St. Michael's Choir School

St. Michael's Choir School. Private boys' school known for its choral training program, established in Toronto in 1937 by Father John Edward Ronan. Ronan, who had trained at the Pontifical Institute in Rome, founded St.

St. Michael's Choir School

St. Michael's Choir School. Private boys' school known for its choral training program, established in Toronto in 1937 by Father John Edward Ronan. Ronan, who had trained at the Pontifical Institute in Rome, founded St. Michael's Choir School under the auspices of Archbishop James McGuigan "to offer a full academic curriculum and thorough instruction in Roman Catholic liturgical music," a response to Pope Pius X's call to restore the Catholic choir tradition in Toronto (Globe Magazine, 14 Dec 1957).

St. Michael's Choir School was first named the Cathedral Schola Cantorum; the facilities comprised a single room and a studio in De La Salle College, next to St. Michael's Cathedral. There were initially 18 students in grades seven and eight, taught by Ronan, cathedral organist Harold Armstrong, and Joan Hopperton. They were joined two years later by Kathleen Mann, the conductor of the junior choir. The students formed the nucleus of the St. Michael's Cathedral Choir, which Ronan also directed. Grades nine and ten were added in 1942. Archbishop McGuigan so valued the school's role that with his appointment to the College of Cardinals by Pope Pius X in 1946, he was able to provide funding for a permanent home. The school moved into its own building in 1950.

In 1955 St. Michael's became affiliated with the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome; it was the only school in North America (and only one of six in the world) to share this honour. In 1967 the school formed a partnership with the Metropolitan Separate School Board (later the Toronto Catholic District School Board), a pairing regarded as particularly fortuitous. The board was responsible for the boys' academic training, while St. Michael's provided the premises and the musical instruction. By 1960 the school supported grades one to thirteen. Ronan died in 1962 and was succeeded by Monsignor Peter Somerville, who remained the school's director and principal until 1981. Subsequent administrators have been Harry Hodson, John W. Ryall, Dan Smith, Domnic Melino, Father John-Mark Missio, and Edward McCall. In 1996 St. Michael's Choir School moved into the newly renovated building at 67 Bond Street.

Concerts and Tours

The school's choir undertook its first tour in 1971, when it travelled to England, Italy, and Ireland. Since then, the students have functioned as ambassadors for the school, having travelled across Canada and Europe. There is usually a one-week tour in December, in addition to a longer tour in the spring. In December 1976, the choir made its debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Andrew Davis in a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 3. The choir has performed at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall, and has been featured in performances for Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II.

Students and Admission

St. Michael's Choir School is highly discerning with respect to its admissions; of the hundreds of candidates who apply and audition annually, only 32 are accepted. There are generally 275 boys enrolled in the school, with class sizes ranging from 20 to 32 students. Students are divided into four choirs, based on voice, age, and ability. In addition to academic requirements, students also receive instruction in piano, organ, or voice. St. Michael's Choir School has maintained an affiliation with St. Michael's Cathedral and St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto. It has produced a number of distinguished graduates, including members of the Crew-Cuts and the Four Lads, jazz singer Matt Dusk, pianist Stewart Goodyear, Kevin Hearn (of the Barenaked Ladies), and tenor Michael Schade.

Selected Discography

Joy to the World. 1973

This is the Day. 1975

Sing Praise to God. 1979

Sing the Carols of Christmas. 1983

Shout for Joy. 1988

The Heavens are Telling. 1994

Tenebrae. 1997

Christmas Garland. 1999

From Courts on High. 2007

In Midnight's Stillness. 2009

Further Reading

  • Moon, B. "His choirboys make the hit parade," Mayfair, Mar 1955

    Lee, B. "The young larks of Toronto's Bond Street," The Globe Magazine (Globe and Mail), 14 Dec 1957

    Leeper, M. "The rigorous discipline of a boys' choir," Music Magazine, vol 4, no 2, Mar/Apr 1981

    Everett-Green, R. "St. Michael's choir gets top marks for quality concert," Globe and Mail, 16 Jun 1987

    "St. Michael's Choir School new recording for Christmas," The Troubadour (Canadian Folk Arts Council), vol 15, no 1, Fall 1994

    Desiato, T. "Centennial celebrations at rural Ontario parish honour choir school's founder," Catholic Register, 18 Feb 1995

    Sarich, A. "Renowned boys' choir coming to the Sault for a performance," Sault Ste Marie This Week, 29 Nov 1995

    "St. Michael's Choir School." Performance (Canadian Opera Company), Nov 1997-Jan 1998

    Terauds, J. "St. Mike's choir boys keep it old school," Toronto Star, 14 Dec 2006