Nationally known clinician Mark Doerries from the University of Notre Dame spent the day on March 16 working with 58 children from across the Diocese of Cleveland for the first Diocesan Children’s Choir Festival. Participants, who were in grades 3-8, represented six parishes.
The event developed from the newly re-energized Cleveland Chapter of National Pastoral Musicians.
Parish music directors worked with the young singers to teach them selected music before the event. Doerries worked with the children during the day and they sang at the 4:30 p.m. March 16 Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland.
Parishes represented at the festival were St. Edward in Ashland; Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lorain; Communion of Saints in Cleveland Heights; St. Matthew in Akron; St. John Newman in Strongsville and St. Clarence in North Olmsted.
Event coordinators were Angela Bak, event registrar and director of music at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Meg Matuska, director of music ministry at Communion of Saints, with support from Bridget Jankowski, music ministry director at St. Matthew.
Matuska said the singers arrived at historic St. Peter Church on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland about 9:30 a.m. for the festival. There were three rehearsal sessions with Doerries, the first 10-11:15 a.m., the second 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and the third 2-3:30 p.m. The first two sessions were at St. Peter’s.
Students also had snack breaks and lunch before heading to the cathedral for the third session of the day.
At 4:20 p.m., the prelude began with the choir singing two short pieces: “Through North and South” and “Prayer of St. Patrick,” before the opening song, “Praise to you, O Christ Our Savior.” They also sang “Kyrie Eleison,” “Sanctus,” “Mysterium Fidei,” “Pater Noster,” and “Agnus Dei” in Latin during the Mass, as well as “Panis Angelicus” after Communion. Greg Heislman, cathedral music director and organist, and Jankowski, on the piano, accompanied the choir, which was under the direction of Doerries.
Fourth-grader Ren Parado from St. Matthew’s was cantor for the psalm.
Father Arnel Lagman, cathedral parochial vicar, celebrated the Mass.
The students practiced the music for several weeks at their parishes before joining together on March 16 as a group under Doerries’ direction. He is director of the Notre Dame (Indiana) Children’s Choir and Sacred Music Academy and head of the graduate choral conducting program, sacred music, at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, Doerries is an associate professor in the practice of conducting and associate director for community engagement for sacred music. He has conducted choirs across the United States and England and led students and ensembles on tours through major cathedrals in the United States and England. He also led the Children’s Choral Conducting Institute at the 2017 National Pastoral Musicians’ Association conference and has spoken and performed at other national conferences in the U.S. and Canada.
Bak said Doerries’ presentation at the 2017 NPM conference sparked the idea for the festival. She credited the Cleveland NPM chapter with supporting the festival. Herb Dillahunt, director of music at St. Clarence Parish, is the chapter director.
Helping to make the event possible were the Diocese of Cleveland, the Cleveland Chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, two Knights of Columbus chapters -- James L. Martin Council 637 of Lorain and the North Olmsted Council 4731 – as well as the St. Columbkille Parish, Parma, Music Ministry.
Matuska and Bak said they hope the festival will become an annual event.