Helen Sims

Helen Sims

Music Department Manager
Gloucester Cathedral
Helen Sims shares her tour report of the Gloucester Cathedral Choir’s trip to Toronto and Ottawa, Canada last autumn

19th-30th October 2015

Fifteen adults of the cathedral choir, 15 choristers and five chaperones landed at Toronto airport on October 19 for their eagerly awaited tour of Canada. The tour (three years in the planning with the specialist company Norman Allen Group Travel), was a packed programme of concerts, services and workshops. The focus was to be the outreach work with Canadian choirs, schools, churches and Cathedrals in Toronto, Mississauga, Port Hope and Ottawa.

Driving from the airport into the heart of downtown Toronto, with bright sunshine reflecting off the skyscrapers alongside Lake Ontario, was the perfect introduction to this vibrant city. Settling in at Bond Place Hotel and a quick meal was all that many of the tour group could manage although young adults of the choir were eager to experience the nightlife.

The following two days were spent at Royal St George’s College. Firstly there was a new departure for the Choir as they sang under the direction of six trainee conductors. Sports activities and a visit to Casa Loma Castle for the Gloucester choristers with the boys of the College were popular and the full Cathedral Choir sang a concert to a packed, and appreciative, audience.


Thursday was the only day that the Choir did not sing - it was the day to take in the sights of Niagara Falls and the Skylon tower; what an awesome sight! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride, getting wet from the spray, walking behind the falls, and seeing on film some of the bizarre and tragic events that the Falls have become famous for.

Sightseeing at Niagara Falls

Sightseeing at Niagara Falls


After Friday morning spent at CN Tower, it was back to singing - a prestigious concert at St James’ Cathedral, once again to a full house. This was followed by another concert on Saturday evening alongside the 100 strong Pax Christi Chorale.

The only Sunday on tour was spent singing the services at St Peter’s Church, Erindale, Mississauga, a 40-minute drive from Toronto. Friendships were renewed on meeting members of the choir who had sung in Gloucester in July 2015. Their hospitality was wonderful and they paid for the visit to Classic Bowl between the Eucharist, lunch and Evensong. The Gloucester Cathedral Choir’s Oriental buffet lunch at Mandarin was sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance, Toronto.


Our five hour coach journey to Ottowa was broken by a stop in Port Hope, a small community but with a big heart. Children and adults from Port Hope’s Trinity College, St Mark’s Church, and St Peter’s Cathedral Choir took part in individual voice part workshops. The culmination of this, with the addition of our own choir, was a powerful performance in Trinity College Chapel. Half-a-mile away the Choir performed a lunchtime concert at the small and beautiful St Mark’s Church which was filled with an appreciative audience. A healthy financial profit from ticket sales was shared between The Cathedral Choir and St Mark’s Church.

Capital Hill Hotel and Suites, Ottawa, was a pleasant hotel situated on Parliament Hill and close to attractions and Christ Church Cathedral. We visited The Aboriginal Experience and the Museum of Canadian History. A quick walk around Ottawa included the Rideau Canal (disappointingly it had just been drained for the winter), the statue of Oscar Peterson and his piano, and the Parliament Buildings.

On Tuesday the choir sang a concert in St Matthew’s Anglican Church and were joined by the St Matthew’s Choirs for the Howell’s Collegium Regale. Church volunteers provided a supper for both choirs.

On Wednesday the Choristers spend an enjoyable afternoon with the Choristers of Christ Church Cathedral, sharing stories about their life as choristers and playing hockey. The final singing of the tour was a joint Evensong with the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral and another sumptuous buffet supper.

High winds and rain on the last day curtailed the boat trip in Kingston, so a slightly later morning start, lunch in Ottawa and a long, but reasonable, coach journey to Toronto airport finished the tour.


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