From Choirboy to Soloist – Jonathan Michael

I’ve been very blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a cantor at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Toronto for the past 18 years. Singing at church is something that I have been doing since 1982 after my parents enrolled me at St. Michael’s Choir School. From the age of seven, I was singing at St. Michael’s Cathedral with the junior boys’ choir. During those formative years, little did I know the impact that all of this singing at the choir school would have and how it would continue to guide me even after graduating.

During my years with St. Michael’s Choir, we were required to be at the school 6 out of the 7 days of the week. Depending on your age and what choir you were part of determined which one of the Saturday or Sunday masses you would be required to cover. Further, if there was a wedding or funeral taking place at the Cathedral on a Saturday, you would be required to sing at multiple services that weekend. Although at the time, it seemed like extra work, little did I realize how it would be mirroring my like 20 years later.

After graduating from the choir school in ‘93, ironically enough, the first job I was able to secure that summer was covering the 10a.m. Sunday mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church at 131 McCaul Street in downtown Toronto. I was part of an acapella quartet with 3 other classmates. We would scour through the music library of the Choir School throughout the week to determine our repertoire at St. Patrick’s.

Upon attending university in Ottawa, I felt the desire to continue singing especially as music had been a integral part of my life. I joined the Carleton University Choir in 1994 and sang with them throughout my University years. I would rehearse with the choir members (which was mainly comprised of music majors) every Thursday afternoon and our hours of practice would culminate in both a Christmas and Spring concert throughout the school year. I was very fortunate to secure a number of solos during my years with the Carleton University Choir. It was a great experience working under the direction of Lisette Canton, and I am eternally grateful to her as being a featured soloist only fuelled my desire to further my singing career.

In addition to joining the Carleton Choir, I also felt the need to continue singing at church.  From 1995 to 1999, I was singing at the morning masses at St. Augustine’s Parish and St. John the Apostle R.C. Church. This marked the first time I sung as a soloist/cantor at church and this helped prepare me for  what was to lie ahead.

Upon returning to Toronto in 2000, I was not affiliated with any church and found it very difficult attending mass and not contributing somehow to the music liturgy. It was as though I was going through some type of withdrawal. After all, it had been close to 20 years that I had been consistently singing at a church in some capacity…….quitting cold turkey did not sit well with me!  Anyways, I put a call out to the universe requesting to find another parish where I could sing and in the summer of 2001, I received a call from the organist at St. Margaret of Scotland of Parish (who happened to be another graduate of St. Michael’s Choir School) asking that I cover the Saturday 4:30p.m. mass during the summer. This eventually turned into a full time position on Saturdays and later into covering all masses at different times of the year.

It is also at St. Margaret’s that I was introduced to my first vocal teacher, Suzanne Compass, who I trained with from 2004 to 2009. She helped turn me into a soloist from a choir singer……some may not fully understand that last statement but there is a very big difference between the two.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 17 years at St. Margaret’s and overall, I’ve loved being part of the music ministry at the various parishes in Toronto and Ottawa. I’ve had the privilege of performing at numerous weddings, funerals, baptisms and memorial services throughout my years as a cantor. Also, it is quite fitting that my transition into a soloist started where it all began…….church!

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