Discover Trinity: Some Enchanted Evensong with the Trinity College Chapel Choir

Posted Nov 3, 2017 10:22 am

Once a week, the Trinity College Chapel is transformed by music. Though already one of most beautiful spaces on campus, it assumes an even more awe-inspiring quality during Choral Evensong.

Every Wednesday at 5:15 pm, the Chapel is filled with the sound of the Trinity College Chapel Choir. Leading these voices, high up in the Choir Loft, is College Organist and Director of Music, John Tuttle (photo below). “By and large the repertoire is drawn from the sort of thing you’d hear if you walked into a British Cathedral on a weekday or a Sunday afternoon,” John said. “We’re trying to recreate a little bit of that here. It’s a way of touching roots with music. It’s a piece of art as well as a piece of liturgy. 

It’s a sentiment echoed by baritone Chris Sims, an undergraduate student at Trinity now in his second year with the Choir. “What’s unique about Evensong in comparison to other church services is the wonderful and extensive repertoire that you rarely hear elsewhere,” he said. “I really think people should come – this is a great service even if you do not have a religious background –you can just absorb the beautiful music.”

Uncommon at Trinity for its use of the Book of Common Prayer during the service, which is led by Humphrys Chaplain The Rev. Andrea Budgey, it is the beautiful music that makes the Choral Evensong a unique event. The quality of the service is enhanced by John Tuttle, an accomplished organist whose concerts and recordings have received high acclaim across North America.

John has been Trinity’s Organist and Musical Director since 2006, and has taught most of Trinity’s Bevan Organ Scholars for the past 25 years.  Choir member Matthew Bowman, Divinity alum and Junior Fellow in Theology at Trinity, is quick to draw attention to John’s talents. “Singing with renowned choral conductor John Tuttle in the splendour of the Trinity Chapel has been one of the highlights of my five years at Trinity College,” he said. “His instinctive mixing of musical excellence and humour creates an engaging environment in which to learn and perform music of the Anglican choral tradition.”

Practicing twice a week, the talented Choir is made up of graduate and undergraduate students from U of T, including Trinity students, and members of the broader community (photo below). This year, from a group of just 26 choristers, two members even travel from Kitchener to sing each week.

Amplifying the voices of the Choir is Trinity’s current Bevan Organ Scholar, Manuel Piazza, who accompanies them. Manuel is a third year student at the University of Toronto, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance under the instruction of John Tuttle.

Becoming a member of the Trinity Chapel Choir is no easy feat. It requires a challenging and exciting, if quick audition, which John streamlined a few years ago. Although each audition only last about three to four minutes, John succeeds each year in bringing together an incredible group of dedicated and talented singers. As an added benefit, singers who are students at the university can also receive one of the Choir’s annual scholarships to help fund private vocal lessons.

The impact of the Choir on its members is clear. For Trinity and Choir alumna Emma Barnaby (Class of 2016) it was an experience she will not forget. What I will miss most, by far, are times spent with John Tuttle,” she said. “Choir rehearsals were always fun and productive, and Choral Evensong on Wednesdays was always a rewarding experience.”

Open to the public, Choral Evensong provides a perfect respite, an opportunity for quiet reflection and a chance to enjoy a repertoire of rarely performed choral music.

The Choral Evensong service is held weekly on Wednesdays at 5:15 pm during the academic year in the Trinity College Chapel (6 Hoskin Avenue, Toronto).