UMPSTARTING A NEW CHOIR is always a challenge. Very often, a new director walks into a situation where there is a small program in need of bolstering. This may also involve igniting new programs. Doing so in a parish setting – “in the trenches” – is also very challenging. But it’s a challenge everywhere!
A glimpse into such a parish is St. Raphael’s Parish in Medford, Massachusetts where Ryan Lynch took over as Director of Music and Organist a little more than a year ago. Having no adult choir whatsoever, he also revitalized a small youth choir which now includes thirty-five children. Like many music directors, he is now teaching in the parish school, working with children from kindergarten through fifth grade. (Ryan Lynch is also very frequently heard for the Archdiocese of Boston’s televised masses on Boston Channel 7, WHDH.)
T TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD, Mr. Lynch is certainly part of a new generation of musicians advocating for chant and traditional music of the Church. In doing so, the choirs at St. Raphael’s Parish have grown solidly with very capable and young volunteers.
When starting a new choir from scratch, Mr. Lynch has been wise in selecting repertoire that is simple, but substantial. He has relied a great deal on Richard Rice’s Simple Choral Gradual, the Chabanel Psalms, and Andrew Motyka’s Laudate Dominum Communion Antiphons. He is also slowly introducing the simple, yet essential Gregorian Chants of the Church. An indispensable resource for this is Richard Rice’s Parish Book of Chant.
Conventional wisdom assumes that popular styles of music will attract larger congregations and choirs. However, one cannot argue with the results at St. Raphael’s Parish, especially given greatly improved congregational singing, a revived adult choir, and the large numbers in his youth choir. While exceedingly versatile in handling different musical styles, his approach in laying a foundation of traditional sacred music of the Church has yielded much fruit in a short time. (Interestingly, this is often achieved with contemporary chant and choral based compositions.) This path takes courage and support from the pastor. Fr. Kevin Toomey, clearly has his trust in Ryan’s approach.
One final ingredient to infusing life into new programs one that Ryan has in abundance: interpersonal skills. Despite his youth, he demands respect by giving it. His singers of all ages love singing with him. In short, he is another parish musician who views his life’s work as service to the Church. Good-hearted and talented people respond quite positively to this philosophy. They want to take part in this service to God and others.
ECENTLY, RYAN LYNCH had a guest appearance on “Sounds from the Spires” on on SIRIUS XM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel. The show is hosted by Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. This interview gives a bit of a glimpse for non-musicians of the daily life and challenges of a parish church musician. This was especially fitting after a busy Christmas Season!
• PODCAST • Here are some excerpts from “Sounds form the Spires” broadcast on 1.10.2015: