"Music is one of the most visible and cherished aspects of life at Christ Church Cathedral. From week to week, music fills this historic and vibrant place with something bigger than everyone - inviting all, for a moment, to leave behind the cares and concerns of daily life and be transported into an atmosphere of great beauty. Music is an offering that serves to glorify God and, by its very nature, draws people into contemplation of God's grace."
Shane Parker ♰
Dean of Ottawa and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral
We are inheritors of an important tradition of music-making at Christ Church Cathedral - one that is unique in Canada.
The ministry to young people through the art of music is of particular note. Music has been, and continues to be, a gateway to a life of faithful service through which the boy and girl choristers enter. Through the music they make, they encounter God, and grow in knowledge of God's grace. This relationship with God informs their individual and community life.
The people of the Cathedral strongly support this ministry, which is in a very large sense rooted in custom and tradition. At the same time, it is always made new by welcoming new members of the community every year. Together, we celebrate our mutual love of music through our communal expression of praise.
Organist and Director of Music
Founded in 1896, the Choir of Men and Boys serves the ministry of the Cathedral in equal partnership with the Girls' Choir. It is one of the few remaining choirs of men and boys in North America, and the only such resident choir in a Canadian Anglican cathedral. Boy choristers come from throughout the National Capital region and beyond, and the counter-tenors, tenors, and basses (all of whom study or work in the city) are a professional counterpart to the boys' voices.
In addition to regularly singing at Cathedral liturgies, the Choir offers regular concerts of sacred works with or without orchestra,
including Handel's Messiah
, Bach's Johannes Passion
, Fauré's Requiem
, and other notable pieces of repertoire.
Frequent guests of the National Arts Centre, the boys (and girls) have been featured in performances of Orff's Carmina Burana, Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand
to name but two instances. As well, the choir is frequently asked to perform in and about the Parliament of Canada. The Choir has performed on CBC Radio and
Television, and is in demand for seasonal and other productions.
Travel to other parts of Canada was a strong part of the Choir's mandate under former director Frances MacDonnell. The Choir visited the Arctic in 1999, and was the first cathedral choir in the Anglican Communion to do so. Under Matthew Larkin's direction in recent years, the Choir has twice visited the United Kingdom, serving as resident choir in both Ely and Salisbury Cathedrals, and singing at St. Paul's Cathedral (London), St. John's and Selwyn Colleges (Cambridge), amongst other places. The Choir has also sung at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and Chartres Cathedral. Visits to the United States are frequent, and the Choir has sung at both the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Thomas' Church in New York, and most recently at Trinity Church in Boston.
The boys of the choir are supported by a talented and professional group of men. The Men's Choir is privileged to count as members some of the most noteworthy choral and vocal artists in our community. They provide mentorship, role models and ministry to the younger members of the Cathedral choirs.
Membership in the Men's Choir is by invitation or audition, when spaces warrant.
Since 2001, the Girls' Choir has served the Cathedral's ministry as one of two resident choirs. Under the direction of Timothy Piper, the choir grew from a
fledgling ensemble into today's large and accomplished choir, and the membership ranges in age from eight to seventeen. The Choir sings regularly at Cathedral
liturgies, and presents a regular series of concert and recital offerings. On certain principal feasts, the Girls' Choir sings with the Choir of Men and Boys.
The Choir has been a frequent contributor to civic events, singing at the dedication of the re-opened Museum of Nature in the presence of
HM Queen Elizabeth II, and the installation of the Rt. Hon. David Johnston as Governor General of Canada. They perform (alongside the boys) regularly as guests of the National Arts Centre, and at many (and varied) concert events in Ottawa.
The Girls' Choir have been frequent travellers as well, singing throughout the Diocese of Ottawa and at diocesan functions. They were guests of Espace 400e
in Quebec City in 2008, celebrating the 400th anniversary of that city, and traveled to Washington D.C. in 2010 to be resident choir for a time in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, singing as well at the Embassy of Canada. They travel to the United Kingdom and Belgium this summer, singing at Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, and in Ypres.
Timothy Piper, following ten illustrious years as Associate Organist and Girls' Choir Director of the Cathedral, now moves on to other pursuits. James Calkin, formerly of First Baptist Church, Ottawa, begins his duties as Tim's successor following the return of the Choir from Europe.
A small pipe organ was installed by Samuel Warren at the end of the nineteenth century, which was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged on three occasions by Casavant Frères. In 1969, the tonal scheme of the organ was significantly altered under the guidance of former Organist and Choirmaster, Godfrey Hewitt. Several new stops were added at this time, and the console was made movable so that recitalists could be easily seen by audiences. Under Frances MacDonnell's direction, the console was equipped with Solid State Logic, and a new en chamade reed was added by Casavant in 1997.
By 2007, the organ was determined by a number of professional assessments to be urgently in need of repairs. It's functioning had becoming very unreliable, and following the advice of independent experts, Parish Council Executive recommended the replacement of the organ with a new pipe instrument. Until independent sources of funding are found (and until the Cathedral's debt is retired), this initiative is suspended.
In 2009, the Cathedral purchased a Trillium 958 digital instrument from Rodgers Organs Canada. With fifty-four speaking stops (and a significant number of alternative voices), the organ is able to provide excellent support for the singing of choirs and congregation, and possesses the tonal flexibility required to play repertoire of all historical periods. In purchasing the instrument, Parish Council Executive emphasized that "this does not preclude any long-term or permanent organ replacement options".
In 1987, a portative organ built by Karl Wilhelm of Montreal was purchased with the assistance of memorial bequests. It is a mechanical-action pipe organ of four speaking stops.
The Gallery Trumpets - "Trompette en Chamade" - were installed and dedicated in May 1997 to celebrate the centennial of the consecration of Christ Church Cathedral. The organ pipes are located in the second-story West Gallery of the Cathedral, on both sides of the West Memorial Window.
Since the decommissioning of the Cathedral's former Chancel Pipe Organ, the Gallery Trumpets have not been played. A way to link the Gallery Trumpets to the current Chancel Digital Organ has been developed and awaits a means of funding to be realized.