The Cathedral Choir
St. Paul’s Cathedral has had a choir for nearly 200 years. The first choirmaster was Frederick Peters in the early 19th century and he led a mixed-voice choir at the cathedral – the singers were his brother and two sisters, together with another two men accompanied in each case by their own two sisters, making a total of eight singers in all (three men and six women).
Although the Anglican traditional practice over many centuries has been for all-male church and cathedral choirs, a practice which grew out of the earlier monastic traditions and one which was followed here at St. Paul’s for most of its history, there were also female voices in St. Paul’s Cathedral choir in the 1950s although it was a short-lived deviation from the tradition.
In 1983, then Director of Music, Mervyn Games, at the request Dean Percy O’Driscoll, again opened the choir up to girls as there was “simply not enough interested boys to keep the ranks full” and he believed that girls should have the opportunity to be exposed to the musical and life skills training that comes with the requirements to be a cathedral chorister.
With the increase in secularism, changes in family situations and the growth of other recreational opportunities for young people, especially on weekdays after school and at weekends, when many sporting activities take place on Sunday mornings, it has been noted by cathedrals the world over that recruitment to cathedral treble programmes has become a major challenge.
This is has been made rather more difficult, in our Canadian context, by the change in the policy of school boards which now prevents one going into schools to promote cathedral music programmes and recruiting children with good potential.
In September 2010, it was decided that St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir would move forward as an all-adult ensemble; the Cathedral is currently considering more appropriate and suitable alternative opportunities for continuing the tradition of the musical education of children and young people in a way that fits more closely with the needs of the community in which we are situated.
As you will read in the choir’s Mission Statement, the current cathedral choir at St. Paul’s has a two-fold responsibility. Firstly it leads the music and worship at all cathedral liturgies throughout the year – apart from the choir holiday month of August, when the Eucharist is sung congregationally – and secondly it leads liturgies of the family of the Diocese of Huron when they are gathered together for Synod and Ordinations to the Diaconate and the Priesthood.
The choir also shares its musical ministry outside the cathedral when it travels, on some ten or so Sunday afternoons in each year, to sing evensong or present a concert in the parish churches of the diocese – parishes which may be celebrating significant milestones in their history or perhaps just enjoying the opportunity to attend choral evensong in the Book of Common Prayer tradition.
The Choir’s membership is by audition, usually in September and January, although the Director of Music is always pleased to hear from interested singers throughout the year. There are currently around twenty-two members in the choir.
In addition to regular Sunday morning liturgies and the Feasts and other celebrations of the Liturgical Year, the choir presents a carol service on the afternoon of the 1st Sunday in Advent and the traditional King’s College, Cambridge service of Nine Lessons and Carols on the afternoon of the Sunday before Christmas. For Passiontide, the choir presents a service or concert of Music and Readings for Passiontide on the afternoon of Palm/Passion Sunday.
The choir is fortunate and delighted to be able to work in close collaboration with Angus Sinclair, a former Director of Music here at St. Paul’s, who rejoined the music team in March 2012 as Affiliate Cathedral Organist, as well as with other leading musicians and instrumentalists in the region.
To contact the Director of Music, please click here.
The St. Paulís Cathedral Choir is grateful for financial support provided by the A.E.J. Fulford Trust, administered by The Anglican Foundation of Canada, towards the cost of its touring and outreach program.