Aims of the society
About us

The purpose of SOCHS is to support and promote congregational song among church folk and in the community at large. One of its goals is to encourage people to sing; and, specifically, to sing their faith.

Dr. Kenneth Inkster

Ken Inkster

We were sorry to report this past season the passing of Dr. Kenneth Inkster, faithful supporter of the Hymn Society and a man of many gifts. A memorial notice may be downloaded here.

SOCHS 2015-2016 Season

Download an outline of this season.

Spring 2016: Making Your Own Congregational Song Tradition

Sunday, April 10, 2016, 2:30-4:00, well-known church musician and clinician Lydia Pedersen presented to about 30 fascinated hymn lovers some of the findings of her extensive work with congregations creating their own hymn traditions. In this interactive presentation she reported on the results of her workshop in hymn writing for beginners, folks in the pew who never thought they had what it took and were pleasantly surprised. The event took place at Royal York Road United Church, 851 Royal York Road, Etobicoke, just south of Bloor.

There was no fee for this event, which was open to all congregational song enthusiasts.

Winter 2016: Sing Justice

Saturday, February 27, 2016, 9:30-3:30, renowned hymn writer, jazz musician and composer Dan Damon led a lecture-workshop Sing Justice at Emmanuel College Chapel, Victoria University in the University of Toronto. Co-sponsored by Emmanuel College department of Continuing Education. Emmanuel College is located at 75 Queen’s Park Crescent, Toronto, just across from the Royal Ontario Museum and south of the Gardiner Museum on the east side. Museum subway stop. Registration fee of $60 ($30 for students) plus HST required in advance, payable through the Emmanuel College website at http://www.emmanuel.utoronto.ca/coned.htm. Fifteen percent discount for SOCHS members ($51.00 plus HST). Refreshments at 9:30, Includes a boxed lunch. 

Fall 2015: Creating Hymns for the Joy of Singing

Sunday afternoon October 18, 2015, 3:00-4:30pm with refreshments at 2:30 at Church of the Holy Trinity (10 Trinity Square, Toronto), presented by SOCHS Executive member Ruth Watson Henderson with pastor David McKane. They will illustrate the interplay of words and music in hymn creation. Join us for singing hymns new and old together. There is no fee for this event, open to all congregational song enthusiasts.

9 November 2015

Waterloo event, co-sponsored by SOCHS:

You are invited to explore and sing with a new website on
congregational song!

Monday, November 9th, at 7:30 
Keffer Chapel, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary
(corner of Albert and Bricker)
All participants will have free access to the entire website from November 9th to 14th, 2015;
to br
owse, search and read at their leisure.
Plus: a 20% discount off list price on individual annual subscription until 30th November.

SOCHS 2014-2015 Season

Download an outline of this season. See below for other events of interest to members and friends. 

Winter 2015:  Songs of Love

Sunday afternoon February 22, 2015, 3:00pm-4:30pm with refreshments at 2:30 at Eastminster United Church, Toronto, presented by the SOCHS Executive, co-sponsored by Eastminster United Church. From popular song to congregational song, love is never far from our hearts and minds. Let’s get together a week after Valentine’s Day and Family Day, have some hot drinks and chocolate, and sing of the joys and sorrows of love to take the chill off the Southern Ontario winter.

Spring 2015: Worship in the City

Sunday afternoon, 12 April 2015 3:00pm-4:30pm with refreshments at 2:30, Metropolitan UC, Toronto. Join SOCHS President Nancy Hardy for a clear-eyed look at worship in the city. Why do we invoke bucolic scenes as exemplary of God’s providence when so many of us live in the “hard-edged” city? Is God not among us here and now? Nancy has studied our contradictory assumptions about rural and urban life and how these are manifest in our prayers and songs of worship. We’ll sing some newer and older hymns and songs that illustrate the theme.

