The boys from St. Michael’s Choir School took over Dundas Square Dec. 5. Photo by David Gatchalian

Christmas concert takes over Dundas Square

  • December 17, 2021

St. Michael’s Choir School kicked off its Christmas season Dec. 5 with a free outdoor concert of secular and sacred music in Dundas Square in downtown Toronto.

The school’s annual Christmas concert normally takes place at Massey Hall (Roy Thomson Hall while Massey Hall was under renovation) and has become a Toronto holiday tradition. However, due to uncertainty around safety precautions for young performers the decision was made to take the show outdoors.

Following last year’s virtual event, the non-ticketed Carols in the Square featured performances from the school’s junior, senior and alumnae choirs. Students at the all-boys’ school performed before an audience of family and passersby who stopped for the unexpected show in the busy downtown square.

Choir school executive directory Barry White said the boys are grateful to be singing again and it has been a joy for staff and students to once again have the opportunity through the concert and services at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica — which resumed in September — to share their ministry of music.

“We realize, and the boys realize too, that it has an impact on people who haven’t gathered for almost two years now and it plays a role in the service of giving glory to God and deepening the experience that people have in the cathedral,” said White.

“The boys are feeling very positive about being at the choir school and having this gift they can share with the world, especially as people are looking at emerging from what we’ve been through for the last two years and the need for people to have a sense of community being together again.”

White says adjustments made due to COVID-19 are helping to build resilience in the boys and in many ways making the choir program that much stronger.

“Another interesting thing about COVID is because the boys have had to spread out and we’ve had to have four smaller choirs rather than two large senior choirs. It means that there’s more of an expectation that every boy is carrying his weight,” said White. “So in some ways this is encouraging our boys actually to strengthen their choral skills so we’re happy about.”

“The boys have been troopers (throughout the pandemic) so to be able to come together as a choir and perform in Dundas Square for all their family, friends, staff and alumni was truly an amazing moment for them all,” said Toronto Catholic District School Board Superintendent of Education Kimberly Dixon. “Massey Hall is an amazing opportunity, but I’m sure that the boys enjoyed seeing themselves on the Jumbotron and being out in Dundas Square.”

Christmas is always a busy time for the school and this year sees the continuation of the Lessons in Carols series. The liturgy, put on by the cathedral, involved Advent readings interspersed with choral music Dec. 14, with another event Jan. 6 for the Feast of the Epiphany. 

The choirs will also sing at Christmas Eve vigil Masses and Christmas day services at the cathedral. Split into four smaller socially distanced choirs instead of two larger senior choirs, the cohorts perform on the balcony on a rotation schedule.

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