Children's Choirs
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,125
    Over at the New Liturgical Movement, there is a post about children's choirs. In it, the poster indicated there are hardly any children's choirs. Please, there is a wonderful organization with some 300 children's choirs in the US called Pueri Cantores. This organization is part of the worldwide organization by the same name that promote Roman Catholic Children's choirs. At many of the liturgies sponsored by the organization, Latin Ordinaries are the norm and sometimes propers are sung. This is not some fly by night organization. It is a Vatican sponsored group and its episcopal moderator is Cardinal George.

    My girl and boy choirs at my former parish sang regularly and sang "serious" music, not little children ditties. We made no distinction between children and adult music. It was all the same.

    I urge you to check out Pueri Cantores.

    Kevin, a biased member of the group
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    Kevin, for sure there are some wonderful children's choirs, and I think several of the regular posters here direct such and some belong to Pueri Cantores, (you are right, they are a wonderful organization.)
    But I think it may be true that for the number of parishes, (and the number of children!) in the Catholic Church in this country, there are not as many as there could be and far too many are under the thumb of catechists rather than musicians and are stuck in the Hi God-Why God? mode.
    My ad hoc children's choir sings 2 and 3 part music, have performed in 7 languages over the course of 4 years, and have tackled Gregorian propers.

    Alas, we ARE a fly-by-night organization....
    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • I'm the poster in question. I'm speaking of parishes. Yes, there are some but I am speaking in general terms. Children's choirs are very rare in parishes. Every one that exists deserves support.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    The sad truth is that children's choirs are rare in many parts of the Catholic US universe. What passes as a children's choir is getting the kids together for Palm Sunday and Christmas Eve (one rehearsal for each) and having them screech through something. The kids know it's a fraud and so does the musician roped into this.

    Pueri Cantores does great stuff - and there are good things happening. However, this is another area that just isn't on the scope in most parishes.
  • I'm not sure how I missed this thread, but it's timely indeed. I'm currently being hit over the head with the "we don't have enough music ministry opportunities for our young people" club.

    Each year for the last two I've tried to establish an RSCM America-based chorister program for boys and girls ages 7 and up. Since the program has never grown, the question of what to do with the changed boys versus the girls never became an issue.

    The group struggled from week to week and Mass to Mass with consistency in attendance, and given that the group was extremely small, morale became a serious issue. 6 singers, reduced to 3 for Mass due to absences, doesn't make for a particularly positive experience, especially when they've worked so hard to learn an anthem and other materials.

    I'm being told that I'm not doing enough to recruit and promote. I need to attend all of our religious ed classes (which currently meet every night of the week, with different age groups meeting on different nights and different times), I need to call or text young people personally, I need to print flyers, and on it goes. I'm also being told that the kids need a better "mix of music" (read, "give 'em sacro-pop, not chant).

    The difficulties I think revolve more around differences of opinion and understanding of philosophical principles of music programs for young people than around deficiencies in recruiting and retention techniques.

    I was intrigued to read an article over at CNP by Gary Penkala titled, "A Youth Choir: Does Your Parish Have One?" He mentions joining the Chorister's Guild, but not Pueri Cantores or RSCM, and working to form childrens' understanding of liturgical ministry as well as tastes in music. But then he says that we need to include music from today's liturgical composers (contemporary? Does he mean Haugen and Haas?) as well as the masters.

    We all recognize that there's a huge hole in most parish music programs, but the question becomes what do we do about it that is both effective, enduring and consistent with the move toward orthodoxy in music that we're working so hard for?

    I know I'm at my wit's end on this subject. I keep being asked to do more to build the program for the "youth" but I'm never given any kind of basis for the mandate or indeed any clues on how to make it happen. I often feel that I'm making bricks without straw.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,290
    I don't know if this will help, but I started a Youth Classical Schola this summer. It was advertised for 10-17 year olds, but I was willing to let in mature 8 and 9s. We had a six-week boot camp of the Jubilate Deo Mass (without the Credo, alas) + Salve Regina. They sang the Salve for Vigil of the Assumption.

