St. Francis de Sales Oratory’s email newsletter has a nice wrap-up of the recent Institute of Christ the King’s Youth Choir Camp in Kentucky:
Huge Success: Children’s Choir Camp in Kentucky
Now that the Institute’s first Children’s Choir Camp has ended, and all the children safely home – many gone back to other states, we are gratified to hear of the great experience that this endeavor has been for the children, and indeed, for all those involved. We are deeply grateful to Mr. Nick Botkins, our Director of Music and Choir Master, for his leadership in this endeavor, and to the other faculty members: Mr. Jacob Bancks for music and composition, Mr. Joseph Reidy for Latin, and Mr. Aristotle Esguerra for Gregorian Chant. We are also indebted to the counselors, Ashley Hayworth, Steven Hayworth, Sean Kenney and Marie Zivnuska and especially to the outstanding choir mothers Cherie Grahek and Catherine Unseth, for running the camp and making it a safe home away from home for all the camp participants.
The description of the climactic Solemn High Mass on the last day of choir camp, in the words of Mr. Bancks, encapsulates the fruit of the hard work:
After the schola chanted the Offertory, a chorus of noble, angelic voices began joyfully commanding the praise of God. “Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, laudate eum, omnes populi.” Hosted in the chapel of the Ursuline Sisters in the hills of western Kentucky, an eager choir of 33 young singers, ages 8 to 14, concluded a week of blissful yet strenuous preparation by assisting in a Missa Cantata on the Feast of the Transfiguration.
From rehearsal to rehearsal and leading up to the concluding Solemn High Mass, the growth demonstrated by these young singers was nothing short of remarkable. Led by Mr. Botkins, the choir slowly matured into a cohesive ensemble, singing the praises of Almighty God with deep understanding and ever-increasing proficiency. With their newfound skill, we also saw our choristers grow in their love of music. Camp counselor Marie Zivnuska recalled that on the first evening of camp, one young singer was ribbed a bit by his peers for vocalizing before turning in for the night. “By the end of the week,” Marie recalls, “the kids were all singing before they went to bed. The girls begged me to play classical music in the mornings.”
One of the Institute’s main missions is to show that Christ allows us to see harmony between nature and grace. Grace influences culture. In our world today in which this unity is less and less visible, it is very good for young people to understand that sacred music is a fruit of this unity between the Divine and the created.
Sacred Liturgy is a continuation of Christ’s presence on earth: seeing the liturgy is looking into the face of Christ. What is more important for us than looking into the face of God made man? The Church is the cradle and source of culture renewal. The Church and her liturgy is ever young, and this music camp provides us empirical evidence that when presented with sacred music in its liturgical context, young people will gravitate towards and cling to the freshness and beauty of the sacred music for the rest of their lives.
Another faculty member, Mr. Reidy, wrote in his evaluation of the choir camp:
“Truly, it is fitting and just.” A teary-eyed Ursuline nun whispered these words to me as the last of the children left the convent’s main chapel. Just moments before, the thirty-three choristers had finished singing a Missa Cantata in honor of the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Sister was right when she spoke those words to me, but perhaps she was unaware of something that those of us who were privileged to be a part of the whole experience knew. Namely, that the process was as beautiful as the product.”
Canon Michael K. Wiener
Rector, St. Francis de Sales Oratory
These and more great photos appear on the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest’s U.S. site. The camp was a huge success and hopefully will be a regular event. I know my daughter had a great time and learned a lot.