The Cathedral Choirs

 I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also.
motto of the Royal School of Church Music

The Cathedral has a long tradition of excellence in music, dating to 1831 when the parish purchased its first organ—only the second such instrument in Detroit. The Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys was founded in 1884, and thus it enjoys one of the longest unbroken traditions of any such choir in the United States. The Girls and Womens’ Choirs were formed in 1917. In 2001, the Schola Cantorum, a small, auditioned chamber choir was added and these three ensembles present a great breadth of sacred choral music in liturgies and in concert.

Affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music in America, the choirs sing the principal Sunday service at 11:00 a.m.weekly, as well as various occasional events such as Choral Evensong (an afternoon service of music and prayers), the Advent Procession (a service of music and words in preparation for Christmas), and the beloved service of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is traditionally sung during the week before Christmas.

The choirs have sung with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, have appeared in concert with orchestra in the Cathedral. They sing annually on the Music at the Cathedral concert series, appearing with our own renowned music staff as well as artists from around the country.

The choirs make one domestic tour annually, and in recent years have been heard in Rochester, New York; Toronto; Cleveland; Chicago; Alexandria, Virginia; and in the Washington National Cathedral. During the summer of 2014, the choir was in residence at Chichester Cathedral in England for a week, also singing at Canterbury Cathedral and Southwark Cathedral.

Adults who wish to learn more about becoming involved with the Cathedral Choirs are asked to contact Mr. Jeremy David Tarrant, Organist and Choirmaster

Music Office: (313) 833-7547

e-mail: jtarrant@detroitcathedral.org

A unique musical opportunity for children

Boy and Girl choristers in the Cathedral receive their musical training through the Cathedral Choir School of Metropolitan Detroit, an extra0curricular music opportunity that provides children of Metropolitan Detroit a solid, basic music education, free of charge.

Generations of boys and girls from all over the Detroit metropolitan area have had their musical formation in the Cathedral Choirs. The Cathedral and Choir School adhere to the principle that children are capable of learning to sing the finest in choral music from all composers of all periods and in a variety of languages. Choristers in the Cathedral Choirs are not merely taught how to sing. Their rehearsal time is divided between rehearsing the music to be sung and learning music theory skills, ear training, vocal technique, music reading, and so on. Therefore, at the end of a child’s time in the choir, he or she has gained a solid basic music education, free of charge. Children emerge from this experience with a deep love of fine arts, enhanced self-confidence, and an ability to work collaboratively.

Visit the website for  The Cathedral Choir School of Metropolitan Detroit


Choir News

For, by and about our choristers….

The Cathedral Choir made a brief trip to western Michigan in late June where they were in residence at All Saints Episcopal Church in Saugatuck. Below is one adult singer’s account of that weekend.

Going West: Choir Tour to Saugatuck, 2012
by Richard Fry

With the end of another season for the choir, it was time for another tour. This year, the choir went to Saugatuck, a small town on the east coast of Lake Michigan, during the weekend of June 23-24. We spent two relaxing days singing and exploring the magnificent scenery of the Saugatuck region. I’ve been in the choir for nearly five years now, and this tour definitely ranks as my favorite so far.

Unlike previous tours, where the entire choir traveled by coach, on this tour the adult members traveled by car while the treble choristers went to Saugatuck in a minibus. I traveled with John O’Brien and his wife Linda in their minivan, along with Paula Styer, Katie Else, and Jennifer Hart. On arriving in Saugatuck, we went for lunch at “The Hickory Pit,” a Kentucky-style barbecue restaurant in the small downtown area. Afterward, we went for a walk through the marina. Both the marina and downtown area are located next to Kalamazoo Lake, which flows into Lake Michigan.

We then drove to All Saints’ Episcopal Church, located in a quiet, leafy neighborhood of Saugatuck, for our afternoon rehearsal. Once everyone had arrived, the choir rehearsed the music for the following morning’s service. One of the challenges we encountered was singing in a completely different environment. While the acoustics of the cathedral in Detroit naturally project the sound of the choir, the interior of All Saints Episcopal Church is small, with a low ceiling and carpeted floors. The choir had to work much harder to project the sound through the building.

With the rehearsal over, we went to our hotel in nearby Holland. After checking in, the majority of the group went to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, situated by Lake Michigan. Predictably for a Saturday afternoon, the beach was crowded. The trebles spent time swimming in the lake, supervised by Jim Hooker and the parent chaperones, while the adults walked to the lighthouse and along the pier. Jim, it should be noted, played an integral role in the tour, driving the trebles to Saugatuck and coordinating their Saturday evening dining arrangements.