    Every one-hour session went like this: Prayer, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. Warmups. Discussion of basic singing technique. Review. Closing prayer was the Salve, kneeling.

    26 kids went through the whole thing. I had to ding 2 kids on the head before the Salve and ask them to sit it out. One was a boy whose voice had change--the one and only in the group--and I put him to work doing propers for the Mass. Magically, he has one of those brains that counts cadences without being taught. The other was a girl who (I think) can't read very well.

    I only recruited one Sunday after all the Masses. I had an announcement read before Mass, and then after Mass I had a dozen clipboards with signup sheets. Every kid I saw, I asked, "Hi, are you a singer?" It really worked. But I suppose that for the last six months or so I've mentioned to likely kids that this would be starting soon.

    That was the "Beginning Schola." They will be promoted to the "Intermediate Schola" this fall and will be training for All Souls' Day, Advent, and Christmas. We always sing Jubilate Deo in Advent and we will on All Souls' as well. In my mind's eye I can see 20 kids in their red and white choir robes, in procession, singing Creator of the Stars of Night. Meanwhile there will be another Beginning Schola coming along. That's the plan.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Kathy, it sounds wonderful. Where do you find Jubilate Deo Mass? Is there a seperate book I can purchase, or does CMAA have free download? I'm starting a children's schola next week with homeschooling children. I told the parents from the beginning that we will be focusing on Gregorian chant because it's most liturgical, an important part of Church tradition and teach them how to sing properly. I also told them the pop style music actually don't help them to sing properly and can even damage their singing voices, which I believe is true.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,290
    Hi, miacoyne,

    I just meant the "basic" Latin chant Mass that was printed in a booklet called "Jubilate Deo" a few years after the Council. It's that familiar Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and the other chants--do you know what I mean? I'm sure it's available on the CMAA website but I don't know where. If you have Worship III, it begins on #340.

    I have so much fun with these kids. I tell them that the Bible says "let all my being bless His [God's] holy name," and that when they sing they can sing with their whole being. Come to think of it, I stole that from Scott Turkington. Honestly, sometimes I think the Schola is more of a catechetical moment than a singing moment--and yet they will be serving the liturgy of the parish. It's win-win-win-win-win.
  • The St Cecilia Schola has it on their website in several easy to use formats:
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Kathy, thank you so much for the ideas and the inspiration and priosrstf, thank you so much for the link. Printing them out now. It's a big help.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    I just went to the school Mass (Latin OF) a while back for my birthday, here at OLOA in San Antonio. The school choir is phenomenal---I still remember the Kyrie, well, sort of.
  • I've been disappointed in the music for children from RSCM...they are going pop....

    So I am pleased to say that my Viva Voce CD with copyable music, mp3 training files and, best of all, monthly training guide all arrived from St. James Music Press today....for $79 it's an investment in the future.

    It's great to have music in english to train it's time for a latin chant version.
  • We use a combination of Pueri Cantores & RSCM materials. I still believe that
    RSCM's "Voice for Life" offers a wealth of good ideas. The value of Pueri Cantores
    is that your choir can join with other Catholic children's choirs for a very positive
    experience. We went to the Pueri Cantores Festival in San Francisco last November. We rented a bus. We had as many parents as children! John Romeri
    and Chris Tietze where excellent!!! All around it was a very positive learning
    as well as "marketing" opportunity. Our school principal, who has been supportive, and our Pastor, who is very actively involved were both there. This
    fall, after planting seeds for four years, the choir will rehearse twice a week
    during the school day!!!! Last year grades K-3 had 30 minutes one afternoon
    after school and Grades 4 + rehearsed one morning at 7:15 AM!!! Hardly ideal.
    But have a dream, make a long range plan and try to get the parents actively
    involved- so that it becomes their tradition, not just something the director wants.
    Work, never stop studying and pray!!! The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
  • Voice for Life is excellent, I have it here and it is a tremendous resource. But the new songbook to go with it has music that goes the contemporary music route of providing basically a rhythm track (played live) that they sing along with, rather than using harmonic rhythm within the composition that is sung as part of the music.

    Anytime repeated chords show up rather than a flow of harmonies it is time to run....because that music sure can't on its own.

