Posted by: Editor | September 8, 2011

Music to our Years

Music to our Years

-Esquimalt goes “high brow” with classical concert series in commemoration of our 100 years of history

By Tim Morrison

Starting this month, Esquimalt will become a little more refined as local residents are treated to an eight month long concert series as a tribute to Esquimalt’s centennial.  The proud sponsor and host is St. Paul’s Historic Naval & Garrison Church in the Parish of St. Peter & St. Paul at 1379 Esquimalt Road.

St. Paul's Historic Naval & Garrison Church in Esquimalt

The local Anglican Church is busier than ever, having recently absorbed five other Greater Victoria parishes as part of a regional consolidation. Regardless of its present-day “super-sized” status, its most valued asset will always be its rich stretch of history, an existence that long predates Esquimalt Township.

According to its official records:

“The first services in St. Paul’s church were held by Royal Naval Chaplains at the medical station set up in Esquimalt during the Crimean War (1854-1856). With the building of the village school in 1858, the small congregation held Sunday services there. But all wanted their own church, and by the grace of God and the hard work of Paymaster Sparks and others, the church was built on the shores of Esquimalt harbour just below Signal hill. The church was consecrated on December 12, 1866 and was called St. Paul’s Naval Church. The Parish served naval and army families as well as all who lived in the district up to the Point Ellis Bridge, the Gorge and Craigflower Roads, the Highlands, the Goldstream district, Colwood, Metchosin, Rocky Point, East and West Sooke and Otter Point. In 1899, the first electric lights were installed at the cost of $46.00. In 1904, the Government of Canada decided that the property on which the church stood was needed for other purposes, so the church was dismantled and moved to its present location. Up to 1910, all the seats in the church were rented for $5.00 a year. When in 1911 this was terminated, the congregation had difficulty paying its Rector and maintaining the Church House and Church. The Church House, the former Gillespie home, was acquired in 1904. It served as home for the Rector, the Sunday School, meetings and social events. In World War 1 it was taken over by the army and served as a dormitory for enlisted men. The Present Parish Hall was built in 1957. In 1911, the name of the church was changed to St. Paul’s Naval and Garrison Church. This was but one of many names. It has been called, the Admiralty Church, the Esquimalt Church, the Esquimalt Episcopal Church, and the Naval and Garrison Church.”

A year later in 1912, the Township of Esquimalt was officially incorporated, and ever since, the two have shared 100 years of community history.

Hence, the Church wanted to do something special for Esquimalt in honour of that century-long relationship.

“I created the concert series as the next step in establishing the St. Paul’s Historic Naval and Garrison Church as Esquimalt’s performing arts center/venue for metropolitan Victoria’s smaller ensembles,” says Music Director Tristan Rhodes. “The performing ensembles were chosen for their quality, reputation and uniqueness.”

“Where else could a person hear music for violin and organ, two violin playing sopranos (note the uniqueness of this duo is that each plays violin and each is a soprano soloist), sea chanties, Renaissance band music, concertos for two organs composed for the Infante of Spain, cutting edge contemporary choral music and early Baroque treasures?” asks Rhodes. “We are thrilled that Esquimalt has adopted the series as their 100th anniversary concert series.”

“When I first moved to Esquimalt four years ago, my neighbour Ruth D’Hollander invited me to an organ recital at the Garrison Church – St. Paul’s,” recalls musician Gwen Thompson.  “Listening to the organ while reading about the history of both the church and the instrument inspired me to want to do something for my new community in my way; playing the violin, to raise money to help restore and refurbish this heritage instrument.”

St. Paul’s heritage organ celebrates 100 years of performance.

The heritage-status organ that violinist Thompson refers to is especially significant due to sharing a common birthday with Esquimalt. This upcoming year, 2012, marks the organ’s hundredth year of performance with the local parish.

Tristan Rhodes and Gwen Thompson have been selected to kick-off the concert series this month on September 25th.

“Tristan agreed to partner with me and we will use this opportunity to showcase the sounds of this outstanding organ coupled with the violin,” explains Thompson.

The result will be some very fortunate Esquimalt residents among those of us that opt to be entertained throughout the concert series. Let the music begin!

The Esquimalt Centennial Concert series schedule for 2011 – 2012:

September 25, 2011  
Gwen Thompson, C.M., violin
Tristan Rhodes, organ
Music for violin and organ

October 30, 2011
Agnes Stieda & Kate Rhodes, sopranos and violinists 
Tristan Rhodes, organ
Works from the Baroque, Classic and Romantic periods

November 20, 2011  
“From Sea to Shining Sea”
Hector’s Friends, male vocal ensemble
Sarah Quatrel, director
Choral works to stir the soul & guide us on the journey home

January 29, 2012  
A Great Noyse, Renaissance Wind Band
Stacey Boal, recorder, cornamuse, drums
Bob Fraser, sackbut, crumhorn, recorder
Bill Jamiseson, cornett, shawm, small pipes
Cuyler Page, bass dulcian, recorder, drums 
Music from the 1400’s – 1500’s played on period instruments

February 26, 2012  
Dueling Organs, Music for the Infante of Spain
The Concertos for two organs, Antonio Soler
Tristan Rhodes, great organ
Jane Sutherland, positiv organ

March 25, 2012  
Vox Humana
Brian Wismath, director
Exploring sacred texts set by contemporary composers:
Hansson, Martin, Part, Sisask, & others
Featuring Plain Chants by Canadian Welsh composer John Metcalf

April 29, 2012  
Early Baroque
Marjorie Cullerne, Baroque violins, 
Jane Sutherland, continuo
Darren Smith, Lute,
Cuyler Page, Baroque recorders, Dulcian
Musical Gems of the 1600’s & early 1700’s


Note that all concerts are located at St. Paul’s Historic Naval & Garrison Church in the Parish of St. Peter & St. Paul, 1379 Esquimalt Road.

All concerts are held on Sundays at 3 pm. Doors open at 2:30 pm
The ticket cost for the Inaugural Concert is: Adults – $30, Students – Free
For all remaining concerts from October 30 to April 29, ticket costs will be reduced to: Adults $10, Students -Free. A best-value Series Pass is available for only $40.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or by calling 250-598-1687 or emailing .
A reception will follow each concert in the Parish Hall.
The proceeds to benefit the performing ensemble & The Friends of St. Paul’s organ restoration fund.



  1. The Friends of St.Paul’s, Esquimalt is a non-profit society formed to assist in the preservation, maintenance and enhancement of the structure and contents of St. Paul’s Historic Naval and Garrison Church; and to promote the church as an historical and educational resource. It has a Charitable Registration Number and will issue receipts for Income Tax purposes to those who make donations towards the preservation of this beautiful historic building and its contents.
    The Friends of St. Paul’s, Esquimalt is delighted to sponsor the Esquimalt Centennial Concert Series. It will be at the Esquimalt Centennial Kick-Off on October 8 and hopes to welcome new members. For more information, contact Ruth D’Hollander at

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