Strings of St. John's



Founded in 1998, the Strings of St. John's chamber orchestra was the first amateur string orchestra in the Ottawa area. The mission of Strings of St. John’s is to provide a supportive environment for Ottawa-area string players to improve our ensemble playing and share a broad repertoire of beautiful music with the community. 

The orchestra is pleased to accompany the St. John's Choir, led by our founding conductor, Gordon Johnston, several times each year.

Beginning in 2019, the orchestra has been led by world-renowned pianist, Jean Desmarais.  By working to improve the caliber of the orchestra, we aspire to attract additional gifted amateur players and enhance and maintain a reputation that attracts great local soloists. We are confident that artistically excellent performances by local artists will continue to attract, grow and reward Ottawa area audiences.


Jean Desmarais, Conductor


 Gifted with extraordinary versatility as a pianist and musician, Jean Desmarais studied with Monique Collet-Samyn (Hull), Anisia Campos, Rafi Armenian (Montréal), Monique Deschaussées (Paris), Johanna Stieler (Berlin) and Dalton Baldwin (USA). He has won several international awards and has premiered over 200 new creations, many from Canadian composers. Active on stages all over the world, he has been invited to play in France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Romania, Russia, Mexico, USA and Canada.

He has performed in recital at the Banff Centre with the legendary Pinchas Zukerman, Ben Heppner, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Amanda Forsyth, Joel Quarrington, Maestros Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Marco Parisotto, Johannes Debus, Jean-Philippe Tremblay, Carlos Garcia-Ruiz. He has been invited to coach several operas at the Canadian Opera Company. One of the most respected teachers in Canada, his students have won national awards. In 2007, he was the only Canadian pianist invited to play in recital at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famous recital of pianist Glenn Gould. 

Gordon Johnston, Founding Conductor


 Gordon Johnston was principal conductor of the Strings of St. John’s from its founding in 1998 to the spring of 2016. Active as a conductor, organist, harpist and composer, he has been Director of Music at the Church of St. John the Evangelist since 1986. Gordon began his musical studies at the age of six in his native Calgary, Alberta.

At the age of 13 he began organ study with Arthur Ward (Mount Royal College), and later studied with Bernard Lagacé in Montréal. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in music from Brigham Young University (USA) where he studied conducting with the eminent American conductor Ralph Woodward. In 2003 he earned the degree of Doctor of Sacred Music summa cum laude from the Graduate Theological Foundation. A Fellow of the Royal Canadian College of Organists, he is currently the chairman of the RCCO’s Board of Examiners.

An active composer, his music is published by Novalis/Bayard and by the Anglican Book Centre (Toronto), as well as self-published at his website We thank Gordon for his many years of leadership, his infectious enthusiasm, and his warm way with audiences.


First violins

Mira Negorova, Concertmaster

Michelle Zou

Carolyn Phillips

Sheena Gingerich

Rosalind Spencer

Marg Macpherson

Second violins

Iain Macpherson, Principal

Daniela Turcanu

Gabriella Csoti

Katherine Tinkler

Marko Yanishevsky

Eugene Tso

Clara Kyung


Mary Young, Principal

Laura Mennill

Stephen Rouble


Sandra Allan, Principal

Catherine Campbell

Andrew Deaville


Brandon Steele, Principal

Ann Downey