January 31, 2024 at 10:46 a.m.
QUITE THE CHOIR
St. Mary’s Institute students to sing in upcoming Pueri Cantores Festival and Mass
ST. MARY’S INSTITUTE choir members who performed in “Matilda Jr.” at SMI last May, proudly hold up a poster from their time in the drama club’s play. (Photo provided)
St. Mary’s Institute in Amsterdam is headed to the Big Apple — with some big sounds in tow.
SMI’s treble choir will be singing in the 2024 Pueri Cantores Children’s Choral Festival and Mass in New York City on March 2. The festival, organized by Pueri Cantores, the national student choral organization of the Roman Catholic Church that hosts festivals across the country, has invited all parish and school treble choirs (Grades 4-8) in the region to come together and sing as one united group.
The Mass will take place at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament (152 West 71st St.), led by guest conductor, James Wetzel, Director of Music and Organist at the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan.
“We will be uniting with hundreds of other students for one combined choir to sing music for a Mass,” said Joan Krohn, music teacher and choir director at SMI.
Of the school’s 50-plus student choir, 24 students from select grades will be making the trek to the city. Krohn anticipates the festival gathering anywhere from 500 to 1,000 students together for the performance.
“I think it was a way of introducing them to something far more superior than what they’re used to, and being able to go outside of our realm and do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do,” Krohn said. “We are not as advanced as some of the other schools will be, but this is giving them the opportunity to see what is out there and see how hard they work at trying to bring things to fruition and instilling in them a sense of wanting to become better.”
The festival Mass is in the context of a typical Eucharistic Liturgy, and features a broad repertoire of music including some Gregorian chant, pieces in Latin, classical and modern polyphonic music, and contemporary compositions.
Krohn first heard about the festival this year when someone mentioned the organization was coming to New York. It was an opportunity to not only challenge her students, but a way to connect their work to something outside of the classroom.
“I think it is a wonderful challenge for them, and it is a wonderful experience that they may not otherwise experience in their lifetime,” Krohn said. “Some of our students have not been outside of Amsterdam, so for them, (there is) the excitement of going to Manhattan but also to participate in something of this magnitude.”
Brayden Kreplin, a seventh grader going on the trip, said that the music for the Mass is challenging but helpful to learn.
“The more we learn our songs — let’s say next year we do something — we’ll remember how to do the songs,” he said.
“We’ve gotten a lot better,” said Garrett Podolec, seventh grader, “and a lot has changed since the beginning of it.”
Krohn, who took over teaching music three years ago, was instrumental in growing interest in the school’s choir. When she started, the choir had just eight students. Now, it boasts over 50 students, with around 100 in the school’s drama club, also led by Krohn.
“You can tell the kids love her because of how much the choir has grown,” said Kayla Bills, principal at SMI. “She’s doing really amazing things.”
“To see the growth with it has been remarkable,” said Krohn. “I’m so proud of these kids.”