Located in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood, St. Albans Church has stood longer than any other place of worship in the city. While it continues to serve as a place of worship for Anglican churchgoers, its cavernous arches and impressive altar have made it a prime performance space. The site has hosted everything from festivals to album release parties, and though it’s been around since before Confederation, it shows no signs of letting up any time soon.
Ottawa arts organizations have repeatedly turned to the church as a performance venue in recent years. The Arboretum Music Festival started in 2012, and the non-profit event has brought independent acts from the country to St. Albans. Past acts include Julie Doiron with hometown favourites the Wooden Stars, as well as Doldrums and Evening Hymns. Megaphono, a local music organization, has held its annual music festival at the church since 2015, drawing artists like Fiver, Emilie and Ogden and Scattered Clouds. The venue also hosted Kelp Records’s 20th anniversary show, with acts like the Acorns, the Hilotrons and Jim Bryson paying tribute to the acclaimed independent label.
St. Albans opened in 1865 and counted Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, among its early flock. While the building takes its name from an English saint, it also attracted Irish parishioners who lived in the region. While its former congregation left the church en masse in 2011 after a schism with the Anglican Church of Canada, a new congregation and reverend quickly took their place, ensuring that the church has maintained its vitality within the community.