St. Michael's Choir School

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St. Michael's Choir School
St. Michael's Choir School.JPG
"Bis Orat Qui Cantat"
He Who Sings, Prays Twice
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Religious affiliation Roman Catholic
Principal Barry White
Director Stephen Handrigan
Grades 3–12
Mascot Spartan
Colours Maroon (Elementary)     
Navy (Secondary)     
Established 1937
Artistic Director Jerzy Cichocki
Conductors Charissa Bagan, Jerzy Cichocki, Teri Dunn

St. Michael’s Choir School is a semi-private Roman Catholic boys' school in the Garden District of Toronto, Canada. The school is part of the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Students pay an additional tuition fee which covers the cost of the music programme.


The school was founded in 1937[1] by John Edward Ronan.[2] It was founded to provide sacred music to St. Michael's Cathedral, but did not originally have a full academic programme.[3] Monsignor Ronan was a graduate of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and was a prolific composer, though much of his work remains unpublished. Ronan remained principal of the school until his death in 1962.[4]

St. Michael’s Choir School has held an annual Christmas concert since 1939. From 1939–1964, Christmas concerts were held at the Knights of Columbus Hall attached to James Cooper House on Sherbourne Street, and in December 1964 the venue changed to Massey Hall,[5] where it has been held ever since. In 2013, CBC listed the Choir School’s Christmas concert as one of Toronto’s top 13 classical Christmas events of 2013.[6] The choirs have also performed at Roy Thomson Hall as well as various venues around the city, both on their own and with other musical groups, including the Victoria Scholars[7] and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.[8]

St. Michael’s Choir School tours frequently within Canada and abroad having recently performed in Nova Scotia,[9] Quebec,[10] the Czech Republic[11] and the United States.[12] In April 2013, St. Michael's Choir School went on a 12 day tour to Florence and Rome in Italy. The school performed 'Jubilate Deo', a song composed by the school's founder, John Edward Ronan, at the papal audience on April 10, for Pope Francis.[13]

Notable Choir School instructors have included composer and piano virtuoso John Arpin, who taught piano from 1956–57,[14] and Canadian Opera Company tenor John Arab, who taught vocal from 1954 until his death in 2000.[15]

A documentary film about the school and its tour of Italy was made in 2013 by Salt + Light Television.[16]

Academic and choral programmes[edit]

St. Michael’s Choir School administers a full academic programme as well as the music programme, with all students being enrolled in both. In addition to the classroom requirements, students study choral music, piano and music theory, with the option of studying second instruments.[17] St. Michael’s regularly scores high in the Fraser Institute report for both elementary and secondary schools. In 2012–2013, the secondary programme was given a score of 9.9 out of 10, and ranked 1st out of 740 high schools rated by the institute.[18] The elementary programme rated 9.9 out of 10 and was ranked 1st out of 3030 schools.[18]

The choral music programme includes daily choral instruction as well as weekly Mass duties at St. Michael’s Cathedral. There are four choirs at the school: Elementary (grades 3–4), Junior (grades 5–6), Senior (grades 7–12) and Tenor Bass (grades 7–12, changed voices). Each choir has Mass duties, but the Elementary Choir, as a training choir, sings only a handful of Masses every year. All choirs participate in the three major annual concerts, but only the Junior, Senior and Tenor Bass choirs tour with the school.[19]

Due to the choral requirement at St. Michael’s Choir School, admission is by audition only. All students must also meet the standard requirements for enrollment with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.[20] The Choir School supports a varied sports programme in addition to academics and music. In 2012, their senior volleyball team placed first in the Toronto District Catholic Athletic Association tournament and won a bronze medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations.[21]


In 1971 the choir of the school sang before Pope Paul VI, at a general audience in St. Peter's Basilica, in the Vatican City, in Rome, Italy.[22]

In 2013, the choir of the school again performed in the Vatican City, in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis.[13]

Notable people[edit]


The school came under scrutiny after 17-year old student Kenneth Au Yeung committed suicide by leaping off of the Prince Edward Viaduct in December 1997.[34][35] Au Yeung and other classmates had earlier been called into principal's office and questioned by an off-duty police officer, about a prank involving potentially libellous remarks linking the school choir director to a sex scandal. It mistakenly found its way into print in the school's yearbook, which Au Yeung had helped edit.


