St Mary Magdalene Singers

The St Mary Magdalene Singers. Choir of 25, organized in 1939 by Healey Willan at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Toronto, to sing the unaccompanied choral literature.

St Mary Magdalene Singers

The St Mary Magdalene Singers. Choir of 25, organized in 1939 by Healey Willan at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Toronto, to sing the unaccompanied choral literature. The church's two choirs, Ritual and Gallery, had given recitals together throughout Ontario since Willan's appointment as precentor in 1921. To the singers of the Gallery choir he now added the remaining members of his Tudor Singers (formed in 1933 with 22 voices to perform madrigals and balletts of England's Tudor period - Byrd, Gibbons, Weelkes, Dowland, etc - and reduced to 10 voices in 1938, to sing a repertoire broadened to include di Lasso, Vittoria, and Palestrina). Besides performing in church the St Mary Magdalene Singers continued the Tudor Singers' tradition of Hart House Christmas concerts and gave secular concerts as well. In September 1945 they won great praise for two recitals at Town Hall, New York. After Willan's death in 1968 the Ritual and Gallery Choirs continued under the direction of Giles Bryant, who augmented their established repertoire of 16th- and 17th-century music and works by Willan with music of the 20th century. As the Choirs of St Mary Magdalene Church, they also give recitals of plainsong and liturgical music. In 1975 Robert Hunter Bell succeeded Bryant and the repertoire expanded to include more 16th-century Continental masses and motets and even more 20th-century works. Bell, b St. Catharines Ont 12 Apr 1932, ARCT 1951, ACCO 1952, B MUS (Toronto) 1953, ARCO (Choirmaster) 1959, ARSCM 1966, M MUS (Northwestern) 1970, honorary FRCCO 1974, was organist at the Cathedral Church of Christ the Redeemer, Calgary 1959-72 and in 1975 assumed his position at St. Mary Magdalene's and became organist and lecturer at the University of Trinity College. Bell revived the title St. Mary Magdalene Singers for a number of CBC broadcasts produced by John Reeves and sung by Gallery Choir members and professional singers. The Gallery and Ritual Choirs are all volunteer muscians,. For the 100th anniversary of the church, Sir David Willcocks conducted the Gallery Choir in concert. He had previously conducted the choir in service during a 1985 visit to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Trinity College. Winston Webber has also been a guest conductor in Messiah performances with the Oshawa Symphony Orchestra. Robert Bell has conducted Messiah with the choir and TS players, but the repertoire remains grounded in Willan, and the 16th and 20th centuries. The Gallery Choir won prizes in the first CBC Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs in 1976. It gives regular recitals in the church and in other parts of Southern Ontario.


Further Reading

  • Greig, David. In the Fullness of Time (Toronto 1990)