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Music has been an integral part of life and worship at St. Matthew’s since the creation of the parish in the late 1890s. The church’s reputation for choral music helps fulfill that part of our Vision statement that says we are committed to offering “joyous” worship. Music has the ability to bring us closer to God through a vision of glory not achievable by other means of communications.
St. Matthew’s has been home to a much acclaimed Men and Boys’ Choir since 1956 when then rector Archdeacon Eric Osborne brought Gerald Wheeler, a young British organist, from England to be music director. Under Mr. Wheeler and his successors, the choir has developed into one of the most important in Canada. It is also one of the few in Canada that carries on the centuries-old English Cathedral music tradition.
Top musical directors who followed Mr. Wheeler have included Brian Law (now at New Zealand’s Christ Church Cathedral), Jonathan Rennert, Richard Dacey, Jeffrey Campbell, Andrew Teague (who created a separate women and girls’ choir in 1990), Matthew Larkin (now at Ottawa’s Christ Church Cathedral), Christopher Argent (who died of cancer when barely 40 years old), and Stephen Candow, who is now working in St. John’s Newfoundland. The choirs have also been fortunate that interim music directors such as Desmond Hassell, Kevin Reeves, Bruce Nicol, and Barb Hallam-Price guided them so skillfully for several years.
In January, 2011, Kirkland Adsett joined St. Matthew's as its new Music Director. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Master's degree in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey. Liturgical improvisation, composition, choral conducting and the teaching of children are among Mr. Adsett's keenest interests. His vision of church music in the 21st century includes strengthening its most cherished traditions while also embracing newer modes of musical expression. To read more about Mr. Adsett, click here.
Interested in singing with the choirs of St. Matthew's? Contact Kirkland Adsett, Director of Music, at 613-234-5482.
St. Matthew's is home to both a choir of Men and Boys and a choir of Women and Girls. In 2007, the Men and Boys' Choir celebrated its 50th anniversary with a weekend reunion event concert that featured world-renowned baritone Gerald Finley, a former St. Matthew's chorister now living in London, England.
Hundreds of boys have benefited from musical training at St. Matthew’s and several have successfully pursued professional musical careers. These include Mr. Finley, composer and conductor Paul Halley, counter-tenor Daniel Taylor, counter-tenor Matthew White and Kevin Reeves, director of Ottawa’s Regional Youth Choir and founder of Seventeen Voyces.
Generally at St. Matthew’s, the boys form the soprano section of the choir which is responsible for much of the music for the Sunday liturgies. Over the years the choir has toured much of eastern Canada and the U.S.
For more information on the distinguished history of the Men and Boys' Choir, click here for Choir Reunion Bulletin published on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary celebration in September, 2007.
The Women and Girls’ choir was formed in 1990 and supplements the musical life of the parish. All the choirs combine for major feast services and for many of the concerts in the church’s choral series. Their combined forces exceed one hundred voices, making the St. Matthew's choir one of the largest of any denomination in Canada.
Ages of the Boys' choir range from seven to 14. Many of the boys remain in the choir as members of the men's section after their treble days are over. This continuity helps make their musical experience at St. Matthew's a very special one.
Choral services at St. Matthews extend from the weekend after Labour Day until the end of June. A Choral Eucharist is sung every Sunday morning at 10 am, with a sung Evensong service at 4pm on the first and third Sundays of the month (except during summer).
The Men and Boys’ choir sings one, and sometimes two, services weekly. The Women and Girls’ choir sings at least one service monthly. Both choirs offer a diverse program of liturgical music. Their repertoire includes music drawn from the rich tradition of the Christian church, ranging from 13th century Plainsong to modern-day compositions. The music program at St. Matthew's is affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music, an international organization that promotes high standards of choral literature and singing in worship.
For information on the choirs or for an audition (whether you're eight or 80!), contact the Music Office at 234-5482.
Except during the summer, St. Matthew’s offers a short, sung Evensong service at 4pm on the first and third Sundays of the month featuring members of its Men and Boys’ Choir. Usually lasting about 50 minutes, the contemplative service is sung almost completely by choir and clergy alone. It includes psalms, readings, hymns, anthems and prayers but no sermon. Both spiritually reflective and musically uplifting, it takes its service from the Canadian Book of Common Prayer with canticles (songs) derived from words in the Bible. A lay member of the church also can administer the service. Choral Evensong has long been a specialty of St. Matthew’s, keeping a rich Anglican cultural tradition going on a regular basis.
Since its original foot-powered instrument in the 1890s, St. Matthew’s has been well known for its organ as well as its choirs. One of Ottawa’s largest musical instruments, some of the pipework dates back to the original church building and its Casavant-Freres organ of 1909. This original instrument was moved to the new church building and enlarged by Casavant in 1931. In 1957, the London (England) firm of Messrs. Hill, Norman and Beard was engaged to expand the resources of the organ by adding, among other things, a new console, a horizontal “solo” trumpet and a “positive” division.
By the start of the millennium, however, the once “magnificent” new organ had fallen into a bad state of disrepair. Many stops and some full sections did not work at all. Matthew Larkin, the music director at the time, felt that organists unfamiliar with its limitations could no longer use it.
It was decided that a full refurbishment was necessary and this led to the Organ Capital Campaign of 2001-2004. With parishioner Betsy Clarke organizing the campaign, $550,000 was raised ($50,000 of which was earmarked for “outreach” projects as part of the decision to go ahead). Mostly, the funds came from generous parishioner donations through pledges over a three-year period.
The restoration work was undertaken by a Quebec firm, Les Orgues Baumgarten, led by master organ builder Alain Baumgarten. The project took longer than planned when problems were found to be worse than initially thought. However, the work was successfully completed in 2005.
Visible signs of the organ refurbishment include trumpet pipes on either side of the altar that did not previously exist and new façade pipes above the choir and side aisle on the pulpit side.