Church Choir Schools

Church choir schools. Institutions set up to train young musicians in the literature and performance of church music and to enable them, through the presentation of such music, to worship in a manner at once spiritual and artistic.

Church Choir Schools

Church choir schools. Institutions set up to train young musicians in the literature and performance of church music and to enable them, through the presentation of such music, to worship in a manner at once spiritual and artistic. Prototypes are the English choir schools at Canterbury Cathedral, King's College, Cambridge, and Westminster Abbey, where the program combines academic and musical training with obligatory participation in church services. From this earliest foundation of the English choral tradition, Canadian choirs, adult and youth, secular and church, have derived the impetus to reproduce the pure 'white' sound of the boy soprano. The trend to train girls and women to reproduce this sound for church choirs in Canada began under the influence of Willan, and was introduced during the 1980s into some English cathedrals (eg, Salisbury and Hereford).

In Canada various attempts have been made to duplicate or at least approximate the traditional choir school, but changes in tradition and limited funds have resulted in some broad adaptations and variations. It is only in Ontario and Quebec that some full-time schools exist. St Michael's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Toronto has a day school (founded in 1937 by Mgr J.E. Ronan) where, along with a full academic program, choristers are trained for the cathedral choir and some students are trained for larger musical responsibilities in the church. Similar schools in Quebec include the Maîtrise des Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal (in Montreal), the Peties Chanteurs de la Maîtrise de Québec, the Maîtrise Notre-Dame-du-Cap (in Cap-de-la-Madeleine), the Manécanterie des Petits Chanteurs de Tracy, the Maîtrise des Petits Chanteurs de Granby, and the Maîtrise des Petits Chanteurs de Trois-Rivières. Two others, no longer in operation, were the Maîtrise des Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois (1933-61) and the Petite Maîtrise de Montréal (1938-44). Some of these Quebec schools provide full academic and musical training; others offer only the latter.

There are (1990) no full-time choir schools connected with Canadian Protestant churches. The traditional choir school is most nearly approximated in Ontario, where the English influence is strongest. Independent schools affiliated with the Anglican Church offer a broader educational approach than do their English prototypes. Bishop Strachan School and The Royal St George's College (Toronto), St John's School (Elora), Ridley College (St Catharines), and Trinity College School (Port Hope) provide a general education with extra music for some students. In the early 1950s, the Anglican Church began to sponsor a number of summer choir schools offering intensive training in church music. The first of these was the Toronto Diocesan Choir School, founded in 1954 under the directorship of Healey Willan and conducted at Trinity College School until 1977, when the school was relocated at St Andrew's College, Aurora. Similar Anglican schools were established in Wallacetown, Ont, and in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. A girls' summer choir school was established in 1975 at the Ontario Ladies' College (later named the Trafalgar Castle School for Girls) in Whitby, Ont, and continued in 1991.


Further Reading

  • Ronan, J.E. 'Toronto's Cathedral Choir School,' Culture, vol 7, Sep 1946

    Martel, Jules. 'Church music I,' Music in Canada

External Links