    Dumbing down....
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    I know this particular post I quote is old, but this:
    [to recurit singers] I need to attend all of our religious ed classes (which currently meet every night of the week, with different age groups meeting on different nights and different times), I need to call or text young people personally, I need to print flyers, and on it goes.

    ought to be part of the, "is a few Masses a weekend and a couple rehearsals a full time job" conversation over at TNLM.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,020
    The above quote begs the question: are the people in attendance at all of the evening classes totally different from the congregation found throughout all the weekend Masses? One would certainly hope they were the same crowd, though dispersed differently! If the choir is to perform their duties at the weekend Masses, then you should encourage those who attend those Masses regularly. If the evening classes crowd are not coming to Mass over the weekend, that's some one else's problem!
  • AngelaR
    Posts: 260
    Kevin,I just got from the Pueri Cantores' seminar in Chicago last week, and ate it up. It looks like a fantastic organization, and I'm hoping in a couple years I can get some kids from my school to go to one of the events. I was very impressed with the leadership at the seminar, as well as the creative strategies offered.
  • Since coming to the parish 7 years ago, I started a childrens' choir (sometimes separating the boys and girls) of over 40 members. I have always believed in using the same repertoire as the adult choir. Fortunately, we have the support of the parish; not to mention also the Msgr./Rector.
  • Outline what the repertoire is, I'm interested in understanding what you are doing, Dale.
  • I do not want to take up more space that I should, but I will list what they sang last year in terms of anthems: Ave Verum by Arthur Wills, The Call by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ubi Caritas by Maurice Durufle, O Salutaris by Leo Delibes, In The Bleak Mid-Winter by Eric Thiman, O Magnum Mysterium by Francis Poulenc, Jesu Joy Of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach, I Will sing New Songs Of Gladness by Anton Dvorak, Psalm 150 by Cesar Franck. Most of these were the soprano line only sung with the adults. You can go on line to to see the complete repertoire of the adult choir. Naturally, they sing the entire mass including the gregorian psalm tones for the responsorial psalm.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It's very impressive. How old are the children? Do they also learn to sing Goregorian Kyriale?
  • Great program you have going there, Dale. You have the support of the right people and you have obviously earned it!
  • Thank you for your much appreciated comments as I labor as a "musical missionary" in this diocese! The children are ages 7 - 15. They sing once a month at the Saturday Vigil Mass and the older ones sing also once a month with the adults at the Sunday 11:00 Mass which has more music and ritual i.e. incense and the propers sung to simple Gregorian chant tones. Many of these children haave sung with me in years past when I taught at the local private Catholic school. There we sang the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin to Gregorian Chant in its original notation. Also we prepared choral literature for the school Mass. This summer we had our first choir camp for a week. This was 3 hours each morning of singing and somewhat listening to and discussing the development of Catholic liturgical music. We sang each day for the noonday Mass.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Wow, any chance you can give a summer camp for children's cholr directors?
    (or better, a possible 'breack out session' in Colloquium? I know there were many people who are interested in getting ideas on children's choir. Maybe if a couple of different choir directors who have been successful with the children's choir share their experiences and the sources, that would be a tremendous help for many people. The children ARE really our hope. I found that they deepen their faith through sacred music, and this will make a lot difference in our Church in the future. And at the same time, I found the grown-ups are also learning through their children, and they are more 'tolerant' even in "progressive parishes."

    Thank you and God Bless you and all your work.
  • I know this is an older thread, but I totally echo the request for something at the Colloquium that would equip and inspire the teaching of sacred music to children and youth.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,125
    While it might be wonderful for CMAA to have something, Pueri Cantores should and does this sort of thing. From festivals at the regional level to summer stuff for conductors, Pueri is the the Roman Catholic organization for children.

    My children begin this week. About 30 of each gender. I am very excited.
  • AngelaR
    Posts: 260
    Whoo hoo, Kevin, how exciting! I look greatly forward to hearing how it all goes. And I echo your comments about Pueri Cantores; I hope we can get started with that program in this diocese soon. I know something is in the works now, but I can't divulge much more information yet. :)