Music director receives first Cowling bursary

A group of people in a church posing for a photo.
Music director Robert Graham (second from left) is joined by John Campbell, Elizabeth Cowling and the Rev. Stephen Kirkegaard after the bursary presentation.
 on December 1, 2018
Thomas Evers

It was a special service on Oct. 21 at Holy Trinity, Guildwood, as the inaugural Douglas C. Cowling Bursary in Liturgical Music was awarded to the church’s music director, Robert Graham.

Presenting the bursary was Mr. Cowling’s widow, Elizabeth, who highlighted her husband’s legacy as an influential parish musician, teacher and artist.

The $5,000 award is given annually to a part-time musician working in a parish in the diocese, to encourage creative musical and liturgical experimentation with the aim of fostering full liturgical participation by all age groups.

Mr. Graham leads the church’s musicians.

Under Mr. Graham’s leadership, Holy Trinity has presented several concerts featuring some of Toronto’s most prominent vocalists and musicians, including a recent fundraising concert featuring Mr. Graham’s eclectic pop/rock band, The Fairest and Best.

Several future artistic collaborations are planned with Holy Trinity’s neighbour, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute, further highlighting Mr. Cowling’s legacy of musical outreach and inclusion.

Mr. Graham has been Holy Trinity’s music director for just over three years. He is a professional musician with a varied career, encompassing all styles of music both in and out of the Church setting. He has worked as a professional pianist, vocalist, songwriter, music director for theatre and choral singing, vocal coach and accompanist. An award-winning songwriter, he has also written several pieces of liturgical music currently in use at Holy Trinity, as well as songs dealing with issues of social justice.

“The presentation marked a beautiful combination: remembering the wonderful life of Douglas Cowling, and recognizing Robert Graham and the parish of Holy Trinity, who are on a journey to maintain and strengthen Mr. Cowling’s legacy of congregational singing, musical outreach, creativity and inclusiveness,” said the Rev. Stephen Kirkegaard, incumbent.

A special guest on hand for the service was composer and long-serving music director at the Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., John Campbell.  A friend and colleague of Mr. Cowling, Mr. Campbell helped launch the first “Inspiring Music in Worship” seminar, a five-week series exploring the role of music in the worship life of Holy Trinity. Based on the book by British author Helen Bent, the series helps congregations engage in an inclusive and supportive discussion around the role of music in their worship lives.


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