Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Christmas in July? Absolutely! With joy, the Sacred Music Department hosted the 27th Annual Sacred Music Institute July 25-29 as the sounds of the Nativity resounded throughout the Antiochian Village’s Heritage and Learning Center. Bishop Thomas of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid- Atlantic, and one hundred participants from the United States and Canada, celebrated the Feast in song and chant through workshops, rehearsals and concerts. Sacred Music Chairman, Christopher Holwey added, “It was an inspiring and moving week for everyone involved.”
Event Chairman, Paul Jabara of St George, Montreal in Quebec, Canada, Sacred Music Coodinator of Los Angeles and the West, Mareena Boosamra Ball, and Diocese of Wichita and Mid America Music Coordinator, Chris Farha, coordinated the premiere of a Youth Music Ministry (YMM) program for 20 teens representing each Diocese. After completing an application and writing an essay, each Diocesan Music Coordinator selected qualified teen singers to participate in a pilot program funded by scholarships from Antiochian Hierarchs and individual donors. The teens chosen attended classes in vocal techniques, basic conducting, sight singing and music theory, taught by Los Angeles and the West Diocese Sacred Music Coordinator, Mareena Boosamra-Ball.They were also involved in daily rehearsals and a Nativity Music Concert directed by Boosamra-Ball. During the performance, the teens sang Byzantine chant with the Diocese of New England Coordinator and Director of the Boston Byzantine Choir, Charlie Marge.
“It was incredible to meet all of these people from all over the Archdiocese with the same musical interests as mine,” said Amber Kiilehua, 16, from Holy Resurrection in Tucson, Arizona. “And to be a part of a new program was great!” Basil Trenham, 13, from St. Andrew in Riverside, California stated, “Being around so many talented and experienced musicians was uplifting and beneficial. I learned how to improve my singing voice, so that I can more fully praise the Trinity.” Bringing together teens from nine Dioceses clearly reaped benefits. Mary Catherine Honeycutt, 16, from St. Joseph in Houston, Texas, added, “I know that I’ll always be friends with everyone from YMM. This was an experience I’ll never forget!”
Along with rehearsing and performing, the YMM participants heard uplifting talks from Archpriest John Finley on “Spirituality through Song,” and “Twelve Maxims of the Spiritual Life,” by Archpriest Gregory Long. Greg Abdalah spoke about, “The Young Musician’s Role in the Church,” and “The Structure of the Divine Liturgy.” Fr. Jason Delvitto also spoke on “The Gift of Harmony through the Incarnation”.
Another highlight of the conference was the Teen Conductor’s Apprenticeship lead by Jabara and Boosamra Ball for Maria McClatchey, 18, from St. Mary in Johnstown, PA and Megan Boyd from St. Luke in Erie, Colorado. After several lessons, McClatchey and Boyd directed a choir for practice and critique. “It was amazing to work with singers who followed my direction,” McClatchey commented. “I really learned a lot from actually directing a group of musicians.”
As the Youth Music Ministry track played out, the adult portion of the Sacred Music Institute was in full swing with choir directors, chanters and singers attending classes in: Introduction to Byzantine Chant and Notation, Intermediate/Advance Byzantine Chant, taught by Fr. David Barr, Fr. Michael Vanderhoef, Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis; Vocal Techniques and Choral Rehearsal Techniques presented by Robin Freeman; Conducting by Kh. Nancy Hanna Long; Ear Training and Pitch-Giving by Jabara; Music for Missions and Small Choirs directed by Sacred Music Vice Chairman, Michael Farrow; Chanting the Epistle/Singing Ison with Pittsburgh Byzantine Choir Director, Dr. Stephan Esper; Using Finale for Liturgical Music taught by Holwey; and How to Begin a Teen Choir in Your Church – based on the soon-to-be-published, Teen Choir Manual with Elizabeth Beck and Regina Roum.
Participants in the four-day institute not only sang daily Divine Liturgy and Vespers, but were also enlightened by newly-composed pieces, as well as music from the Advent Paraklesis, Hymns of the Nativity and Para-Liturgical Carols. They were also treated to performances by the Boston Byzantine Choir, Pittsburgh Byzantine Choir and YMM Choir. “Name that Tone,” hosted by Fr. Vanderhoef, boasted teens who tested their ability to name a tone in five notes or less! Katarina Galagaza, 16, from St. Anthony in Spring, Texas took first place.
The Annual SMI Talent Show highlighted every teen in the YMM program. Individual acts, ranging from a Shakespearean monologue to Romanian dancing displayed stellar performances. The Youth Choir brought down the house with their rendition of “Christmas Around the World,” comically singing in several different languages. Finally, heaven and earth merged with a 100 voice choir at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning.
Plans for an ongoing Youth Music Ministry program at the Sacred Music Institute next summer are underway. “I definitely want to attend, “said Christopher Rutledge, 16, of St. Barnabas Church in Costa Mesa, California. “It was great to be with kids who were also interested in our Church’s music.” As one teen explained it, “Before I became involved in the music of the Church, it was hard to know where I fit in. Someday, I would like to chant, direct the choir and compose music for the Church.” With God’s grace and the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, this ministry will be the foundation that continues to bear fruit, guiding potential choir directors, chanters and musicians to train for the work of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Regina Roum attends St. Andrew in Riverside, CA and is a Sacred Music Department Board Member. She is co-author of the soon-to-be-published, How to Begin and Nurture a Teen Music Ministry in Your Church: A Teen Choir Manual.