In some school districts in America, some lucky high-school students in language classes have gotten to go on trips abroad — French student to Paris; Spanish students to Madrid; Italian students to Rome.
Next week, a group of 25 students from the New York-Connecticut area will be practicing their newfound language at World Youth Day in Madrid. And according to those involved, the hundreds of thousands of young people they will encounter from around the world will have no problem understanding.
Spanish? No. Their language is music — the traditional music of the Church, sung in the Church’s mother tongue: Latin.
The Norwalk, Conn.-based St. Mary’s Student Schola is ready and eager to head to Madrid and share what they’ve learned and practiced: Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and parts of the Mass set to music by great composers such as William Byrd, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Josquin de Prez.
The group has already made such a name for themselves that they’ve been invited by Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Toledo, the primate of Spain, to sing at the Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo.
From there, they will go to Avila to sing at Mass on the feast of the Assumption at the Monasterio de la Encarnación (Monastery of the Incarnation), where St. Teresa of Jesus entered the Carmelites. Then, in Madrid, they will sing for the solemn high Mass in the extraordinary form for WYD pilgrims.
Based at St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Conn., this schola of youngsters sings Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony so beautifully that the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus invited them to be the choir for the main English-speaking Masses at World Youth Day at the Palacio de Deportes. The giant Madrid arena holds upwards of 15,000 and is expected to be full for WYD. Some of the Sisters of Life, who are based in New York and run a retreat house in Stamford, Conn., will join them for some of the singing in Madrid.
For the schola’s founder-director David Hughes, the invitations to sing in Spain “confirm that this is a good work to be done in the service of the Lord and the Church.” Hughes is choirmaster for all seven choirs at St. Mary’s, which have adult-professional and adult-volunteer divisions.
The National Catholic Register has published a long, accurate, and inspiring article on the work of the St. Mary’s children’s choir at World Youth Day. Thank you to all benefactors who made this trip possible. It is getting just the right kind of attention! And congratulations, too, to director David Hughes and all the kids.