St. Joachim Choirs

Saturday, February 27, 2010

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I direct 3 choirs for St. Joachim Parish and all of them are active in serving the community on Sundays throughout the year. (With a little break in the Summer).

The morning choir sings each week at the 10:00 mass. Accompanied by Piano, Guitar and Organ with ocasional violin, a small but mighty chorus knocks out everything from Chant to traditional hymns to contemporary songs to the colorful pieces by yours truly!

The evening choir has a repertoire that leans more heavily toward the contemporary. Lots of the music comes from popular Catholic artists such as Tom Booth, Matt Maher and Steve Angisano, while we still use plenty of the more established works of contemporary Cathlolic composers. We usually have about 15-20 vocalists with a full praise band. (Gtr, Piano, Bass, Drums and percussion. )


I co-direct the student choir with Jill Cavanaugh and they perform about 8 Sunday masses per year. (More on that below)

Ancient History

I began the music ministry at St. Joachim in the fall of 1990 when I took on the task of creating an ensemble for the Sunday evening youth mass. I knew that I had the skills to do this and I needed some part-time work. I realized right away that I would have to take this work VERY seriously when I met my new boss/pastor Fr. Ken Krause. Every meeting or conversation with him was a tremendous learning experience as he helped to deepen my understanding of Liturgy and how music can best enhance the mass. Personalities like Bob Felde (Bass/Vocal) Greg Smith (Gtr) and Pamela Valaika (Vocal) helped get things going and we were soon able to create a decent sound.

Things went well at the evening mass and in the Spring of 1991, I was asked to take on the role of Music Director for the whole parish, which included a Sunday morning choir. Personalities like Lupe Teel, Skip James, Ruth Mckeon, Swithin Lindbeck, Monica Irwin, Karen Francis and Matt Lloyd, and my “wife-to-be” Diane Reed conspired to form the nucleus of the music ministry, often performing at both morning and evening masses as the ministry began to take shape Eventually we had just enough members to cover both morning and evening masses with a good size group. (Enough to at least split into Soprano, Alto and Tenor/Baritone sections at each mass)

This was no small task for a parish that has a rather small English speaking community. I also insisted that the groups sing together for large events like Christmas and Holy Week. Most parishes I knew of at the time had no contact whatsoever between the traditional morning choir and the ensembles which served at other masses. I’ve always felt that this was a waste of good talent. While some have more traditional skills like sight-reading and classically trained voices, others have better improvisational skills, and some people have both. Some folks have a little natural talent, and just need to be “in the game” a while before they catch on and become great contributors. All types have conspired to make this ministry unique and powerful.

Music on Sundays & Holy Days at St. Joachim

From early September through late June both masses have excellent music and a deep bench of talented singers and instrumentalists. Come celebrate with us at 10:00am (Family mass with traditional/contemporary music) or 5:00pm masses (Youth centered contemporary selections, chosen and performed in a VERY Catholic way).

The 5:30 Saturday evening mass is covered by our parish cantor Bernadette Kanaly and our parish organist Chris Montoya, who also perform with the 10:00 choir. They perform at many of the weddings here, and also cover the music for most of the Funeral masses. (Except those odd weddings and funerals for families who actually want a GUITARIST!) The 6:30am Sunday mass is without music except on Christmas and Easter, and the assembly appears to like it this way! (It’s quicker!)

Each Thanksgiving, Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil, the English music ministry combines its talents with the Hispanic choir, led by Francisco Amezcua. We have some of the best Bi-lingual masses anywhere here at St. Joachim!

During July and August masses are typically covered by our summer duets. It’s just myself and one other choir member as we drop it into low gear for about 8 weeks. It’s a different, but very good sound, and it allows me to get to know some of my hard working choir members a little better. The down time also affords me the time to prepare for the next choir season.

Active, Longstanding Members

Along the way, many members have come into the ministry and stuck with it. (Why? I'm not sure!) Long standing current members (In chronological order as best as I can remember) are my wife Diane, Frank Calabretta, Jill and Kevin Cavanaugh, Tim Murphy, Bob Lee, Cynthia Morehouse, Joe McCarthy, Katy Loving, Cheryl Hebestreit, Bernadette Kanaly, Mark Rathsack, Alex Frausto, Mireya Velez, Aileen Penn Briceno, Liza Marmaud, Gene Gleason, Hilda Fores, and Monica Safaric. The youth mass group has grown considerably lately as teens continue to swell our ranks.

Outstanding Veterans of the Past

Fr. Ed Becker, sang tenor and was cantor at many a mass in the mid-late 1990s as he was discerning his vocation. Being called from his career as a lawyer, Ed answered and entered St. John’s Seminary in 2000 and became a diocesan priest in the Spring of 2005. He served as parochial Vicar at St. Pius V church in Buena Park from 2005-2009 and has recently completed Eclesiastical studies in Rome. He is now a Pastor of St. Joseph's parish in Santa Ana.

Martin McSweeney played Bass and Guitar with us in the late ‘90s and went on to receive his bachelors in music at Berkely School of Music in Boston. He returned to Southern Cal and is now serving at St. Agathas Catholic Church in Los Angeles. (Last I checked, he was still single!) St. Agathas is the church to attend if you like good Gospel music!

The Student Choir

The student choir is for all St. Joachim Parish students who are between 4th and 8th grade. It is currently made up primarily of students at St. Joachim School, but is open to all here at St. Joachim Parish. (Bulletin Announcements will tell you when each event is coming.)

This choir got started in 1998 as I attempted to pull together school talent for school events such as Catholic Schools Week and Graduation Mass. It was pretty hapless and disorganized until I had the good fortune of meeting Jill Cavanaugh, who offered immense help in organization and in co-directing the students. She is very detail oriented, which is absolutely necessary when working with me as a partner! Her vocal skills help to facilitate the choirs ability to sing in 2 and 3 part harmony and her experience as a classroom teacher helped immensely in understanding the needs of kids this age and in communicating with parents.

This partnership has been quite fruitful for the parish as the student choir typically sings at Sunday mass closest to "All Saints Day", Christmas eve 5:00 mass, Catholic Schools Week mass on the last Sunday of each January, mass on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Good Shepherd Sunday during Easter season, the School 1st Communion mass and the School Graduation mass each year. The Student choir also performs at the annual Diocesan Choir Festival each May. Many members also go on to sing in the Youth Choir at 5:00 on Sundays.

2 comments:

Lynne April 10, 2010 at 8:11 AM  

Outstanding blogspot! Outstanding, dedicated, patient, talented choir master!

Andrew Everson April 15, 2010 at 7:10 PM  

Outstanding blogspot! Outstanding, dedicated, patient, talented choir master!

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