HEN MY OLDEST SON was nearing his eighth birthday back in 2011, I felt that it was important for him to start learning Gregorian Chant as part of a good Catholic children’s choir. Searching all of the parishes surrounding my home in the western suburbs of Boston, I could not find a single chant-centered program for children, except for the magnificent Choir of Men and Boys at St. Paul’s in Harvard Square, Cambridge, well over an hour away on a typical weekday morning.
So I asked the pastor of my local church, St. Brendan’s Parish in Bellingham, MA, if I could form a youth choir dedicated to the study of Gregorian chant, traditional hymnody, and sacred choral music. He agreed, encouraged me to creatively package the group in a manner that would not seem to be in competition with the parish children’s choir, and invited me to prepare music for the Traditional Latin Mass offered every second Sunday of the month at 12:30 p.m. I expected three or four kids to show up.
To my amazement, a number of Catholic families from a dozen surrounding communities expressed interest in the group, and today there are well over thirty young people enrolled in the Blackstone Valley Catholic Youth Choir. The children have performed at concerts, liturgies, and choir festivals, at several area churches and cathedrals, as well as Boston-area venues such as Fanueil Hall and the Hynes Convention Center. In March 2014, the choir plans to visit several churches in Connecticut and New York during a cultural tour/pilgrimage culminating with the Pueri Cantores Festival Mass to be held at St. Ignatius, New York City, with Cardinal Dolan presiding.
As a fundraiser for the tour/pilgrimage, the children have released a CD recording entitled, “Clothed With the Sun: Music for the Solemnities of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.” The recording features Gregorian Chant, Marian motets, and relevant passages from the Simple English Propers and the Parish Book of Psalms. To learn more about the choir, order a copy of the CD, or to make a donation of any amount to help the children raise the $15,000 needed for the tour/pilgrimage, please visit the choir website:
The CD also features recordings of two of the movements of the “Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea,” a Mass setting which I composed in 2010, dedicated to Cardinal Sean O’Malley on the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The Kyrie is designed to follow the recitation of the Confiteor and flow effortlessly into the Gloria, which borrows melodic material from the Gregorian “Ave Maris Stella” chant. The Sanctus, based on the preface tone, is an hommage to the simple English chant settings of the Sanctus by Theodore Marier found in his landmark hymnal, “Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs.” The simple Agnus Dei hearkens back to the melodic material for “you take away the sins of the world,” found in the Gloria. To download free copies of the score, simply click on the “Vatican II Hymnal” tab above, and find the link for downloading free Mass settings.
We hope you enjoyed this guest article by Michael Olbash.
MICHAEL OLBASH, founder and director of the Blackstone Valley Catholic Youth Choir, is a homeschooling father of four residing in Bellingham, Massachusetts. He holds degrees in sacred music from Harvard University and St. Joseph’s College, as well as the Colleague (CAGO) and Choirmaster (ChM) certificates from the American Guild of Organists (AGO). In 2012, he was the recipient of the S. Lewis Elmer Award, a prize given to the person achieving the highest score in the nation on any of the upper-level examinations administered by the AGO.
Active in the American Federation Pueri Cantores, Michael currently serves as the Minister of Music at the United Church of Christ in Medfield, MA, chapel organist at the Carmelite Chapel in Peabody, MA, and staff organist at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Hopkinton, MA, as well as president of the Southeastern New England Chapter of Choristers Guild.
Contact by e-mail at:
Contact by U.S. Mail at:
Michael Olbash, director
Blackstone Valley Catholic Youth Choir
P.O. Box 275
Millis, MA 02054