Putting the Schola in the High School (Hopefully)
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 150
    I have just been given a wonderful opportunity. Because the bishop is coming to our High School for the celebration of Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints, my choir director overrode the campus ministry director and has graciously allowed me to pick out the music for this Mass. What's more, he has allowed me to begin a schola choir "Schola Mariali" to handle the propers and any polyphonic music. Naturally, this was met with much opposition, and despite my being in multiple choirs before, I am still new to actually managing a choir. This is our current set-up:
    -Pianist (Me)
    -Two Classical guitarists
    -Drum set (Converting to timpani)
    -Bass guitar
    -Beginning choir of about 40 people
    -"Schola Mariali" of 8 people.
    Not the best set-up, but it's what we have got. Our songs for the Mass are as follows:
    Entrance Antiphon: Choral Missal 2010 (Richard Rice)
    Entrance Hymn: Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
    Kyrie: Missa de miserecordiae (Pawel Bebenek)
    Gloria: Missa VIII w/ Cima (Peter Latona)
    Responsorial Psalm: John Schiavone
    Gospel Acclamation: Good News Acclamation (James Chepponis)
    Credo: ICEL Credo III
    General Intercessions: Byzantine
    Offertory Antiphon: Choral Missal 2010 (Richard Rice)
    Offertory Hymn: Spouse of Christ, whose earthly conflict
    Sanctus: Missa de miserecordiae (Pawel Bebenek)
    Mem. Acc.: A Community Mass (Richard Proulx)
    Amen: A Community Mass (Richard Proulx)
    Agnus Dei: Missa de miserecordiae (Pawel Bebenek)
    Communion Antiphon: arr. Myers
    Post-Communion Hymn: By All Your Saints Still Striving
    Recessional Hymn: For All The Saints
    Again, not the best line-up, but it'll do.

    After seeing this, my three main questions are:
    1) Any improvements that I can do, especially in a high school setting
    2) How to battle opposition, especially given the mindset of a high school setting
    3) Any experience any of you have that might benefit me, given the start-up of a schola.

    ...Not to mention that this might be my only chance to implement true sacred music into my high school...

    Thank you for your help, and thanks to all the saints, since I believe this shows that they would value Sacred Music enough to give this oppertunity on their feast day...Or maybe I'm overthinking things...

    Musically yours in Christ,
    Kyle M.
  • Kyle -

    Considering your resources of personnel, instruments, and being up against an unsympathetic establishment which may be grumbling about having been over ridden by your choir director, it seems to me that you have a very fine plan. I wish you and your musicians every success and spiritual joy. Some of your pieces I do not know, but assume that you have chosen what represents a considerable improvement in campus liturgy. One thing only would I quibble about, that being the 'amen' at the end of the canon. These fancy and gaudy triple amens with blaring instruments are all the rage now, aren't they? If you could dispense with all that decadent noise and sing the simple chanted 'ah- meh-ehn' with enthusiastic singers that would top any other sort of theatrical ending to the sacred canon.
  • Kyle,

    Are you also orchestrating all of these things? Sounds like a very interesting ensemble of instruments and voices!

    Looks like a good line up.

    I wonder how much of this music is already familiar to your assembly, and what the quality (or should I say audibility?) of vocal participation is under normal circumstances?

    If you are meeting with opposition in your efforts to improve the quality of music sung, the last thing you want to happen is to create the impression that better music is an obstacle to strong assembly participation, or that congregational singing was drastically worse at this liturgy than usual.

    Especially as you are already introducing a schola to sing the propers and polyphonic selections, which will itself be a tremendous enrichment to the students' experience of liturgy, you want to be able to emphasize the fact, and let them experience, that the presence of a good liturgical choir does not need to diminish or silence the congregation.

    In your position, and perhaps you've done this already, I would choose for the congregation suitable hymns representing the best of their existing repertoire, so that it will be sung easily and well, and not attempt to use this juncture to introduce any new hymns. Then your foes will melt before your face.

    In spite of MJO's objection to all things sung in triplicate, from my perspective, and experience, the triple Amen is usually one of the stronger moments of assembly singing. Given the case you are trying to make to your would-be opponents, I would definitely keep it around for this liturgy, and work it out, if you will, during a penitential season.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    I think this looks great too!

    I would use the viola/violin/tympani and bass guitar sparingly. Less is more.

    Also, I would not have piano and guitar together.

    Perhaps think through what parts are similar in nature and have them accompanied in the same manner. For example the guitars could accompany the propers and communion antiphon if you will have them accompanied. You could use solo piano for the responsorial psalm and then add viola/violin for the processional and post communion hymn. I would consider bass guitar/tympani for the recessional sans the other strings.

    God bless your efforts!
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 150
    MJO - I barely got approval for the propers, I don't want to stretch it too far... yet. I'll see what my director thinks.

    NihilNominis - Sing? Surely you jest. The only people who sang before were the ones who wanted to hear the latest Hillsong in the mass. Given that our choir is, well, weak, I'm trying to get the schola to lead. Our existing repertoire is:
    Your Grace is Enough,
    All the poor and powerless,
    Holy Spirit you are welcome here,
    Here I am to worship,
    Come now is the time to worship,
    and, the kicker, Blessed be your name.
    Not what I'd call appropriate, but thats what we had.

    Canadash: The tympani would be used only on the recessional to begin with. The strings are our intro for the propers and any Missa de misericordiae parts. Piano is used for the hymns and the other mass parts. Guitars will probably do the communion antiphon, as well as the offertory hymn. What do you think?

    Thank you to all of you for your replies!
    -Kyle M.
  • Kyle,

    Opposition? Define the parameters of that opposition, if you can.

    I would guess that your opposition doesn't come from the high school students themselves, unless they're parroting what has been fed to them. If you get diligent hard work from the high schoolers, other opposition is (relatively) insignificant.
  • Kyle,

    Sounds pretty typical, then. In that case, don't do any of those things that they did before.

    It may be worth asking (perhaps without presenting your song list in advance) if there is any possibility of an all-school rehearsal. If nothing else, your singing assembly could impress His Excellency a great deal, and that's good for everybody. In two high schools I've worked in, that kind of rehearsal made a world of difference, whether the music rehearsed was solid or sleazy.
    Thanked by 1KyleM18
  • MarkS
    Posts: 248

    I second NihilNominis' recommendation of an all-school rehearsal for all big school liturgies!

    Back when I was the Liturgical Music Director/part-time general music instructor at our local K-8 school I was able to prepare the kids for Mass during their music time (integrating things like simple chant into their curriculum) and, if I contemplated doing something new with the music at Mass, would prepare said things ahead of time and then create an opportunity to present it to the local priests/principal/etc... Once I have impressed people with how well the kids could do perform a given thing it was easier to convince people to make a given musical change in the liturgy. (It's usually NOT a problem to get the kids to buy in, as Mr. Garton—Zavetsky has suggested.) As NihilNominis suggests, when you make the powers that be look good, it's good for everyone! And when people who are not used to hearing actual, audible singing hear kids singing enthusiastically, they will be impressed, no matter what they are singing
    Thanked by 2eft94530 KyleM18
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    This is about 100 times better than what happens at the average (is there such a thing?) Catholic High School. Keep up the good work.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    I think your ideas are spot on. The only thing I might question is classical guitars leading the communion hymn, depending on how many students will sing. I worry that the guitars will not be heard. Well done!
    Thanked by 1KyleM18