The Men and Boys’ Choir was founded by the English organist, Gerald Wheeler in 1956. Rehearsals take place on Thursday evenings. The Women and Girls’ Choir was formed in 1990 and rehearses on Wednesday evenings. The choirs sing in different groupings on Sunday mornings and together on feast days and at evensong twice a month. Their repertoire ranges from 13th century plainsong to modern-day compositions. The program is affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music, an international organization that promotes high standards of choral literature and singing in worship. Many Boys and Girls stay on to join the adult choirs as they reach maturity. And in some cases their parents are also choir members.
The Boys and Girls range in age from eight to 16. They sing several Sunday services every month from September to June. They participate fully in the annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah, other concerts, and major festivals. As they mature, they take responsibility for leading the younger choristers as well as other leadership roles. They receive an allowance for their commitment.
Studying music enhances brain development and improves language skills. Learning to read music and to sing within a classical framework requires team work, social skills, time management, and concentration. All are useful skills for life.
At the end of August, St. Matthew’s offers a Choir Camp for boys and girls – a week full of music and fun. Mornings are devoted to singing led by Music Director Kirkland Adsett. Afternoon fun includes recreational activities such as orienteering, arts and crafts, museum visits and a giant scavenger hunt. The program gives experienced singers a warm up for the new season and welcomes new members who would like to taste of the life of a chorister.
Kirkland Adsett joined St. Matthew’s in 2011. His keenest interests are liturgical improvisation, composition, choral conducting and the teaching of children. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Wilfred Laurier University and a Master’s in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ. He is rooted in the cherished tradition of Cathedral choirs and also embraces newer modes of musical expression. (More on Kirkland, here)
Kirkland’s predecessors as Music Director include a long list of distinguished musicians, including Gerald Wheeler, Brian Law, Jonathan Rennart, Richard Dacey, Jeffrey Campbell, Andrew Teague, Matthew Larkin, Christopher Argent and Stephen Candow. Together they have trained hundreds of boys, and more recently girls. Some of the boys have gone on to pursue professional music careers – baritone Gerald Finley, composer and conductor Paul Halley, counter-tenor Daniel Taylor, counter-tenor Matthew White, and choir director Kevin Reeves.
The St. Matthew’s organ is one of Ottawa’s largest instruments. Some of the pipework dates back to the original Casavant-Freres organ of 1909. It was moved to the new church building and enlarged by Casavant in 1931. In 1957, Norman and Beard of London was engaged to expand the organ by adding a new console, a horizontal “solo” trumpet and a “positive” division.
By 2000, however, the once magnificent organ had fallen into disrepair. It was decided that a full refurbishment was necessary. A successful capital campaign raised $550,000, mostly from generous parishioners. ($50,000 was set aside for community service.) The restoration was undertaken by Les Orgues Baumgarten of Quebec and completed in 2005.