The trio of singing clergy known as The Three Cantors bought joy wherever they performed; but the consecration of group member William Cliff as Bishop of Brandon in 2016 put an end to their exploits. But, in response to a “pastoral emergency” in Churchill, Manitoba, the group reformed for a special concert in front of around 70 of the town’s 900 residents. The town of Churchill has suffered from the closure of its two major employers. Flooding has forced the closure of the rail lines and the only way in and out of Churchill is by aeroplane.
The Cantors is made up of Bishop William Cliff, Dean Peter Wall, and Archdeacon David Pickett; and backed by pianist Angus Sinclair. The concert at the Churchill Community Centre was the group’s first since Bishop William’s consecration.
“We haven’t sung together in two years, so it was an adventure,” he said “We had to sort of remind one another when we breathed and do a little extra practice, and of course we were in a hall that we didn’t know. . . But it was by far an adventure. It’s the furthest north we’ve ever sung.”
The town had first requested a performance from the Cantors last year to coincide with the town’s 125th anniversary; but it was a response to the town’s struggles – described by Bishop William as a “pastoral emergency” – that brought the group back together.
Though the broken railroad had seemed to thwart the hopes of residents to hear The Three Cantors perform for their anniversary celebration, their determination remained unbroken. In the aftermath of the flooding, they doggedly organised fundraising efforts to pay the necessary travel costs.
With the individual Cantors living across a wide geographical expanse – Bishop William is in Brandon, Manitoba; Dean Wall in Hamilton, Ontario; Archdeacon Pickett in Calgary, Alberta; and Sinclair in London, Ontario – gathering its members together for a performance can cost a considerable sum.
Churchill residents “wanted us to come up last year in June . . . but then the rail washout made that impossible,” Bishop William said. “So they worked for the better part of a year and got donations and funding to get us all up there – and we had a great time.”
Having successfully made the journey to entertain the people of Churchill, the Three Cantors are considering the possible of performing together again in the future.
A possible concert in Brandon – which would reduce the total cost of travel – is currently in the works for the Cantors, who in their two decades performing together have recorded four albums and raised more than $1.5 million CAD (approximately £8.5 million GBP) for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
“Being a bishop makes it near impossible to get us together but we’re going to keep trying to do what we can where we can,” Bishop William said.