WESTERN NEW YORK: Buffalo cathedral choir receives first grant of its kind from U.K. music charity

January 18, 2008

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, New York, in the Diocese of Western New York has receive the first-ever grant to a North American cathedral choir by the London, U.K.-based Friends of Cathedral Music (FCM).

This grant, amounting to approximately $11,000, will be presented by Neil Page, a member of the FCM Council on January 24 during Evensong.

"We hope it will be both a support and an encouragement to all those involved with the music at the Buffalo Cathedral," Christopher Gower, FCM's grants secretary, said in a news release. "I have had personal experience of the great work being done there which is set in quite a challenging urban environment."

The choral program at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral dates back to 1867, making it one of the first men and boys choirs in North America, according to the news release. It is one of only 30 remaining in the U.S. There are 15 boy choristers and 12 salaried lay clerks (or choir men). The choir has traveled overseas extensively, making eight trips to the U.K. in the past 20 years.

The training, education and discipline of being part of the St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral choirs have helped form leaders and musicians, the release said. Among those who, as young boys, sang with the Men and Boys Choir are Aaron Bartley, who lives in Buffalo and founded PUSH, an advocacy group for the poor; William Eddins, one-time resident conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and now music director of the Edmonton Orchestra; Raymond Glover, editor for the 1982 Hymnal; Paul Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for music; and Valerian Ruminski, a bass who has sung with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera, among others.

The 15-member girls' choir has developed a reputation as one of the finest ensembles of its kind in an American cathedral, according to the release. During the past decade they also have toured extensively overseas including singing in several British cathedrals.

The cathedral's program also includes the Schola Cantorum (a mixed adult choir), formed in 1999 as a part-time ensemble.

Jeremy S. Bruns, the current organist/choirmaster, was previously associate organist at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Fifth Avenue, in New York City, a parish internationally renowned for its choir program and boarding school to train choristers.

"This grant means a great deal to us," said Bruns. "FCM has indeed given us a valuable gift toward the future of Music at St. Paul's Cathedral, and we hope that others will follow in their very generous example."

A choir endowment has been established coinciding with this year's 140th anniversary of the choirs. The organizers' goal is to raise $1.5 million over the next three years to cover the costs of the program.

"Meeting the endowment goal would mean preserving and securing this unique and valuable program for the future, when parish finances might not be able to cover the large costs of sustaining it," said Bruns. "Programs of this sort are threatened on a regular basis due to lack of financial support, and we are doing everything we can to make sure that does not happen here."

Since its foundation 52 years ago, FCM has given grants to the choirs of cathedrals, collegiate and large parish churches in an amount equaling approximately $3 million. Its members share a love of cathedral music and through the organization, supports and encourages the singing of daily services and helps to preserve this priceless heritage. Enabling St Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo to preserve this tradition is dear to the hearts of all FCM members, the release said.