Each week at every Montgomery Catholic campus, the students attend Mass together, and having music is important to the order of worship. Every campus has a choir that helps to lead that music ministry, comprised entirely of students. At the St. Bede and Holy Spirit elementary campuses, 3rdthrough 6th graders prepare, rehearse, and perform the music for Mass, which is attended by the students and the wider community.
Mass is not the only place where the children perform. The St. Bede campus choir takes their show on the road and performs at the Junior League of Montgomery’s annual Holiday Market. They entertain shoppers and get them in the mood for the Christmas season. The Holy Spirit choir visits the Montgomery Public Schools Children’s Center and performs a holiday concert for the students there, bringing some much-needed joy when the weather gets chilly.
Sixth grade teacher Mary Pears leads the choir at the St. Bede campus. While she frets every summer about the number of sixth graders who move up to middle school, the fall always brings a new group of eager singers.
“After school ends in May, I just pray that we will be able to fill the choir when school starts,” said Mrs. Pears. “Year after year, I am never disappointed.”
At Holy Spirit, kindergarten teacher and choir leader Ellie Burden welcomes new students into the choir after Labor Day so that new students have a chance to hear the choir sing and get excited about joining. One additional architectural feature of the church also spurs interest.
“They love going into the choir loft,” said Burden. “I think that is a huge bonus for our kids.”
Some students needed no convincing at all to join the choir. Third grade student Estrella Strobbe, who is originally from Mexico, said that she was hooked from the first time she heard the choir sing.
“I first started singing when I lived in Mexico,” Estrella said. “After we moved to America and I started at Holy Spirit, I heard the choir and now I’m working on my own voice!”
The choir is an extracurricular activity that teaches students about melody, harmony, rhythm, and basic music literacy.
“We learn a lot about different parts of songs, like ‘fancy endings,’” said St. Bede 5th grader Frances Bach. Codas, or “fancy endings” as Pears like to call them, add a special flourish to conclude many songs in a special and memorable way.
“We also learned how to sing Ave Maria in Latin. That was pretty cool.”
Some students contribute to the choir with talents other than their voices. Ethan Levanda, a 4th grader at Holy Spirit, works with the soundboard up in the choir loft.
“I have to wear special headphones that allow me to hear what the people down below hear,” he said. “If it’s too low, I turn it up. If it’s too loud, I turn it down. My job is to make it sound good.”