  1. ^ "Toronto's St. Michael's Choir School set to perform for next pope | CTV Toronto News". 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014. was founded in 1937 
  2. ^ "Canadian choir to get early audience with new pope – Arts & Entertainment – CBC News". 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014. John Edward Ronan 
  3. ^ D'Cunha, Patricia. "Annual holiday tradition returns to Massey Hall". 680 News. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Chua, Rebecca. "Behind the Scenes: St. Michael's Choir School's Stephen Handrigan". Whole Note Magazine. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Smith, Dan (2013). Daly, Peter, ed. The 1960s (PRINT PUBLICATION) (First ed.). St. Michael's Choir School. pp. 26–27. 
  6. ^ Morreale, Michael. "Canada's Top 13 Classical Christmas Concerts of 2013". CBC. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Victoria Scholars Men's Choral Ensemble & The Choirs of St. Michael's Choir School: A Christmas Celebration". Roy Thomson Hall. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "St. Michael's Choir School". The Canadian Encyclopedia. 
  9. ^ Elliot, Wendy. "Kings arts scene: April 26". Truro Daily News. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  10. ^ McCarthy, Neil. "Choir School Hits the Road: Cantate Domino". Archdiocese of Toronto. 
  11. ^ "Concert Details: Cantate Domino – Chantez au Seigneur – Sing to the Lord". Choirs Ontario. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Philadelphia Episcopal Church. "Senior Choir of St. Michael's Choir School, Toronto, Ontario". Philly Fun Guide. Retrieved 27 January 2014. [dead link]
  13. ^ a b Littler, William. "Canada's Music Sounding Sweet in Italy These Days". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  14. ^ Popple, Robert (2009). John Arpin: Keyboard Virtuoso. Toronto: Dundurn. pp. 68–76. 
  15. ^ "John Arab". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "Into the Mystery". Salt + Light Television. 
  17. ^ Toronto Catholic District School Board. "St. Michael's Choir School". Toronto Catholic District School Board. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Fraser Institute. "Report Card for St. Michael's Choir (Sr.) School". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  19. ^ St. Michael's Choir School. "Choral Training". Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  20. ^ Toronto Catholic District School Board. "St. Michael's Choir School: About Us". Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  21. ^ City Centre Mirror. "Volleyball bronze for St. Michael’s, hoops consolation for Northern" (PDF). 
  22. ^ 50th Anniversary Booklet: The Tours. St. Michael's Choir School, 1987. Accessed January 2014.
  23. ^ "Featured Artist: Peter A. Togni". Number 9 Audio Group. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Bommarito, Sal. "St. Michael's Choir School Lured Back". The Brantford Expositor. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Archdiocese of Toronto | Barenaked Ladies, Matt Dusk, John McDermott, Stewart Goodyear, and Michael Burgess on Stage at Roy Thomson Hall, October 15, 2007". 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  26. ^ "Sh’Boom!: Rock and Roll Alumni of St. Michael’s Choir School | Toronto in Time". 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  27. ^ Hunwicks, Allison (2014). "Choir school training launched jazz singer Matt Dusk’s career". Retrieved 13 January 2014. [dead link]
  28. ^ "BBC – Music – The Four Lads". 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  29. ^ "Kevin Hearn – Actors & Actresses –". 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  30. ^ "Choir school marks 75 years of making music". 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. [dead link]
  31. ^ "Robert Pomakov : Born to Sing". 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  32. ^ "Michael Schade (Tenor) – Short Biography". 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  33. ^ IMDB. "Michael Ontkean – Biography". 
  34. ^ Oakland Ross (10 January 2010). "The fatal attraction of 'suicide magnets'". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  35. ^ Nicol, John; O'Hara, Jane (2 February 1998). "Death of a choirboy: a student's suicide shakes a renowned Toronto school.(Kenneth AuYeung; Saint Michael's Choir School)". Maclean's (Canada). 

Coordinates: 43°39′18″N 79°22′41″W / 43.6551°N 79.3781°W / 43.6551; -79.3781