April 4, 2014

Archdiocesan Youth Honors Choir to debut at Holy Thursday Mass

Andrew Motyka, archdiocesan director of liturgical music and cathedral music, leads members of the archdiocesan Youth Honors Choir during practice on March 25 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The youths will perform at the Holy Thursday Mass on April 17 at the cathedral. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Andrew Motyka, archdiocesan director of liturgical music and cathedral music, leads members of the archdiocesan Youth Honors Choir during practice on March 25 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The youths will perform at the Holy Thursday Mass on April 17 at the cathedral. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Natalie Hoefer

Andrew Motyka explained the parts of the Holy Thursday Mass to nine high school youths.

It was important for them to understand what was happening as part of their Catholic heritage.

But Motyka also wanted them to understand the significance of the songs they’ll be singing at the Holy Thursday Mass on April 17 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis as the newly formed Archdiocesan Youth Honors Choir.

“We asked choir directors from the Catholic high schools in [Indianapolis] to nominate up to eight students from their choirs, two from each voice section [of alto, soprano, tenor and bass],” said Motyka, archdiocesan director of liturgical music and cathedral music.

“We want this to be an honors experience, for people who are elite choir members in our Catholic schools to come sing at a major liturgy.

“In the future, we’ll probably open it up to getting students from outside the Catholic schools as well,” he said. “But this year, we were under a time constraint, and it was a little simpler to just reach out to Catholic schools.”

Nominated students received a letter from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin inviting them to participate. About 20 students will comprise the Archdiocesan Youth Honors Choir.

The Holy Thursday Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Tobin, will serve as their debut. The group will sing some songs alone, and others in conjunction with Laudis Cantores, the cathedral choir.

Motyka said some of the pieces they’ll be singing on their own include “Christus factus est” (“Christ Became”) by Felice Anerio, and “Nos autem gloriari” (“We Should Glory in the Cross”) by Simone Stella.

The youths will join the cathedral choir in singing “Ubi Caritas” (“Where Charity”), “Tantum Ergo” (“So Great”) and other traditional “plainchants.”

“We’re trying to make this a musical experience for them, to really experience the treasury of sacred music of the Church,” he said.

“And that, as a musician, is my goal, to expose these students to some Catholic music that they may not have been exposed to in the past, especially the music of the triduum and of Holy Thursday, where there is so much ritual music that is tied directly to the Mass. To get them to experience that particular music, and to take pride in their Catholic heritage.”

Motyka anticipates that some of the students may not know the richness of the Holy Thursday liturgy. Hence the explanations he gave to the nine students who attended the Archdiocesan Youth Honor Choir’s first practice on March 25 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

“I will be helping them understand the triduum more, and that actually makes me really excited,” Motyka said. “One of my favorite things about being a music director is introducing people to new music and saying, ‘Hey, look at this piece that I really love and think you’ll like, too.’

“I think there’s also a component of that liturgically and theologically speaking—to introduce a love for the faith, and say, ‘Here’s something that belongs to all of us as Catholics, and here’s something that’s part of your heritage whether you realized it or not.’ So I’m very excited about that aspect.”

The students are looking forward to the experience as well.

“I was really excited when my choir director announced it in choir class a couple months ago,” said Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School sophomore Abby Hensley, 15. “It’s really cool to be able to sing in the cathedral.” Abby is a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

Several students of the choir expressed their love for singing.

“I just love music altogether,” said 16-year-old Xavier Koester, a sophomore at Cardinal Ritter and a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s another way to bring music in my life, and it helps me increase spiritually as well.”

Grace Lundy, a 14-year-old freshman at Bishop Chatard High School and a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, agreed.

“I feel more involved with the Mass,” she said of her participation in liturgical choir. “Singing connects me closer to God.”

“Singing is praying twice,” noted Rebecca Doyle, a 17-year-old junior at Bishop Chatard, and a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “I really like using my voice because that’s my one talent that I know I’m blessed with. I feel being able to share that is giving back directly to God, and helping others bring them in to that, too.”

Michael Ruiz, a sophomore at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School and a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, summed up his feelings in a simple phrase.

When the 15-year-old was asked what made him excited to be part of the choir, he said, “Just singing all this music and glorifying God.”
 

(Editor Mike Krokos contributed to this story. The archdiocesan Youth Honors Choir will be singing at the Holy Thursday Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St. in Indianapolis, at 7 p.m. on April 17.)

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