Magazine article Momentum

Voices of Peace

Magazine article Momentum

Voices of Peace

Article excerpt

U.S. choirs sing for papal Mass during international music festival in Rome

When Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the World Day of Peace Mass Jan. 1, St. Peter's Basilica resonated with a special melodious, international sound. That's when youth choirs from around the world, including 20 from the United States, gathered in song and worship to ring in the New Year.

The U.S. choirs, made up of more than 600 singers ages 9-18 from Catholic schools and parishes, were in Rome to participate in the 36th International Congress of Pueri Cantores, which began on Dec. 28. This year's delegation to Rome was the largest group ever from the United States.

One highlight of the congress was an international choir rehearsal at the 9,000-seat papal audience hall located near St. Peter's Basilica that united about 4,500 singers from 18 countries. Entering to the enthusiastic cheers of the singers and their families. Pope Benedict XVI spent 45 minutes listening to music, greeting singers and leaders from the countries represented and addressing the audience in the six languages used throughout the event.

Julia Fröhlich, an eighth-grade student from St. Mary Margaret School in Winter Park, Florida, who sat onstage with the pope, said, "My body went numb from my head to my toes!" Taylor Rotz, fifth-grader, also from Winter Park, said, "I sang with all of my heart."

Conductor Cristyn Schröder summarized the Vatican experience this way: "The biggest thing this accomplished for the students was realizing the universality of the Catholic Church and the binding force our music and liturgy play in that role. It's a doorway to friendship, light and love through Jesus."

In addition to extra performances in local churches and community locations, the choirs sang Christmas and liturgical music- including Gregorian chant and 20th century compositions-at four events in four days. The U.S. choirs sang for a special Mass of the Nations at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. A stunning church the size of four football fields, this basilica originally was constructed by Constantine to house the remains of St. Paul, who is buried beneath the high altar.

Lee Gwozdz, whose 100-voice youth choir from Corpus Christi Cathedral in Corpus Christi, Texas, served as organist for the Mass. American Federation of Pueri Cantores (AFPC) President Patrick Flahive conducted the singers.

The Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley choir from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, also under the direction of Flahive, was selected as one of the 10 best choirs and participated in the gala concert at St. Mary Major, one of the Eternal City's four basilicas. The choir was joined by nine other choirs from as many national federations.

"When the kids from these choirs sing together it's an international embrace through sacred music," said Flahive, who has led his choir to seven international festivals. …

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