"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 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.
The Choir comprises over twenty boys between the ages of seven and fifteen. Very few of the boys join the Choir with any previous knowledge of choral music. It is by virtue of their regular attendance and willingness to learn that they are exposed to different languages and benefit from a high-standard of musical training and vocal technique.
In addition to regularly singing at Cathedral liturgies, the Choir offers concerts of sacred and secular works. Most recently:
- With the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Choir performed in the national commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and in performances of Orff's Carmina Burana and Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand.
- With the Governor General and the Prime Minister of Canada, the Choir performed in the Senate of Canada, at the Queen's Jubilee Award ceremony, and at the Governor General's Arts Awards.
- The Choir has also performed on CBC Radio and Television, and is in demand for productions with other prestigious groups.
Travel to other parts of Canada and abroad is an important part of the Choir's development and outreach:
- In 1999, the Choir visited the Arctic, the first Cathedral Choir in the Anglican Communion to do so.
- In 2009, the Choir made its first visit to England, where it sang in Cambridge University colleges, took up a one-week residency at Ely Cathedral, and also sang at Great St Mary's Church (Cambridge) and St Paul's Cathedral (London).
- In 2010, the Choir visited New York City, where it sang at
St Thomas Fifth Avenue, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, and the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.
- In 2011, the Choir visited France and England, where it sang at Vimy Ridge, église Saint Pierre (Barlin, France), Notre-Dame cathedrals in Paris and Chartres, Salisbury Cathedral, Bath Abbey, and St Paul's Cathedral (London).
- In 2012, the Choir visited the Boston area, where it sang at Trinity Church (Boston) and at St Peter's by-the-Sea (Cape Neddick, Maine).
- In the summer of 2013, the Choir returned to the United Kingdom, where it sang at St. Mary's and St. Gile's Cathedrals in Edinburgh, and St. Bride's Church, Fleet Street and St. Paul's Cathedral, London.
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.
The Christ Church Cathedral Girls' Choir was founded in 2001 and is the only all-girl Cathedral choir in Canada. Its thirty-five members range in age from 8-17. The Choir sings regularly at Cathedral liturgies, Sunday at Twilight services, and at major Holy Days in the church year, often joining forces with their colleagues in the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys.
In addition to their duties at the Cathedral, the Choir often participates in important civic and national events including performances at the National Arts Centre, Rideau Hall, and the Parliament of Canada. The Choir also maintains an active schedule of local and international touring. They were guests of Espace 400e
in Quebec City in 2008, celebrating the 400th anniversary of that city, and in 2010 sang at Washington National Cathedral as well as the Canadian Embassy. In August 2012, the girls traveled to the U.K., France and Belgium, where they were in residence at Canterbury Cathedral, sang Sunday liturgies at Westminster Abbey, and visited Vimy Ridge and Ypres. Most recently, the choir travelled to Montreal in October 2013 to sing at liturgies and concerts at St. Joseph's Oratory and Christ Church Cathedral.
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.