Elite choir performs at inaugural ‘Pueri Cantores’ Indiana Regional Mass and Choral Festival
By Tess Steffen and Kay Cozad
For more photos from Pueri Cantores visit the photo gallery.
NOTRE DAME — Angelic voices rose with the incense to fill the vaulting of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart during Mass at the University of Notre Dame on March 16. A select group of musically-gifted students from 33 diocesan Catholic schools, one school from Indianapolis and several who are home schooled combined as one choir to perform at the inaugural Pueri Cantores Indiana Regional Mass and Choral Festival, which was conducted by Paul French.
The program began with a choral prelude showcasing the rich, traditional liturgical songs each choir had been practicing at their own schools and with other choirs in their feeder high schools for the past several months. The inspired vocalists, age nine to 18, were identified through auditions last fall. Each school or parish was allotted 10 seats in the special choir that gathered in four regional practices.
Pueri Cantores is a century-old practice established in France in 1907, according to its website www.puericantores.org. A special boys choir was formed there to sing during the liturgy. After faltering under the pressures of World War II, Pueri Cantores was reestablished in 1944 as an international organization led by Father Fernand Maillet.
In 1947, the first international Congress of the federation was held in Paris in which 90 European choirs participated, and by the mid 1960s Pueri Cantores was recognized as a Church movement. With the Second Vatican Council, girls choirs were permitted to participate and currently there are over 60,000 youth from 35 countries who sing in Pueri Cantores. The movement continues its commitment to teaching children the traditional sacred liturgical music of the Catholic Church.
The Pueri Cantores Indiana Regional Mass and Choral Festival was a unique model, said Jan Schmidt, executive director of the American Federation of Pueri Cantores. Typically the students who sing in Pueri Cantores are accepted into the organization with its high musical standard without audition. However, Fort Wayne organized auditions at each school for the selection of their choir members.
Schmidt reported, “In Indiana, the students are presented as honors singers — special singers from many schools. It’s working beautifully. … They did a phenomenal job of organizing this festival.”
The schools that participated include: From Besancon-New Haven, St. Louis Academy; Elkhart, St. Vincent de Paul; Fort Wayne, Bishop Dwenger High School, Bishop Luers High School, Most Precious Blood School, Queen of Angels School, St. Charles Borromeo School, St. John the Baptist School, St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, St. Jude School, St. Therese School, St. Vincent de Paul School; Goshen, St. John the Evangelist School: Granger, St. Pius X School; Mishawaka, Marian High School, Queen of Peace School, St. Bavo School, St. Joseph School, St. Monica School; Monroeville, St. Joseph School; New Haven, St. John the Baptist School; Plymouth, St. Michael School; South Bend, Saint Joseph’s High School, Christ the King School, Corpus Christi School, Holy Cross School, Holy Family School, St. Anthony de Padua School, St. Joseph School, St. Jude School, St. Matthew School; Warsaw, Sacred Heart School; Yoder, St. Aloysius School; and Indianapolis, Lumen Christi Catholic School.
The Pueri Cantores Indiana Regional Mass followed the choral prelude — which included Johan Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in A Minor” played by organ scholar Quentin Herman and other pieces, “Da Pace, Domine” and “Jesus Here Present” — and began with a procession including pastors from several of the participating schools and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as the main celebrant. In his opening remarks, Bishop Rhoades said that he was glad he could be there with the young people to “celebrate the gift of song.”
This theme was echoed in his homily when Bishop Rhoades told the congregation, “The liturgy is a foretaste of heaven and today it is really true when I hear your voices.”
Bishop Rhoades reminded those in attendance that Jesus admonished the people to “repent and believe in the Gospel” and added, “that’s what Lent is all about; our opportunity to repent.” Bishop Rhoades continued his Lenten message, saying “God forgives, cleanses and purifies us. May we turn away from sin so one day we may enter His kingdom.”
The exquisitely sung sacred music was woven throughout the remainder of the Mass and Bishop Rhoades concluded by congratulating the student choir members.
He said, “Your singing today has been beautiful. It helped raise our hearts and minds to heaven and truly was a taste of heaven.”
Family members who were able to attend the Pueri Cantores Mass festival were also gratified and deeply moved.
Deb Painter, St. John the Baptist, New Haven, parishioner, said “This is a very special day. My daughter loves to sing and take part in the liturgy, and I’m very proud of her.”
Irvin and Bonnie Kloska from St. Thomas the Apostle in Elkhart were there to listen to their eight grandchildren who were participating as part of the home school group. Their grandson, Jack Murphy from St. Pius X in Granger said, “This is one of the most exceptional experiences I have ever had.” His younger brother Jeff agreed that he “will always remember it.”
Chris and Sarah Beiting from Holy Cross Parish in South Bend were “grateful for this opportunity for their daughter to learn the old and the new music and be able to bring it back to the parish to share.”
Jane Sandor, principal of St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, shared her feeling that it was a powerful and humbling experience. She added, “By bringing together both ends of the diocese, the program was a great example of how the Church is universal.”
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