Padre Pio Academy’s high school choir, Voces Caelestes, has returned from a New York State tour offering a program of sacred music with Compline. The graces were abundant, the lessons innumerable, and the generous response humbling.
Due to the sheer number of guests in Buffalo, we ran out of programs. Upon request a copy of the evenings program is posted here.
A summary of highlights from our Director of Music, Annette Spallone Murphy, follows.
Our first Compline was sung at Grace Episcopal Church in Elmira. Because there was no balcony, we sang from the chancel. One of our goals is to sing anonymously letting the music direct the listener to private devotion, so singing from a chancel that left us very visible presented a unique challenge for the girls. In order to be successful they had to realize that singer anxiety is more an issue of self-consciousness than exposure.
They adapted quickly, abandoning their private anxieties and insecurities in exchange for a sincere offering of praise to God. Their focus was contagious. Lesson number one.
On The Feast of Corpus Christi we sang in Ithaca at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. It was something less than lovely from our perspective in the balcony. We made mistakes we had never made before. But the result as heard from below was a prime example of Divine intervention. Comments centered around the commonality of the contemplative experience. We were unaware of it at the time, but the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for Adoration prior to the beginning of the prelude. One parishioner wrote, “This was the most perfect close to such a holy Feast!”. Lesson number two.
Our tour concluded at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, in Lackawanna. Though there was a balcony, we were denied access to it. Once again we would be exposed, but even more so since there was no chancel. We found the best place to sing was in an open space to the left of the sanctuary, close to the tomb of Father Baker. In order to acquaint ourselves with the massive space, we needed rehearsal time in the very spot where we would sing. We barely finished warming up when I noticed that the people coming in where not leaving. I finally stopped to ask someone seated behind me if we were interrupting an event or prayer, and the gentleman said they were there for a concert! We continued our rehearsal downstairs. Nervousness began to shake the girls as the crowd continued to grow. We had printed fifty programs and there were five hundred people waiting to hear us. We prayed.
The girls were instructed to look at me and me only once we were in position, and that is exactly what they did. We communicated through eye contact which I was able to make with each of them at appropriate times. We communicated through breath and gestures as we moved together through beautiful polyphony written many years ago for the edification of the saints. Our chanting was as one voice lifted in praise to God. I will never forget their faces, their smiles and their earnestness. When Compline was ended, I looked up at the magnificent statues of the Saints and felt as though I could reach out and touch the thin vale that separates us from those who have gone before us. We are connected to the Saints. That would be lesson number three, and I believe that was for me.
We would soon hear from guests that the music had effected them similarly. They had received more than expected; they had indeed been nourished and fortified.
We are grateful to our host Churches for the opportunity to experience making music in holy spaces designed specifically for this type of music, to the families who kindly housed and fed us, and for your heartfelt appreciation for liturgical music of substance.
SING WELL … PRAY TWICE!