‘CYA: The Musical’ virtual choir offers ‘quarantine’ advice: You gotta let go

| April 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

There comes a time in every life when it feels like everything is stuck.
There comes a day when you will say, ‘Yes, this is the cross.’

And you gotta let go of everything around you.
You gotta let go before the weight of the world drags you down.
You gotta let go of everything you once thought was true.
You gotta let go of you.

So begins the song “Letting Go” from “Catholic Young Adults: The Musical.” Missed the Boat Theatre released a “virtual choir” style video of the song April 26, where cast members are shown alone singing parts of the song, but their voices are united. And the project has really struck a chord — pun intended — amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cried again,” one YouTube commenter said. “The song is especially pertinent to this time of crisis.”

“Dang! This is beautiful and powerful! Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!” wrote another.

“That song seems a little ‘prescient’ now, doesn’t it,” asked a third.

Created entirely with local talent, “Catholic Young Adults: The Musical” was performed last fall at St. Agnes School’s Helene Houle Auditorium in St. Paul and received rave reviews. One cast member, Chad Berg, recently suggested to the show’s writer, Father Kyle Kowalczyk, that they take on one of the show’s numbers via virtual choir as a “quarantine project.” They thought “Letting Go” would make the most sense from a technical perspective — it involves the largest number of cast members and multiple short solos.

Letting Go

Chad Berg performs in “Catholic Young Adults: The Musical” in St. Paul in 2019. Berg and other members of the cast joined together to sing “Letting Go” in a virtual choir video as a “quarantine project.”
RICH GRANER | COURTESY MISSED THE BOAT THEATRE

It wasn’t until after Father Kowalczyk, the parochial vicar of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Delano who has a background in television production, was done editing the video and mixing the sound that he really stepped back to hear the lyrics anew, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

And he gets why they’re hitting home for listeners. Some people have lost jobs, routines, social interaction — and even loved ones to the virus. Everyone has lost a sense of control — which is why the song’s message of “letting go” and surrendering one’s life to God, while always part of the Christian life, seems particularly apt, he said.

When he started the project, he saw the video as something just for fun, but the Holy Spirit is using it to speak to people’s circumstances, he said April 28.

The song was written by Brother John-Marmion Villa, who told The Catholic Spirit in a 2019 interview that it was inspired his own surrender of priesthood, family life, wounds, anxieties and insecurities.

“If you notice, the song doesn’t actually ever actually mention God,” said Father Kowalczyk, who was ordained in 2016. In the context of the musical, however, the characters are holding onto things they need to give over to God, he explained.

“And I think that is precisely that just now,” he said. “This is always what we struggle with, every time we sin, every time we’re not at peace, it’s because we’re holding on to something that God is saying, ‘Hey, let me do that.’”

He added: “And so right now, whether it’s your financial security or your inability to go to Mass, the Lord’s saying, ‘You know, I got this. If you want to keep carrying it, it’s going to be heavy and not very fun. But if you want to give it over to me, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ This is always the message he’s trying to communicate.”

A parishioner of St. Mark in St. Paul, Berg had participated in virtual choirs before, and he thought the song’s message had potential to reach beyond the context of the musical. When he first sang the lyrics last year as a cast member, he felt like they spoke to uncertainties he was experiencing in his own life. And they still serve as a reminder of his need to seek detachment to his own desires, and surrender to the will of God in his life.

“This is the time for us all to let go,” said Berg, 26, who works in investments. “Maybe the Lord is asking us to re-center ourselves on him and use this time in our homes to grow in prayer and grow in our faith.”

The video includes Berg, Father Kowalczyk, Brother Villa and the show’s director, Mary Shaffer, and more than 20 other members of the show’s original cast and crew.

Missed the Boat Theatre, the Twin Cities theatre community Father Kowalczyk and others founded to engage Catholics and the arts, plans to bring “Catholic Young Adults: The Musical” back to the stage later this year, depending on what happens with the pandemic. In the meanwhile, it plans to release an album of the musical’s songs in May. Visit Missed the Boat Theatre’s website for information.

Father Kowalczyk hopes that people who see the video simply enjoy it, but he’s OK with it compelling people to reflect on the things they need to let go of, which the coronavirus pandemic may have brought to light.

“It’s a great gift for me as a priest and as an artist,” he said.

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