Fall 2014: A Visioning Social Event for Members and Friends

Sunday 21 September at 3:00-4:30pm with refreshments at 2:30, St. Andrew's United Church, 117 Bloor Street East, Toronto. It is a time of rapid and profound change in the worlds of church music and worship. SOCHS is well placed to feel the effects of this change, and to influence the direction of our response to it. Incoming President of SOCHS Nancy Hardy and other members of the SOCHS executive committee were joined by guests and members for conversations, refreshments, some hymn singing and some hard talk about where we have been and where we are going as we look ahead to our 17th season!

Fall 2014:  "Footsteps in the Snow: Tracking Faith and Song in the High Arctic"

Saturday November 8, 2014 10:00am-4:00pm at Emmanuel College, Victoria University in the University of Toronto. Lori-Anne Dolloff, Associate Professor, Music Education at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, and Raigelee Alorut, World Music Artist in Residence at the University of Toronto, shared experiences derived from her work with the Cathedral faith community in Iqaluit, tracing colonial and post-colonial influences on the music used in worship today. This event was co-sponsored by Emmanuel College and the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Hymn Society. 

Other Events of Interest

Compline Services, selected Friday Evenings at St. Mary Magdalene's in honour of female saints and near saints, led by Schola Magdalena.




Fall 2013: Sing! A Community Songfest with Choral Icon Alice Parker.

The SING! weekend is co-sponsored by the Department of Choral Studies, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and Yorkminster Park Baptist Church (YPBC) along with assistance from the Royal Canadian College of Organists (Toronto Centre) and the Southern Ontario Chapter of The Hymn Society. It will include:
  • Community SING! Friday, Oct. 25, 7:30-9:00 p.m. (YPBC) No Registration Required!
  • Creative Use of Hymns in Worship Saturday, Oct. 26, 9:30-11:00 a.m. (YPBC) No Registration Required!
  • Parker in the Pulpit: Service of Worship Sunday, Oct. 27, 11:00 a.m. (YPBC) No Registration Required!
  • Gala Choral Concert: How can I keep from singing: Celebrating Alice Parker Sunday, October 27, 3:00 p.m. MacMillan Theatre, University of Toronto, with MacMillan Singers, U of T Women's Chamber Choir & Men's Chorus, Exultate Chamber choir, Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Cawthra Park Secondary School Chamber Choir, Yorkminister Park Baptist Church Choir. Tickets available through Koerner Hall Box Office

For INFORMATION call the SING! Hotline (416) 978-0827. Visit www.melodiousaccord.org for more information on Alice Parker.

Winter 2014: "Woven of Vibrant Strands: A Hymn Festival of Emerging Song"

Sunday 2 February, 4-5pm (refreshments at 3:30) co-sponsored by and at Royal York Road United Church, directed by Hilary Seraph Donaldson, with Douglas Brownlee, director of music at RYR, and friends. An opportunity to explore new horizons and new directions emerging in the ecumenical world of congregational song, especially as influenced by the boom in vernacular song in the fifty years since the Second Vatican Council. This hymn festival will be based on the closing hymn festival of the Hymn Society's 2013 annual conference, "Tree of Life and Love: The Blossoming of Song since Vatican II," which took place in Richmond, VA in July. A freewill offering will be collected to defray expenses. For INFORMATION contact SOCHS at 416 342 6034 or via email at info@sochs.org. 

Event Photos


Spring 2014: Walter Farquharson - Prairie Pastor and Hymn Poet.

Sunday afternoon April 27; 2:30pm in the Sanctuary, Trinity St. Paul's United Church, Toronto, presented by Paul Stott, co-sponsored by the Centre for Faith, Justice, and the Arts and the Worship and Faith Formation Circle of TSP. Mr. Stott has corresponded extensively with Walter Farquharson and gave a compelling presentation on Walter's work and legacy at the 2012 summer conference of the HSUSC in Winnipeg, MB. For INFORMATION contact SOCHS at 416 342 6034 or via email at info@sochs.org. Come for refreshments at 2:00.


