomenal” and “matchless artist” (Globe & Mail).
Lawrence Wiliford has collaborated with conductors such as Richard Bradshaw, Bernard Labadie, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Trevor Pinnock, Helmuth Rilling, and Pinchas Zukerman. He has been recognized in particular for his interpretation of Bach and other composers of the Baroque period. A dedicated recitalist, Wiliford also champions English and North American art song, a passion that has led to engagements across North America and at the Aldeburgh Festival in England.
Recent orchestral highlights include J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Oregon Bach Festival under the direction of Helmuth Rilling, J.S. Bach's Weihnachts-Oratorium (BWV 248) under the direction of Trevor Pinnock, and Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass under the direction of Pinchas Zukerman both with The National Arts Centre Orchestra, George Frideric Handel's Messiah with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, J.S. Bach's Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) with the Toronto Bach Consort under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bernard Labadie, J.S. Bach's Magnificat (BWV 243) with Orchestra London, G.F. Handel's Solomon with The Elora Festival and Haydn's Die Schöpfung and Felix Mendelssohn's Lobgesang with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and several performances with Les Voix Baroques.
Opera highlights from recent seasons include making his Canadian Opera Company leading role debut in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte as Ferrando on five hours' notice. Also with the Canadian Opera Company he has appeared as Francis Flute in Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Roy in James Rolfe's Swoon; with Toronto's Opera Atelier as Pedrillo in Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, and as Eumete in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria; with Opera Lyra Ottawa (Silver cast) as Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia; with Pacific Opera Victoria as Leo in the Canadian premiere of Mark Blitzstein's Regina and with MusicFest Vancouver and Boston Baroque he debuted in the title role of Rameau's Pygmalion.
Lawrence Wiliford's 2009-2010 season included performances of J.S. Bach's Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) at the Berkshire Choral Festival and the Johannes-Passion (BWV 245) at the Baldwin-Wallace College Bach Festival as the Evangelist. He sang L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, G.F. Handel's Messiah with Boston Baroque, Symphony Nova Scotia and Calgary Philharmonic, Purcell's The Fairy Queen with the Montreal Baroque Festival, G.F. Handel's Israel in Egypt with Tafelmusik and J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Helmuth Rilling. His opera performances included debuts with Aldeburgh Music as Quint in B. Britten's The Turn of the Screw and Frederic in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance with Edmonton Opera.
Highlights from Lawrence Wiliford’s 2010-2011 season include J.S. Bach’s Johannes-Passion (BWV 245) with Les Voix Baroques at the Le Festival Bach de Montréal, with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jane Glover, J.S. Bach's Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) with the Richard Eaton Singers, and a concert of Bach cantatas with Vancouver Early Music. He returns to Tafelmusik for performances of Rameau’s grand motet In convertendo and G.F. Handel’s Dixit Dominus and debuts with Houston's Mercury Baroque in G.F. Handel's Messiah. The works of B. Britten also feature prominently this season with a recital at the Aldeburgh Festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of Peter Pears’ birth, the cantata St. Nicholas at the Elora Festival, and the Serenade for Tenor & Horn with I Musici de Montréal conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni. His opera appearances include the role of Damon in Opera Atelier’s production of G.F. Handel’s Acis & Galatea and Pedrillo in Edmonton Opera’s production of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
He has recorded on the ATMA Classique & Naxos labels and will be releasing his debut solo recording Divine Musick: the late works for tenor and harp by B. Britten in September 2010.