In 1916, when plans were being made to dedicate the new church, the organist, Arthur Mews, thought that a gowned choir would be appropriate. He contacted Messrs. Harcourt & Son, Ltd, of 103 King St. West, Toronto, to obtain information about ordering the black gowns, with the addition of caps [mortar boards] and white collars for the women.
The company made the gowns, and supplied the organist’s gown which was of a special design free of charge. The caps were imported from England.
The order was as follows: 20 ladies choir gowns at $5.00 each, 20 college caps at $1.75 each, 20 ladies collars at $0.35 each, 15 men’s gowns at $5.00 each with the organist’s gown at no cost. The total cost was $217.00 with additional gowns and accessories ordered later.
The final cost to robe the choir was $267.50. By November of 1916, more gowns were ordered, at a further cost of $37. This means that 29 women and 15 men were gowned. This money was raised by soliciting various members of the congregation, thus there was no cost to the church.
In a letter to Harcourt, on June 2, 1916, shortly before the church was dedicated, Mr. Mews wrote the following: “The various packages containing the gowns, etc, came to hand safely, and we are very pleased with them. They are well made, the material is good, you have suited us well with the different sizes, and the result is altogether pleasing. I feel sure that in a little while the other choirs of the dissenting churches in this city will adopt this dress, which is most fitting and appropriate. At present we are the only choir here using the gowns, and I shall take pleasure in recommending your firm to any who contemplate adopting them.”
The choir wore these gowns until the 1970s when the church was re-decorated and the thought was that the choir should be robed in a more contemporary manner at which time the choir raised money to purchase gold coloured gowns.
In 2005, at the anniversary service of the church, the choir again wore the black gowns which are still available at the church for similar occasions. Over the years, the use of the women’s caps was discontinued and coloured collars, such as mauve for Easter, had been used with the black gowns.
Copyright: Cochrane Street United Church Archives 2012