Chorister Camp is So Awesome!
by Meg Harper, Associate Director of Music and Organist
“Chorister Camp is so awesome!” So says 11-year-old Layna Girata, who has been a member of Saint Michael Choristers since its inception. On August 23-25, seventeen children aged 8-13 journeyed to Camp All Saints on Lake Texoma for a weekend of fun, laughter, and lots of singing. Asked about his favorite part of Chorister Camp, 13-year-old Nate Pedersen responded, “Basically, I liked everything!”
Fun, Laughter, & Midnight stories!
From the moment we stepped on the bus, our Choristers were out to build a weekend of fun. Songs sung on the hour-and-a-half bus ride to Lake Texoma ranged from “The Wheels on the Bus” to Claudio Monteverdi’s Baroque masterpiece “Cantate Domino.” The first evening passed in a blur, with plenty of food, fun music-themed games in the common room, and lots of whispering after “lights out” was called.
We awoke on Saturday morning and sang Morning Prayer with two of our oldest Choristers cantoring the Psalmody with ease and grace. Other Saturday activities included an exhilarating ride on the camp’s zip line, swimming in the lake, and a course entitled “Science of Survival.”
On the zip line, our Choristers did Saint Michael proud, encouraging one another and sticking around until the very last had completed the course. They learned a lot about teamwork and community. The day concluded with a fun survival course that included learning to make a fire, over which they made s’mores.
It’s safe to say, though, that the highlight of Saturday was Rector Chris Girata’s visit for dinner and Evensong, where he gave a beautiful homily to our Choristers. He used Luke 12:25- 28 to remind the Choristers of their value to our church:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”
Chris spoke about how is youngest daughter loves wildflowers, and loves to collect small but beautiful flowers that others might overlook. She’s filled with delight in them! He then turned to the Choristers and told them this is how the congregation of Saint Michael feels about them. Our Choristers add so much to our liturgies every week, and show us the beauty that God has created in this world. They lead us to God, and for that, we love them! Our Choristers were radiant as they heard these words of affirmation from the Rector.
Sunday had highlights as well, featuring a ride on a pontoon boat and fishing as well as Morning Prayer. But the real high point of Sunday was the Choristers’ return to Saint Michael, where they sang for the 5:30 p.m. chapel service. The Choristers led rousing hymn singing with the congregation, and also sang a stunning anthem by Felix Mendelssohn. This anthem’s text served as a fitting conclusion to a Chorister Camp full of equal parts fun and beauty:
“I will sing of Thy great mercies, O Lord,
Of Thy mercies, O Lord, my Saviour,
I will sing of Thy great mercies, O Lord,
And of Thy faithfulness evermore.”
– Psalm 89
This is the future of our church, and of the worldwide church!
At Chorister camp, we had plenty of fun outdoor activities and we had plenty of musical rehearsals, but the one truly unusual element was the number of liturgies that took place. In the course of two and a half days, our Choristers sang four liturgies: two days of Morning Prayer and two days of Evening Prayer. When people ask us why children should join Saint Michael Choristers, there are all sorts of great answers. We have lots of fun, it’s a great community, and they learn lots about music, leadership, teamwork, and excellence. But one thing I always come back to is that Choristers are the future of the church.
At camp, our Choristers sang the daily office, something that few children ever do, let alone for an entire weekend. And what’s more, they loved it! The older ones were proud to be selected to cantor Psalms, and others were excited for the chance to be Lectors. An 8-year-old even correctly pronounced “Pharisees” in the course of one Morning Prayer reading! These Choristers are learning to love the Liturgy, and to love our church.
In today’s world, it’s common to hear people lament the future of the church. “Why are there no young families in church?” “We have more funerals than weddings.” It’s easy to see secularization in society and take it as a death-knell for the church. I believe a much more exciting and effective approach to the unique problems facing today’s church is to intentionally build the next generation of church-lovers.
Choristers gives our children their own role in the Liturgy: they have ownership of it. In the words of Thomas Allen, parent of Chorister Juliet Allen, “Church is for everyone – it’s not just for grown ups! To have these children take ownership of their part in worship is really special.” Our Choristers love singing for church – they have hymns and prayers memorized, they know Psalms by heart from chanting them, and they sing about God’s love on a daily basis. This is the future of our church!
If you know a child who might be interested in joining our intrepid Saint Michael Choristers, please share their information with our music staff! We have a “Come & See” event coming up at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 18 where families will join us for a rehearsal, information session, and a dinner together. We’d love to talk to you or your friends about being a chorister. Contact Julia Dietz Beckel.
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