History of the Music at St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral has had a choir since the early 19th century. The first choirmaster was one Frederick Peters 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 was for all-male church and cathedral choirs, a practice which grew out of the earlier monastic traditions, there were also female voices in St. Paulís Cathedral choir in the 1950s although it was a short-lived deviation from the English 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 programs 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 programs and recruiting children with good potential.
In September 2010, it was decided that St. Paulís 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.
In addition to our choral program, St. Paulís has followed the centuries-old tradition of cathedrals and places of worship also promoting music and the arts. St. Paulís has, for some 15 years, presented a weekly noon-hour organ recital on Tuesdays at 12:15pm, “London’s Tuesday Noon Hour Organ Recital Series”, (click here for the schedule of recitalists) and from 1994-2001 there was also a second noon-hour series on Thursdays presenting other instrumentalists in recital.
In the last few years, the Tuesday series has been expanded to include Organ+ recitals, where instrumental and vocal soloists join the organ recitalist to present a mixed program of solo and ensemble music.
The Tuesday series has grown to a regular audience of some 40-60 members each week.
For a list of St. Paul’s Cathedral staff organists/directors of music that we currently know about, please click here; if you can provide any further information, we would be delighted to hear from you as we gather more historical data on the music at St. Paul’s.