Choristers stretched their vocal chords to new heights during the Second Annual Archdiocesan Choir Camp.
Nearly 60 children, from ages 10 to 16, came from parishes across the archdiocese for the week-long, full-day choral camp Aug. 6 to 10 at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Cathedral sacred music director Robert Ridgell provided the youth with a unique opportunity to learn Gregorian chant, play the Cathedral organ, compose, learn their “voice” and pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Evening Prayer) every day.
“Both last year and this year, I have been impressed with the keen spirit and desire that the choristers have for choral excellence and sacramental beauty,” Ridgell said.
“I love it,” said Margaret Harmen, 16, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton who attended the camp for the first time. “Singing always makes me happy, and learning the Georgian chants and the old styles has been great.”
‘A lot of fun’
The Archdiocesan Choir Camp gives young people an opportunity to experience what cathedrals have been doing for centuries, according to Ridgell.
He would like the Cathedral to be a source of music education, a spiritual home, and a safe environment for youth to use their gifts.
“This is my first time coming to the camp. I didn’t know anyone else and it’s been a lot of fun — a lot of fun!” said Zach Halpin, 12, of St. Bonaventure in Bloomington.
Another first-year camp chorister, Emma Arachtingi, 14, a Cathedral parishioner and Burnsville resident, saw new beauty in familiar hymns that they sang.
“‘Salve Regina,’ is so simple, but we are adding layers and layers to it with the different voices and it sounds so big and beautiful!” Arachtingi said.
In the rehearsal room, laughter erupted after the director instructed the choristers to “Pump your diaphragm full of air” and hold a note, which led to special instructions to the “changed voices section” of young teenage boys.
The camp welcomes all levels of music experience. Rounding out the full days were games in the Cathedral courtyard, a session of “Grill the Priest” and in-house service projects.
“I was most impressed with how engaged and joyful the children were all throughout the week, and I was especially grateful that they sang each afternoon at vespers, leading a number of visiting people to the Cathedral to respond in amazement at how beautifully their voices echoed throughout that vast space,” said Father John Ubel, Cathedral rector. “They even stumped me on a couple of questions, sending me back to my books to check a few facts about some symbols in the church.”
Sharing Christ’s love
With the support of Father Ubel, the Archdiocesan Choir Camp expanded its music staff for the week to include Cathedral music assistant Audrey Seah, who specializes in Gregorian chant; Sam Holmberg, camp organist from St. Therese in Deephaven; and Chris Caldrone, camp vocal coach and game leader from St. John’s University in Collegeville.
“I hope the choristers will take the music they’ve sung this week and share it with their parishes,” Ridgell said. “I hope the choristers will come back to the Cathedral throughout the year in various Archdiocesan Youth Choir events we will hold. Most importantly, I hope the choristers will share the love of Christ through music.”