Most of the adult choristers in the group went straight from the beach to downtown Holland for dinner. Our plan to eat at the New Holland Brewery suffered a minor setback when we discovered we would have to wait an hour and half for a table. So we made a reservation, then decided that we should pass the time by having our desert first. We walked one block down the street to a pie shop, which sold heaping slices of every variety of fruit pie you can imagine. I had a piece of apple crisp with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. We had only just sat down when the electronic device given to Paula by the New Holland Brewery started beeping. We assumed that meant our table was ready, so we wolfed down our slices of pie – or, in Canon Tarrant’s words, “inhaled” them – and made our way back up the street. When we got to the brewery, we discovered our table wasn’t ready at all – the device was only beeping because the battery was going flat!

The next morning, we assembled in All Saints’ Church for the 10:00 a.m. service. On arrival, we briefly rehearsed the morning’s music. As we were lined up outside the church waiting to process, the trebles broke into an impromptu rendition of a Bruno Mars song. (Of course, I had to get Erin, one of the sopranos, to actually explain to me it was Bruno Mars they were singing. Am I really that out of touch?) During the service, the choir sang ‘Ave Verum’ by William Byrd and ‘Praise to God in the Highest’ by Sydney Campbell, with the latter conducted by Darren Herring. In addition, the trebles gave a beautiful rendition of ‘The Call’ by Ralph Vaughn Williams, accompanied by John O’Brien on the organ. William Byrd’s ‘Ave Verum’ is one of my favorite pieces from the past choir year. The bass line has a great melody, and I really enjoy singing all those low notes.

At the conclusion of the service, the choir attended the All Saints’ annual picnic at the Saugatuck pavilion. In my account about last year’s tour to Cincinnati, I said that the lunch we were served by Christ Church Cathedral was the best meal we’d ever had on a choir tour. Well, the lunch we had at the All Saints’ picnic is the new holder of that accolade. The food was, quite simply, outstanding. There were copious amounts of chicken (both fried in batter and broiled, with legs, wings, and thighs), couscous, salad, various vegetables, and shortbread covered in caramel, chocolate and nuts for desert. Enormous credit is due to the numerous volunteers at All Saints’ Church who put this great meal together.

The pavilion was located at the bottom of Mount Baldhead, a steep hill that you can climb by going up 301 wooden stairs. I went up the stairs in a group comprised of a few adult singers, parent chaperones, and the treble choristers. The top of the hill affords magnificent views of Saugatuck, Lake Kalamazoo, and Lake Michigan. The other side of the hill is comprised entirely of sand dunes, surrounded by forest, which lead down to Oval Beach and Lake Michigan. It was a surreal experience walking bare foot in the sand through the middle of a forest. And, as you might imagine, the kids had a riotous time making their way down the steep dunes.

Oval Beach is stunning – a long stretch of golden sand right on the shore of Lake Michigan. In researching the beach since the choir tour, I have discovered that it is ranked as one of the top twenty-five shorelines in the world. Given this status, the beach was remarkably quiet, with only a small scattering of families. The choir members spent a very enjoyable hour on the beach, with Jeremy Tarrant joining us soon after our arrival. Charles, one of the treble boys, couldn’t persuade any of his peers to dig a hole in the sand with him, so I volunteered to help. As we started digging, Jalen also joined the construction squad. At first, we had to scoop away the sand with our hands, but the digging process became considerably easier when Charles asked a nearby family to lend him one of their spades! We didn’t quite fulfill Charles’s goal of digging all the way to England, but we still managed to dig a hole that was pretty deep – eventually, water began seeping into the base. Meanwhile, the girl choristers, led by Akiyah, were busy at work on their own hole a few feet away. One of them had the idea that we should link the two holes with an underground tunnel. Both groups began digging under the sand between the two holes, constructing a rather impressive tunnel. And, of course, what happened next? The trebles promptly chose to destroy the whole elaborate creation!

For the remaining time on the trip, Jim took the trebles to get ice cream, while the adult choristers meandered through downtown Saugatuck. Many of the adults also went for ice cream. I had two large scoops of the very delicious ‘Saugatuck Mud,’ a local specialty that consists of vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips and caramel. John O’Brien and his coterie of passengers left Saugatuck shortly before five o’clock. Aside from a short restroom stop, we traveled straight back to Detroit.

This year’s choir tour was much too fast for my liking. I certainly would not have objected to spending another few days amidst the beautiful scenery and laid-back atmosphere of Saugatuck. The tour was made particularly memorable by the great camaraderie among the group, a diverse repertoire of music, and the first-rate hospitality provided by All Saints’ Episcopal Church. I can think of few ways I would rather have started summer 2012.

Music and Madness: Cathedral Choir Tour to Ohio and Kentucky, 2011
by Richard Fry

The Cathedral Choir made its seventh annual domestic tour over the weekend of June 25 and June 26, visiting Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, Kentucky. The focal point of the tour was the choir’s participation in the morning Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati on June 26.

