How one passes on musical patrimony to one’s children

UPDATE:  When I posted a link to this piece on Facebook on the Anglican Ordinariates Informal Conversation Forum, I wrote the following:  “How many of our Ordinariate parishes have choirs and encourage young people to sing? I loved the fact St. Thomas More in Scranton, PA had a huge choir that included many young children.”  We do not have a choir in Ottawa, but instead engage in robust congregational singing, often in three or four part harmony depending on who’s there.


Here is a link to a marvelous interview with Peter Mahon, of Canada’s well-known musical Anglo-Catholic family (now mostly in the Ordinariate).

MysteryChild_Oct Peter’s father Albert Mahon was cantor under Canada’s renowned sacred music composer Healey Willan. [Pictured are Albert, Dr Willan, Peter, and two of Peter’s sisters.]

Toronto-born countertenor Peter Mahon is both a singer and a conductor. Still a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir after 36 years, he became the artistic director of the Tallis Choir of Toronto in 2003 after singing with them for many years. Mahon also conducts the Vespers Choir at St Michael’s Cathedral, and for the past 11 years, has worked at St. Michael’s Choir School as a rehearsal conductor and voice coach.  Currently the interim Senior Choir director, his duties include selecting the music sung at cathedral services as well as training and conducting the Senior Choir which sings at the Sunday noon Mass.


Mahon and his wife, soprano Katharine Pimenoff, have six children: four sopranos, one tenor and one bass.  Four are professional singers and one is an organist.

Peter, his wife Katharine, and several of their children are members of the ordinariates of the Chair of St Peter & Our Lady of Walsingham, and their son Christopher is secretary of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.

Here’s an excerpt, but I encourage you to go over and read the whole thing.

Imagine you could travel back through time and meet the young person in that childhood photo. Is there anything you would like to tell him, or ask him? I cannot think of anything that I would ask, but I would certainly tell myself to keep practising and not give up my piano lessons.  At that age, I had no idea that music would be such an important part of my life.

What would you say to parents hoping their young children will grow up to love and make music? Put them into a choir.  Private lessons are great but practising tends to be a solitary activity.  Singing in a choir is a social activity that can be shared with friends and this will often make taking private lessons, and all the practising that goes with it, easier to take. We never pushed our children into music but we did insist that they all join the church choir when they turned six.  It was part of their education. They were not enthusiastic but neither was I.  Once they started, they really enjoyed it.

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