September 14, 2007

Master’s Chorale members praise God with sacred music

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein stands next to a framed portrait of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta at the start of a Mass commemorating the 10th anniversary of her death that was celebrated on Sept. 5 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Leonardo Panigada of Bloomington directs members of the Master’s Chorale of Central Indiana during a rehearsal at the St. Pius X Knights of Columbus Hall in Indianapolis. His directing experience includes serving as artistic director of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

By Mary Ann Wyand

Their world-class choral arrangements praise God and inspire God’s people.

That’s why members of the Master’s Chorale of Central Indiana love to blend their voices in song.

Opportunities to sing sacred classical music during eucharistic liturgies, weddings, funerals, concerts and festivals are both a privilege and an honor, several Master’s Chorale members explained recently, and are well worth the rigorous weekly rehearsals required of volunteers.

Members of the former Catholic Choir of Indianapolis, which was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1996, are reaching out to more audiences this year with their name change, expanded ministry and new director.

Leonardo Panigada, a native of Venezuela who also holds dual citizenship in Italy and now lives in Bloomington, was hired by the choir’s board of directors last September to conduct the Master’s Chorale.

Panigada, also a doctoral candidate at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, brings extensive international experience in sacred and classical music to the choir.

In recent months, Panigada has expanded the choir’s repertoire of more than 500 compositions in six languages to include a capella music.

Choir members are dedicated to the preservation of sacred choral music sung in Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German and English. They rehearse at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the St. Pius X Knights of Columbus Hall, 2100 E. 71st St., in Indianapolis.

In an interview before a rehearsal, Panigada said he appreciates their devotion to religious music as an expression of their love for God.

“I believe that music is a gift from God,” he said. “It is actually the language of angels for me.”

Christ the King parishioner Carolyn Noone of Indianapolis, coordinator of special events for the archdiocese and president of the Master’s Chorale, said Panigada’s considerable professional talents and his focus on the historical aspects of sacred choral music convinced the Catholic and Protestant choir members that he was the right conductor to direct them.

“We have always sung for our Lord and master, Jesus Christ,” she explained, “and we have done that by singing primarily the great master choral works. We do what we do because we have received a gift from God of the ability to sing and believe we must in turn give that gift to other people. It is worth all the work that we put into the choir to come together and give our voices to these songs. It is praying with our voices and is so rewarding. Many times it brings tears to my eyes.”

Noone said their new director has given the choir “a tremendous focus” for growth.

From its early years as the St. Luke Parish choir during the 1990s then the Catholic Choir of Indianapolis and now the Master’s Chorale, she said, the volunteers have felt called to share their God-given vocal talents with others as a ministry.

The choir is comprised of volunteer music ministers, Panigada said, not professional performers although many members have formal voice training, sing with other choral groups and are accomplished vocalists who truly understand music.

They seek to “engage the souls of others and our own souls into praising God,” he said, “into meditation of the themes that the Church and the Mass of the day—the feast of the day—put in front of us.”

Only Panigada and Wayne Lundberg of Indianapolis, the accompanist, receive payment for their services. Lundberg is an organist and pianist at the East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis.

Master’s Chorale concerts are “wonderful technical performances” that entertain as well as inspire and evangelize audience members, Panigada said, because sacred music transcends life and heals the soul.

“We actually feel the music and the meaning of the words that we are singing,” Panigada explained. “For me, it is a way to communicate with God. It is a prayer, a relationship with Jesus.”

When they sing sacred works, he said, choir members experience a spiritual connection with the music.

“They are dedicated and know how to sing the compositions,” he said. “The soul of the music, the inspiration of the composer when he was writing the piece, cannot be solved if the performers don’t have a spiritual relationship with the text.”

Sacred musical compositions are literally miracles, Panigada said, that reach out to listeners across the centuries from the Baroque and Renaissance periods to the post-modern era today.

Under his direction, the Master’s Chorale sang in recent months at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove and in Indianapolis at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church, St. Augustine Home for the Aged, the Julian Center and for the Elizabella Ball, which benefits St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services, as well as for weddings and funerals.

They will sing at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for the Respect Life Sunday Mass at 1 p.m. on Oct. 7 and are scheduled to present a Christmas concert at the Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis during Advent.

Holy Name of Jesus parishioner Chuck Ellinger of Beech Grove, an

eight-year member, also sings during Masses at his parish.

Ellinger said he loves to sing sacred classical works and also hopes the choir will have more opportunities to include contemporary selections during concerts.

St. Luke parishioner Elizabeth Chepules of Indianapolis, a longtime choir member, said singing for others is spiritually fulfilling.

“The choir has been a large part of my life,” she said. “When we sing at Masses, I feel like I am an innate part of the liturgy.”

Music is invigorating, Wayne Lundberg explained, and serving as the accompanist for the Master’s Chorale enables him to play a variety of complex scores.

“Joining together in praise and worship is a wonderful experience,” Lundberg said. “Music transcends all the problems of daily life. It enhances worship, builds character in our lives and adds a lot of depth to life.”

Lifting up their voices to the Lord, Noone said, involves much more than singing for Master’s Chorale volunteers.

“It’s all prayer,” she said. “Our song is our prayer.”

(The Master’s Chorale of Central Indiana welcomes new members and hopes to add volunteer string musicians. For more information about the choir or to request a concert, call 317-251-1692 or send an e-mail to †

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