The choristers, adult singers, and chaperones gathered at the Cathedral at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. After a short meeting with Canon Tarrant, during which many people were still half asleep, we all boarded the coach. Despite bearing the name ‘Good Samaritan Comfort,’ the coach was hardly the last word in luxury, with narrow seats and restricted legroom. We traveled south on I-75 to Cincinnati, with Canon Tarrant to provide guidance on the itinerary and Jane Thomas, Chair of the Choir School Board, to provide sustenance in the form of cookies and other snacks. Associate Organist Richard Newman was also present, on his first tour with the choir.

We arrived at the Ramada Hotel in Cincinnati, our base for the weekend, just after 12:30 p.m. On checking in, we learned that the outdoor swimming pool was drained of water and closed to guests. The hotel was rundown, with threadbare carpets, walls that badly needed painting, and very slow elevators. The rooms were not much better; Justin and I, who were sharing a room, needed several attempts to lock our door. (Canon Tarrant adds his thanks to the Choir and to the Choir Parents for their most gracious handling of the less-than-great accommodation.)

Most of the group assembled in the hotel lobby at 1:30 p.m. and walked the short distance to Union Terminal, an old railway building that now houses several museums. While the trebles and chaperons made straight for the natural history museum or children’s museum, Justin, Ben, and I (all singers in the bass section) started with the Cincinnati history museum. As a labor historian, I particularly enjoyed the exhibits about the industrial revolution in Cincinnati. The best part of the museum, though, was the enormous model of Cincinnati, with dozens of operating trains and streetcars.

By the time we left the history museum, we only had time to walk quickly around the natural history museum before reconvening with the other group members in the Union Terminal forecourt. The group then proceeded to the IMAX theater for a film about tornadoes. The film was engaging, particularly the footage shot in the middle of a tornado, but I found it hard to focus on the enormous screen. At one point, I even found myself falling asleep. I didn’t feel so bad about this when I found out that several other people had the same problem.

Later, Justin, Ben, and I walked to downtown Cincinnati for dinner. We were joined by two of the chaperones, Aria and Mary, and their three charges, Jacob, Ruth, and Corrine. We all decided to go to a restaurant called Arnold’s, which we found listed in the Cincinnati visitor guide. Finding the restaurant, however, proved to be somewhat problematic. No one in the group could decipher the map in the visitor guide – or rather, everyone in the group was very bad at reading maps – with the result that we had to ask a random passerby how to get there.

When we finally located the restaurant, we sat in the outside courtyard. Everyone ordered something different from the eclectic menu. The convivial atmosphere in the courtyard (and good company, I might add) compensated for the mediocre food. When we left the restaurant, we amused ourselves by taking turns to sit in a motorized bathtub on wheels that was parked outside!

That night, there was an intense thunderstorm. It was still dissipating when the group set off for Christ Church Cathedral at 8:15 a.m. the next morning. At the cathedral, the choir had a short rehearsal, before singing at the 10:00 a.m. service. We sang C. V. Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via and Basil Harwood’s Magnificat in A Flat. Following the service, cathedral volunteers provided lunch for the group. Everyone agreed it was the best lunch they had ever had on a choir tour. The chicken salad and pineapple muffins were particularly good, and even the coffee tasted better than usual. Canon Tarrant and Mr. Newman spent time meeting the congregants of Christ Church, and received many compliments about the choir’s visit.

By early afternoon, it was warm and sunny. We set off at 1:30 p.m. for the Newport Aquarium, across the Ohio River in Kentucky. As the bus was departing the cathedral, two choristers announced that they had forgotten to bring some luggage from their room earlier that morning. Canon Tarrant took pity, and abandoned his earlier (very stern) warning that the bus would not return to the hotel under any circumstances. We made, in his words, ‘a special diversion’ to the hotel on the way to the aquarium.

Newport Aquarium was busy, to the point that it was difficult to see many of the exhibits. The show where divers went swimming with sharks was worth the price of admission, though. Ben and I still had an hour to spare after leaving the aquarium, so we watched a nearby street magician. It turns out that Ben has experience of doing magic, so he was able to tell me the secrets behind the tricks. Half the time, I was not actually paying attention to the magician. I was too busy trying to finish my large serving of cookie-dough ice cream before it turned into milkshake in the hot sun.

By five o’clock, it was time for everyone to get back on the coach for the return journey to Detroit. We stopped back at Christ Church Cathedral for some people who had elected not to join us at the aquarium, before the drive north to the Motor City. Our arrival in the parking lot of St. Paul’s Cathedral later that evening signaled the end of another successful trip and another choir year.