St. Michael's Choir School
|St. Michael's Choir School|
Schola Cantorum Sancti Michæle Archangelo
66 Bond Street (Garden District)
|School type||Semi-Private Catholic High School|
Semi-Private Catholic Elementary School
|Motto||Bis orat qui cantat|
(He whom singeth, prayeth twofold.)
|Religious affiliation(s)||Roman Catholic under direct control of the Archbishop of Toronto|
|School board||Toronto Catholic District School Board|
(Metropolitan Separate School Board)
|Area trustee||Norm DiPasquale|
|School number||518 / 834718|
518 / 835200
|Principal||Mr. Linton Soares|
|Colour(s)||Maroon (Elementary) |
|Conductors||Sidney Bryan Priddy (Artistic Director, Senior Saturday Choir & Principal Conductor), Teri Dunn (Senior Sunday Choir, Elementary Choir, and Dean of Choral Studies) and Maria Conkey (Junior Choir)|
St. Michael's Choir School (also named as SMCS, St. Mike's Choir) is a boys' semi-private school located in downtown Toronto's Garden District of Toronto, Ontario, Canada operated by a joint venture of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, formerly the Metropolitan Separate School Board as its member since 1966, although the Archdiocese owns the St. Michael's Choir property.
While providing rigorous academic instruction for university entrance, the Choir School trains its students to be choristers and musicians through choral, music theory, individual vocal, individual piano, and optional additional individual instrumental classes as well as embodying a unique learning environment for its students. All students sing in choirs at St. Michael's Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto.
The school's small student population lends to a tight-knit community of teachers, Choir School families, and alumni, as well as academic enrichment found in small class sizes.
The school was founded in 1937 by Monsignor John Edward Ronan. It was established to provide sacred music to St. Michael's Cathedral, but it did not originally have a full academic programme. Monsignor Ronan was a graduate of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and was a prolific composer, though much of his work remains unpublished. He remained principal of the school until his death in 1962. Monsignor Ronan is considered the Father of the School, and is highly respected by all students along with Joan Hopperton, the first teacher; Kathleen Mann, the first Junior Choir conductor; and Monsignor Barrett Armstrong, first organist and later conductor at the school. They are honoured through the school’s house system: Ronan, Mann, Hopperton, and Armstrong being the houses.
In 1966, the Choir School entered into an agreement with the Metropolitan Separate School Board (now called the Toronto Catholic District School Board) to place secular, non-music courses under the publicly funded separate school system. By 1987, the school was fully funded by government with the exception of the music programme, for which students pay fees. This administrative structure remains today, though Choir School teachers continue to instruct students beyond the confines of Ontario's public education curricula. In 1987, the Choir School completed fifty years of service, and in recognition of this milestone, Art Eggleton, the mayor of Toronto at the time, declared June 15, 1987 as the official "St. Michael's Choir School Day".
St. Michael's Choir School has held an annual Christmas concert since 1939. From 1939 to 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, 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. 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 and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
St. Michael's Choir School tours frequently within Canada and abroad having recently performed in Nova Scotia, Quebec, the Czech Republic, the United States of America, and the Federal Republic of Germany. 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.
Notable Choir School instructors have included composer and piano virtuoso John Arpin, who taught piano from 1956 to 1957, and Canadian Opera Company tenor John Arab, who taught vocal from 1954 until his death in 2000.
Academic and choral programmes
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. 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. The elementary programme rated 9.9 out of 10 and was ranked 1st out of 3030 schools.
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.
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. 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.
In 2015, the choir school celebrated 50 years of performances at Massey Hall.
- 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 (2008)
- In Midnight's Stillness (2009)
Saint Michael’s Choir School is recording a new album as of April 10th, 2019.
- Michael Burgess – actor and singer
- The Crew-Cuts – vocal quartet
- Matt Dusk – jazz musician
- The Four Lads – vocal quartet
- Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies – keyboardist
- Janko Kastelic – conductor – Vienna State Opera
- Keram Malicki-Sánchez – singer, producer, actor, who has appeared in films such as American History X
- John McDermott – singer
- Michael Ontkean – actor, Twin Peaks
- Robert Pomakov – opera singer
- Michael Schade – operatic tenor
- Peter Togni – composer
- Marco Mendicino - lawyer, Liberal Member of Parliament for Eglinton-Lawrence (2015-present)
- Kuya Productions - multi-platinum Grammy-nominated hip-hop, R&B and pop production duo consisting of Samuel T. Gerongco and Robert T. Gerongco.
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. 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.
The school was further mired in controversy over the removal of its Artistic Director, Dr. Jerzy Cichocki, a 25-year-plus employee and alumnus. A letter dated December 28, 2016 by the school's director, Stephen Handrigan, was sent to the entire Choir School community outlining Dr. Cichocki's dismissal. Following some backlash from the community, a secondary letter from the Cardinal was sent out, reiterating Dr. Cichocki's removal. A student-led petition in support of Dr. Cichocki's reinstatement was made on December 30, 2016 and earned almost 1000 signatures.
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was founded in 1937
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John Edward Ronan
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- Hunwicks, Allison (2014). "Choir school training launched jazz singer Matt Dusk's career". catholicregister.org. Archived from the original on January 14, 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
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