PALM TREE SPRINGS | Being a church minister in the COVID-19 era is complicated, but it’s especially so for music ministers and choir directors. Fears about the spread of the disease and the tools used to block its transmission can make their job more difficult. Add to this the increased absences of choristers due to the pandemic and the trials can become extreme.
Richard Robbins, director of choral activities at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, understands what they’ve been through. He has worked as a church educator and musician for many years and is familiar with the issues of music directors, let alone those who run choral programs for young people.
It was presented on November 4, 2021 during a webinar in cooperation with his university and the American Federation Pueri Cantores, an international Catholic student choir organization that presents youth choir festivals across the United States. The title of the webinar was âReevaluate, Renew and Rebuild Youth Choral Programsâ.
âThis is truly an unprecedented time for musical directors, for teachers, for conductors in modern history,â said Robbins. âSo I want you to know that I come from a place of real empathy, and that most of the situations you might face are very similar around the world.
âI hope we can draw great strength from each other, just knowing that other people care a lot about music and people are really trying to create something beautiful in their school teaching situations, in their parish liturgical situations. We really want things to continue to thrive for choral music, and I think things can do it, âhe added.
Robbins offered practical advice on topics such as which masks allow the most freedom of movement for singers while protecting others and how to deal with other pandemic issues.
âSpiritually, obviously, if we are working in a Catholic school or a Catholic church, we have a way of approaching spirituality very directly,â he said. âBut beyond that, we might ask ourselves what the spiritual purpose of the song is. Why are we singing in a time when it seems so difficult? “
Robbins, who is a guest conductor at the Pueri Cantores Youth Choir Festivals, encouraged everyone watching the webinar to participate in their local choral events and learn from music directors who have more experience conducting youth. .
The 2022 South Florida Youth Choral Festival and Mass for Mixed Voices and Treble Choirs in Grades 4-12 is scheduled for Saturday, February 12, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Luke Parish, 2892 S. Congress Ave. at Palm Springs.
The celebrant of the liturgy is expected to be Father Andrew Brierley, pastor of Saint Luke, and the guest conductor will be Guiliano Grisi, a conductor and choir who began collaborating as an organist and musical director in Italy at the age of 12.
âI think it’s important for people to come together and think about ways to unify our approaches, while also finding things to work on so that our own teaching has a purpose,â Robbins said.
âThese festival experiences allow you to work on the repertoire and then combine with other bands so that you can feel the strength of the song together,â he said. âIt gives you something to aim for. And, in a year of its ups and downs, aiming for a goal is something that can give your program purpose and can give you purpose as a teacher. And then your students can experience something beautiful.
The Pueri Cantores festivals and conferences across the United States for 2022 are expected to take place in person, although events for the past 18 months have been virtual. Robbins said he was excited about what festivals can do for music teachers and students.
To learn more about the American Pueri Cantores Federation and how music teachers and young singers can participate in the South Florida Youth Choral Festival and Mass, visit www.pcchoirs.org. The website also offers useful resources for young conductors facing various challenges.