Angelic voices in formation at St. Leo the Great School
WINSTON-SALEM — Anyone who is on staff in or has children attending one of our wonderful Catholic schools in the Diocese of Charlotte knows the great lengths everyone goes to for the students' academic, spiritual and personal growth. There are only so many hours in the day, but the students are the priority!
At St. Leo the Great School in Winston-Salem, students in grades four through eight have the opportunity to participate in the junior choir that serves at the weekly school Mass. Throughout the entire school year, more than 50 students attend about a dozen rehearsals lasting only 15 minutes. We practice hymns for upcoming liturgical seasons. Students learn posture when singing, to sing as one voice, and lots of little things that are important to choir participation and performance. After rehearsing, they hurry back to their classrooms for their daily activities.
Due to the limited space in our church choir loft, members in the fourth and fifth grades sing at Mass one week, alternating with sixth- and eighth-graders on other weeks. Our weekly rehearsals are held at 8 a.m. before Mass begins, and students come regularly and willingly to participate.
To encourage all Mass attendees to sing during liturgies, music director Barbara Chandler arranged for music to be led from the front of the church. The Junior Cantor training program works with select participants from our current choir members.
Approximately 15 students volunteered to learn to lead the community in the hymns, with the understanding that to do so would mean occasionally missing recess during school to prepare for their roles. During each Friday's Mass, two students cooperatively lead our hymns, including the sung parts of the Mass such as the Gospel Acclamation and the Lamb of God. They have to pay attention constantly!
A little nervousness goes with the territory, but that's to be expected. In accepting this responsibility, the Junior Cantors are gaining self-confidence, the benefit of rehearsing and the ability to encourage others in the Junior Cantor training program. They have also become comfortable with welcoming others at Mass with their eyes, their voices and their smiles.
Parents and staff at St. Leo School have noticed greater participation in hymns during Mass because of our young cantors who are willing to lead us. Our pastor, Father Brian Cook, has been very supportive of the Junior Cantor training program, and for that we are grateful. Over time, the whole school community will be singing as one voice, thanks to our willing Junior Cantors.
— Marianne DeCristo, special to the Catholic News Herald
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