Emery van de Wiel is the new organist and choir director for the St. Ninian’s Cathedral Senior Choir.
The native of St. Andrews, Antigonish County began his tenure a few weeks ago, replacing the illustrious James ‘Jimmy’ MacPherson, who served in the role for more than half a century.
MacPherson died Nov. 8 at the age of 69.
“Jimmy had given his blessing,” van de Wiel said.
St. Ninian’s pastor Father Donald MacGillivray relayed that sentiment, when he offered the young musician the position.
“It is quite a good feeling,” van de Wiel said of receiving that approval.
While seated on a piano bench near the altar of the venerable place of worship – the Episcopal Seat for the Diocese of Antigonish – he reflected on his new responsibilities.
“It has been very much a learning process,” van de Wiel said, noting he was learning some new hymns on that particular day.
He added he wants “to come and add to the masses.”
“I wanted to stay here [in Antigonish],” van de Wiel, who graduated in the spring with a flute performance degree from Memorial University, said when asked about his decision to take the job.
As part the agreement, he noted, he will have access to space to provide flute and piano lessons, along with, possibly, the creation of a music for young children program.
“Work with it and grow,” van de Wiel said of the goal for his time with the parish’s children’s choir.
Noting its importance, he added, that choir can serve as a feeder for the senior group.
“I want to bring a new taste to the hymns and other service music – both through my playing and through the playing of other members of Antigonish’s growing music community,” van de Wiel said, when asked about what he wants to bring to his new task.
“I hope to achieve this by involving solo instrumentalists and new ensembles I hope to form from the parish.”
van de Wiel added he also wants to “strongly encourage” congregational singing, particularly during the gathering and closing hymns.
“It sounds great and it, of course, makes my job easier,” he noted.
When asked about the transition of joining the senior choir, van de Wiel said it has gone well.
“I think I have their respect and I want to work hard to keep it,” he added.
van de Wiel said the feedback, thus far from the parish community, has been positive, buoying his confidence in being able to carve his own path.
“They have been telling me ‘no one expects you to be Jimmy,’” he said.