THE GREAT SONG OF OUR MISSION
XXXVII Congreso Internacional de Pueri Cantores embraced the city of Granada, Spain from July 11 through 16 of 2012. With eighty-eight choirs registered, from thirteen national federations, this congress was made up of approximately 3,500 young singers. The theme adopted by this congress was “Congregare in unum” or “Gathered as One.” The logo represents three images resembling doves which reflect the diverse historical religious presence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths living peacefully together in this ancient city.
The International Congress of Pueri Cantores is the true global realization of the vision of the founder of our movement, Msgr. Fernand Maillet, “That children throughout the world may join together and sing the peace of God.”
In my estimation the 37th International Congress of Pueri Cantores remained true to that vision while at the same time sharing unique cultural traditions of Granada and the Spanish region of Andalucía.
The Archdiocese and really the entire city of Granada showed a tremendous outpouring of hospitality to all who participated in this congress. Though not perfect (in all of the international congresses I have attended there has never been one without flaw) this congress gave an overwhelming message of welcome to all who participated and we departed with a sense that Granada is in a certain sense a home to which we may all return.
Once all choirs were seated the festivities began with a great flourishing prelude of virtuosic Flamenco guitar playing and dancing. Perhaps it could have been a bit more brief but it was certainly muy bravo! As with all international congresses the sign that things were getting serious came with the Procession of Flags. Each national president walked in with a chorister of his/her country bearing their national colors. In my case, I was delighted to enter with Sophie Ryan of the St. Jane Frances de Chantal Choir (Bethesda, Maryland) waving Old Glory.
On Thursday evening of the congress we were offered a choice of concert performances held in three churches throughout the city. Each concert featured three outstanding choirs.
Not possessing the gift of trilocation (I’m still trying to figure out bilocation) I was forced to choose one of the three wonderful concerts being held in various churches of Granada. I opted to go to the Basílica de la Virgen de las Angustias and hear performances by:
• Escalonía Maria Auxiliadora, de Cádiz (Spain)
• Kölner Domchor (Germany)
• Jeju Catholic Boys and Girls Choir (Korea)
As you may well imagine, the repertoire of these three wonderful choirs was incredibly diverse and most impressive. The Spanish choir performed in more contemporary styles (complete with gestures) demonstrating lovely vocalism and a great sense of unified ensemble completely focused upon their conductor, Antonio Hernandez Asencio. The German choir’s repertoire ranged from Gregorian chant to contemporary works, showing particular mastery of compositions by Rheinberger and Mendelssohn and demonstrating tremendous vocal, musical and ensemble skills. The Korean children were most charming with their beautiful costumes, lovely selections from their own unique culture of choral singing, and particularly enjoyable drums!
PRAYER FOR PEACE
On the morning of Friday, July 13, choirs assembled in ten churches around the city of Granada to join in the Prayer for Peace.
Choirs gathering for The Prayer for Peace is of particular significance and importance in the schedule of events for any international congress because it echoes the commissioning motto of our founder, Fernand Maillet, “That children throughout the world may join together and sing the peace of God”.
At 10:00 a.m. the choirs of the congress were divided up and met in ten different churches. The liturgy which I was drawn to was offered in the form of Morning Prayer, however, as I later learned, not every gathering observed that same structure. In the church of Santo Domingo, readings were proclaimed in three languages and musical settings were sung by all choirs joined together, congregare in unum. A homily was given by a French bishop who acted as our presider.
Immediately following the liturgy it was a particular treat to encounter the Girls Choir of Cologne Cathedral singing in the plaza directly in front of the church. The girls sang (superbly!) two a cappella pieces by Colin Mawby who kept watch with an approving smile next to their conductor, Oliver Sperling. It was such a pleasure hearing this ensemble of mostly high school aged girls sing such lovely and challenging contemporary works with perfect intonation and phrasing, never failing to please not only their conductor but also the creator of the music which they were singing.
CONCLUDING MASS OF THE 37TH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS
With such a tenuous rehearsal for the final Mass, I was pleasantly surprised that in the outcome all of the music was sung with great command, confidence and enthusiasm by the combined choirs of the congress. The musical selections were mostly accessible and the particularly capable leading choirs, seated in the front, did an excellent job of holding it all together. The inclusion of six brass and three woodwind instruments provided a very secure anchor for the singers.
Along with Gregorian chants and age old masterpieces by Tomas Luis da Victoria, Juan de Herrera and others, there were works by living composers, three of whom gathered among us. Conductors Oliver Sperling and Robert Michaels both contributed pieces which were sung well in the Mass, and compositions of Colin Mawby were particularly fine in craftsmanship and art which the young singers took to with great enthusiasm and joy.
Archbishop Fernandez spoke with great love for the Pueri Cantores and was openly moved by both their beauty and their vibrant youth. His message and his affections were well received by all.
The 38th International Congress of Pueri Cantores, to be held in Washington D.C., grows on the horizon of our American federation and it is my hope that this Congress Report may assist all of us who are responsible for hosting that great event. I have attempted to present the various details of each day of the Granada congress with reflections of those things which I saw as successful.
It is my sincere hope that we in American Federation Pueri Cantores may all join together and share an authentic and indeed wonderful commitment to that spirit of hospitality which is the peace of Christ, the true heart of Pueri Cantores.
American Federation Pueri Cantores