The original church was constructed in 1876, and the choir was established during the incumbency of the Reverend Mr. Gorman (1886 – 89). Among the early organists, and presumably, choir directors, were Miss Marie Vaughan and Miss Jane Pettapiece, the latter having retired in 1903.Both ladies received handsome gifts for their voluntary services, but in 1903 the organist was voted a stipend of five dollars semi-annually.
Miss Annie Tomkins took over the choir from Miss Pettapiece and played for about six years before marrying Mr. Johnson Clapp. Mrs. Clapp was one of the chief organizers of the “ice cream guild” that sold home-made ice cream and other farm products to raise funds to buy a new organ in 1905. Mrs. Clapp was succeeded by Mrs. Dudley Oliver and Miss Mabel Vaughan.
In 1921 Miss Julia Mills became the organist and played for 16 years, retiring two years after she married Mr. Meredith Tomkins in 1934. Mrs. Annie Clapp returned to the position of organist and choir director and remained in that position until 1960 when Mrs. Vera Puttick was appointed. She remained in the position only a year before returning to her native England.
Mrs. Margaret Layng played the organ for three years while Miss Honour Coldrey was choir director. During the 75th anniversary year of 1951 the choir was first robed. The choir then came under the direction of Mrs. Helen Nicholson who for the first time rendered to the parish the services of a highly qualified singing instructor. When Mrs. Nicholson left the parish, Mrs. Peter Thornley took over with Mrs. Nutter and Miss Susan Tomkins filling in on occasion. Mrs. Brown from St. James, Leitrim, helped out when Mrs. Thornley left and then, early in 1966, the services of Mr. Terence (Terry) O’Connor were obtained. He moved to Ajax in 1968 and was succeeded by Mrs. Deykin who was followed shortly after by Mrs. Margaret Pelton.
Mrs. Pelton successfully trained and directed a children’s choir which won honours at the Ottawa Musical Festival. Terry O’Connor returned to the Manotick area in 1976 and resumed the position of organist and choir director in July of that year.
Terry took a sabbatical year leave of absence during the 1988-89 season and was replaced by Andrew Graham, who subsequently became organist and Choir director at St. James, Kemptville when Terry returned to resume his duties. He continued until he left the community in the fall of 1994. During his tenure, the choir won several shields for sacred music at the Ottawa Musical Festival.
At the time the old church building facing onto Church Street was razed and replaced by the new structure in 1985, a new organ was purchased and installed. It was a Classicelectronic instrument that was at the time “state-of-the-art” – a vastly different instrument from the little antique pipe organ that was in the old church and now resides in the music department of Carleton University.
In October, 1994, Mr. Mark Ehlebracht won the competition for the position of organist and director of music, and remained until leaving in the spring of 1997 to begin his studies for the Lutheran ministry at the University of Waterloo. Eleanor Riordon, who had been acting as assistant organist during Mark’s tenure, took over on a full-time basis for most of 1997 pending the appointment of a full-time incumbent.
The successful applicant was Mr. Wayne Whitney, who began his duties on the first Sunday of 1998. Wayne had been a former parishioner and choir member, with a strong Anglican musical background and an excellent rapport with the choir. The assistant organist and choir director was David Huddleson.
A Youth Choir had been formed under the direction of Mark Ehlebracht and continued under Eleanor Riordon. Maria Harwood (director) and Sandy Stanutz (accompanist) further developed the skills of the Youth Choir until the year 2000. At that point Sandy Stanutz assumed the position of director, with Peggy Miller as accompanist. Sandy and Peggy continued to develop the Youth Choir with great success. Sandy stepped down as Director in 2003, and the Youth Choir is not now active. We look forward to a future re-launch of this talented group of young songsters.
A number of visible changes took place in interior layout during the 1999/00 season. Due to the construction of the new addition and the moving of the altar to the front and centre of the chancel, the choir has been moved to a location under the ecclesiastical east window, facing the congregation. The organist, at the console of the new digital electronic organ, is located on the ecclesiastical south side of the chancel. The stereophonic speakers are placed in enclosures on each side of the east window and there are two antiphonal speakers located on each side of the balcony facing out to the congregation. In addition to a wide range of traditional stops, the organ is equipped with a “midi” which is programmed with a variety of instruments and other sound capabilities. In 2002 the electronic sound system in the church was upgraded through the use of a mixer and the placement of additional speakers.
Terry O’Connor’s untimely death in April 2008 was a sad occasion. Although he and Judy had by then left the parish to live in Pennsylvania, they had both maintained close contact with their many friends here. On Sunday 23 November the parish dedicated a window to his memory.
In the spring of 2009 Wayne Whitney announced that he planned to retire as choir director by the fall of that year. A tribute to Wayne on 30 August 2009 showed how greatly all members of the parish appreciated his musical leadership and dedication.
After an extensive search, the parish was fortunate to obtain the services of Hrvjoye Peric, who had just moved with his family from Montreal. Under Hrvoje’s direction the choir continued its mission ‘to lead in the music of worship to the glory of God’ with new music complementing our existing repertoire.
The choir mourned the death, on November 14, 2011, of our dear friend and lead bass, Hugh Best. Hugh had sung bass in church choirs for 65 years.
In July 2012 Hrvoje was offered a position in the Music Conservatory of Medicine Hat College, a great opportunity for him and his family, but a loss to us as a parish. We have been most fortunate in our appointment of Ellen Badcock as Director of Music. Ellen, who joined us in January 2013, was formerly the organist at Saint James’ Church in Kemptville.
Sad news came in the spring of 2014 when we learned that Hrvoje had died on April 11. His high musical standards challenged the choir to move forward, even as his kindness and good humour provided inspiration and encouragement. One of his initiatives, however, did come to fruition; this was a drive to purchase a grand piano. In 2015 the plan was revitalized under the leadership of Ellen Badcock and Jane Venus. The required funds were raised, and the piano arrived in December. It is indeed a fine addition to our musical facilities.
A sad event on December 31, 2017 was the death of Derek Graham, whose good cheer and fine Welsh voice added a special spark to the choir.
As of July 2018, the membership of the choir was:
Saint James’ Choir
Director: Ellen Badcock
Marg Van Dusen
Elizabeth van Ossenbruggen