HIS PAST WEEKEND was a busy and musical one for me. I performed at two concerts, one with my choirs at my parish and the second one at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Charleston, SC, with the Atlanta Schola Cantorum. On the way back from Charleston, I had a chance to stop by the newly-dedicated St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken, South Carolina. Here is a thought from my trip: Catholic artists (musicians, architects, visual artists, acoustic engineers etc.) need to work together more often.
I really like the new St. Mary Help of Christians Church. The exterior of the church is in the Spanish style and the interior looks like a Roman basilica. The project is not completed yet, they are waiting to put in the stain glass windows and more statues, but the church is definitely functional. It can hold up to one thousand people and the acoustic of the church is great! There was a graduation rehearsal going on during my visit and a teacher was giving some instructions to her students. I was able to hear her instructions from the back of this huge church and she didn’t use a microphone. I also realize there was some empty space in the choir loft and my guess is that they are leaving some room for a pipe organ in the future.
Another wonderful experience I had during the trip was the concert at St. John the Baptist Cathedral. I joint the Atlanta Schola Cantorum recently and we were invited to perform at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. I really enjoyed singing in the big gothic cathedral! As a musician, I am always “trapped” in the crowed choir loft and I never get to listen to myself or my choir from the pews or the sanctuary. This time, we performed in the sanctuary and I got to hear myself! The sound is totally different from what I used to hear and I felt like I was in heaven!
In order for all these good things to happen, artists must collaborate with each other. Musicians should plan with church architects on things like the acoustic, choir loft and space for the instruments. Other than the architectural area, it’s also important that musicians get involved in the additional sound system and the exterior design of an pipe organ. Through collaborations, we can all live out our vocation in service of beauty.