2012-2013 Season


Pause, Reflect, Renew: A Liturgy and Song Retreat

Friday-Saturday, June 14-15, 2013, at Convent of Saint John the Divine, 233 Cummer Ave., Toronto, Ontario M2M 2E8 

Sadly, this event was cancelled.
Fabulous New Psalter Released

Friday-Saturday, February 22-23, 2013, at Emmanuel College, 75 Queen's Park Crescent, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7

"Psalms Galore: a Workshop Introducing Psalms for all Seasons" celebrates the 2011 release of a new Psalter, Psalms for all Seasons. See details at Introducing Psalms for all Seasons

Food, Conversation and Ideas about Hymn Festivals

Sunday, September 23, 2012, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Kingsway-Lambton United Church, 85 The Kingsway, Toronto, Ontario M8X 2T6 

Social with Mel Hurst on planning hymn festivals. Refreshments at 2:30. There is no fee for this event. Members and friends of SOCHS heard Mel Hurst, a master of the hymn festival, give a compelling talk on how to put one together. A brief business meeting followed to confirm new members of the SOCHS executive committee. The following minute of appreciation for outgoing executive committee members was approved:

"Whereas Fred Graham, past president, and Rachael Boles, John Derksen and Paul Stott, members at large of the Executive of the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Hymn Society have given freely of their time and expertise over the past years to provide leadership to SOCHS and have contributed immeasurably to the health of the organization and the quality of its activities,

"Therefore, on behalf of the membership of SOCHS, I move that we show our appreciation to Fred, Rachael, John and Paul as they complete their terms on the executive committee in terms of a very big thank you for all they have done for the organization and signify this by a round of applause and note to this effect on our website and in our newsletter

100th-Anniversary Hymn Festival

Sunday, October 21, 2012, 2:30 p.m. at Humbercrest United Church, 16 Baby Point Road, Toronto, Ontario M6S 3E9 

Hymn Festival with Music for Congregation, Choir, Brass and Organ. The singing began at 3:00 following a pre-festival concert of music for brass and organ. Celebrating the centennial of the congregation of Humbercrest, commentator and professor of church history Phyllis Airhart gave an extensive and fascinating commentary on hymns of importance to the denominations that came together in 1925 and later to form the United Church of Canada. Fred Graham, organist, Venabrass brass ensemble and singers of the Humbercrest Chancel Choir, conducted by Melvin Hurst, provided leadership to a group of 150 enthusiastic hymn singers in attendance.




Past Events 

2011-2012 Season

Hymn Search Completed

An original hymn text was sought to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the congregation of Humbercrest United Church, Toronto, Ontario. An honorarium was granted to the author of the winning text. This search was co-sponsored by Humbercrest United and SOCHS, and the deadline for submissions was 15 May 2012. Full details are found here. Please see above for details of the Hymn Festival that will feature the winning hymn.

Sound the Bells!

Saturday, June 2, 2012, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON, and St Andrew's United Church, 117 Bloor Street East, Toronto, ON 

To begin our day-long workshop Gerald Martindale introduced us to the art of the carillon. In the afternoon session, at St Andrew's United Church from 1:00 to 3:00, J.-C. Coolen demonstrated ways in which handbells can build community and enhance worship. 

Details of this past event are shown here.


Singing Hymns

Sunday, October 2, 2011, at 2:30 p.m.
Islington United Church
25 Burnhamthorpe Road
Toronto, ON M9A 1G9

Our fall social featured tips on supporting congregational song by four talented church musicians on the SOCHS Executive.  Don Anderson, John Derksen, Fred Graham and Lydia Pedersen demonstrated creative techniques for making texts come alive.  We sang the hymns, of course, and finished with scones and cookies at afternoon tea.

Hymns and Church Music:  Where is it all going?

Monday, February 13, 2012, at 7:30 p.m.
Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
75 Queen’s Park Crescent East (TTC: at MUSEUM)
Toronto, ON M5S 1K7

A lively and passionate conversation engaged some 25 members and friends of SOCHS with a panel of young musicians who are studying in or have recently graduated from the Master of Sacred Music (MSMus) program at Emmanuel College. The event took place in the Chapel of Emmanuel and was concluded with refreshments. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011, at 9:30am-3:00pm, Jazz in Worship - A Beginner's Guide

About 30 enthusiastic clergy, laypeople and church musicians gathered at St. Andrew's United Church (co-host of this event) to hear Brian Barlow and Tim Elliott describe how they have over the past few years developed the concept of the Jazz Vespers service into a flexible model for integrating jazz into worship. Supported by well-known local jazz artists, they demonstrated a jazz vespers service. Discussion between the audience and presenters included the politics and financing of services, some technical details of how to approach integration of jazz verses into hymns, and thoughts about how professional musicians not ordinarily employed in churches can relate to this kind of engagement.

A delicious lunch, professionally catered in the church foyer, added a time for catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

A display/order table with jazz-related worship resources and recordings attracted much interest.

Sunday, February 20, 2011, at 2:30pm, Convent of St John the Divine: Hymns written by the Sisters of St. John the Divine 

The Winter event, at the Convent of St. John the Divine in Toronto, 233 Cummer Ave., on Sunday, February 20, 2011, at 2:30pm, featured hymns written by and for the Sisters of St. John the Divine, known around the world for their creativity in this genre. The invitation with more details is found


Sunday, October 17, 2:30pm @ Humbercrest United Church: "When in our music God is glorified!"

SOCHS' Fall 2010 event was at Humbercrest  UC, on Sunday, October 17, at 2:30pm. Radio personality Judy Maddren narrated a festival of hymns old and new with choir, led by Mel Hurst, organist Fred Graham and trumpeter Barton Woomert.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 @ St. Andrew's United Church, Toronto, John Bell Returns

Saturday, June 12, 2010 @ St. Andrew's United Church, Toronto, John Bell and The Singing Thing

John Bell returned to inspire and instruct in a day-long session. A book service was available. One hundred twenty people sang, discussed, listened and took away much new material from the Iona Community. The Singing Thing was co-sponsored by Continuing Education at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto.

Sunday, February 21, 2010, 3:00 p.m. "What Song Shall We Sing?" with Rachael Boles @ Kingsway Lambton United Church, Etobicoke

Our February event "What song shall we sing?" focused on planning hymns for worship and was enjoyed by a large group. It featured leadership by Rachael Boles, long-time collaborative hymn-selector.  Click here for some background.

Genevan Psalmody for Today

SOCHS' fall event was in Waterloo, on Friday, November 20th , 7:30 p.m. in Keffer Chapel at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. The event brought together Calvin Seerveld with Stephanie Martin and the Pax Christi Chorale to explore Genevan Psalmody in music, visuals and words. 

Calvin @ 500

For the second event of SOCHS' 2008-2009 season, Bert Polman of Calvin College, Grand Rapids (and long-time teacher at Redeemer College, Ancaster), brought a wealth of experience as a scholar and lover of all things hymnological to enrich our understanding of this towering figure of reformed theology. Calvin the man and musician and how his words and thought have influenced the hymns we sing today. About 50 hymn enthusiasts gathered at Kingsway Lambton United Church in Etobicoke to hear Professor Polman speak both about Calvin and about hymn editing.

Great Hymns of Faith

For the 2008-09 season, our first event was a magnificent hymn festival featuring among many wonderful hymns the winner of last year's SOCHS Tenth Anniversary Hymn Competition. The event took place on Sunday afternoon, October 26, at Humbercrest United Church, in Toronto's west end.

The Festival featured the Choir of Humbercrest Church with the Salvation Army Toronto Brass, and is directed by Melvin J. Hurst

There was no charge for this event, sponsored by the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Hymn Society (SOCHS, www.sochs.org). The Society is deeply grateful to the Council, Choir and Staff of Humbercrest United, and to the North York Temple of the Salvation Army for their assistance with and support of this event.

Hymn Competition Closes with Winner and Honourable Mentions

"Singing God's Song in a Strange Land"

A search for hymn texts. The deadline was 2 June 2008. Fifty-seven submissions were received from North America and Great Britain. All participants have been notified and the winner will be announced in the fall. The winning hymn was performed at a hymn festival in Toronto in October. We thank all participants for their submissions.

The winner of the competition, which was subject to blind judging, was a hymn by Stan Engle, Minister of Music at Messiah Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Honourable mentions were given for fine texts by Frederick Harrison of Toronto and John Dalles of Florida.