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Scholars at Saint James

by Gary D. Penkala

I. The Scholars Program

Saint James Catholic Church The Scholars Program at Saint James Catholic Church in Charles Town, WV was established to train motivated high school students in three areas: Choir, Liturgy, and Organ. In addition, these students find an avenue to use their talents in a valuable ministry to the parish. The Program is loosely based on the scholars programs at British cathedrals, where select college students serve as interns at various cathedrals throughout England. As part of the duties of our scholars, brief articles in their fields will appear monthly on the parish Facebook page. We take the "scholar" part very seriously! Some titles will be:

  • Name That Tune: How we name hymn tunes separate from their texts.
  • 4 Christ-Mass: The four Mass formularies for Christmas.
  • All in the Family: The four families of organ tone.
  • L'ent-chanted: Some seasonal Gregorian chants for Lent.
  • November Eschatology: How do "final things" manifest themselves in the liturgies of November?
  • Starring Role: What's a Zimbelstern?
  • The Schola Scheme: Where does the title Schola Cantorum come from?
  • Shadowy History: The history of Tenebræ.
  • Pipe Dream: The parts of an organ pipe.

II. Our Choral Scholar

Choral Scholar Brigid, a high school senior, will be our Choral Scholar for the 2016-17 academic year. Brigid, like the other scholars, has been a member of various youth choirs. She has also sung for several years with Archangelus Chorale [high school] and Holy Trinity Ensemble [youth schola], and will begin membership in Cappella Musica [adult] and Schola Cantorum [adult].

Brigid has honed her skills at choral conducting over the last few years, to the point where she's comfortable in front of the "vastness" of our combined choirs when they all sing together. She has also played handbells and soprano recorder.

An accomplished cantor, Brigid has sung for many of those "big" liturgical events: Confirmation, Rite of Election, Easter Vigil. She'll also be honing her compositional skills this year as she works on a forthcoming "Ave Maria" and other repertoire.

As Choral Scholar, she'll receive training in conducting and composition. In addition to planning and rehearsing repertoire, she'll have the opportunity to direct a number of choral ensembles at the church during Mass.

Her duties will include assisting with the Saint Gregory Choir [treble boys] and singing with these ensembles: Joseph of Arimathea Choir [funeral ministry], Archangelus Chorale [high school], Cappella Musica [adult] and Schola Cantorum [adult, auditioned]. Brigid will also be a part of our Cantor Program.

III. Our Liturgy Scholar

Liturgy Scholar Peter will fill the position of Liturgy Scholar. He's a life-long veteran of our choir program (he started in Sacred Heart Choir) and our altar server program (he started in 3rd grade). Peter will learn in depth how liturgy happens at Saint James Parish, as he assists with set-up and execution of Wednesday Morning Prayer, learns the behind-the-scenes liturgical necessities (like ordering incense) and rotates through cantoring for Solemn Sung Evening Prayer on Wednesdays.

Peter will share directing duties for Sacred Heart Choir [K-Grade 2] with Julianna, our Young Artist-in-Residence, where he'll expand his accompanying skills at their weekly rehearsals. Although he started in this young choir, Peter has progressed through Saint Gregory Choir [treble boys] to Saint Dominic Savio Choir [changing voices], and now graduates into Archangelus Chorale, our high school choir that sings for 7:00 Mass on Wednesday nights.

He will also be taking organ lessons on our 4-manual instrument, learning how the organ facilitates liturgical prayer in the parish, and continue in our Cantor Program.

Part of his education will be a year-long study of three important documents:

  1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
  2. General Instruction on the Roman Missal
  3. Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship

He'll set up the nave and sanctuary for Morning Prayer every Wednesday, and take a leadership role in the music for that liturgy. Peter will experience the paperwork involved with liturgy, albeit on a computer, as he prepares occasional Liturgy Sheets for use at Mass.

IV. Our Organ Scholar

Organ Scholar A little over a year ago, Donovan was appointed the first Organ Scholar at Saint James. He had been taking organ lessons at the church for a few years and this new position would allow him to expand his ministry and service to the parish. He has since played the organ for complete Sunday Masses (with cantor). He has led the music at Nursing Home Masses and at monthly Homeschool Masses and in the near future, he'll be playing for some weddings at Saint Peter Chapel in Harpers Ferry.

Beyond his organ duties in this Scholar position, Donovan, a high school sophomore, has been cantoring for years, assists with the Saint Dominic Savio Choir [boys, changing voices], sings with Archagnelus Chorale [high school] and with Cappella Musica [adult] and Schola Cantorum [adult, auditioned].

He'll begin accompaniment duties with the high school choir and will assume directing and organ responsibilities for the monthly Homeschool Mass on the third Thursday.

Donovan will rotate in the musical duties for Solemn Evening Prayer during weekly Holy Hour on Wednesday evenings.

V. Our Young Artist-in-Residence

Young Artist-in-Residence Julianna, a freshman, is our Young Artist-in-Residence. She is following in the footsteps of a fellow string player who served as Artist-in-Residence, but has since moved to Alexandria VA. Julianna has been playing violin in church (and fiddle at outside hoedowns) for many years.

She is an accomplished member of the Frederick (MD) Regional Youth Orchestra. She's sung with Saint James choral groups from Sacred Heart Choir [K-gr.2], through Saint Cecilia Choir [girls], Holy Trinity Ensemble [youth schola], this year graduating into Archangelus Chorale [high school]. Her solos at the annual Carnevale and Saint Lawrence Day revues are always stellar, including this year's "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls.

Along with Peter, our Liturgy Scholar, both of whom are long-time alumni of this choir, Julianna will direct Sacred Heart Choir. This group for our youngest singers (Kindergarten to Grade 2) focuses on teaching music fundamentals and good choral technique in a fun-filled way. Proper choral etiquette and impeccable Mass behavior are two important goals of their study.

Julianna will provide solo violin literature and choral obligatos throughout the year on at least a monthly basis. She may also enlist the aid of her siblings and parents, who play a variety of instruments: trumpet, string bass, guitar and percussion.

Choir Loft

By means of our Scholars Program, the Parish of Saint James hopes to train and inspire our talented high school students in the basics of liturgical music ministry. In the future, may we, and parishes around the country, benefit from their talent and dedication. May God bless their nascent work!

Article written 23 August 2016

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388
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