Ward Method Classes at St. Mary’s

Dear Parishioners:

With the coming of the new academic year each September comes the start of a new choral season, and we at St. Mary’s are particularly excited about this year’s program for the Children’s Choir! We understand that the involvement of children in various ministries in the Church can reinforce the importance of the Mass in their lives as young Catholics. Through their time and hard work, these young people contribute to the parish in a very positive way through the ministry of music. Music is an area of our liturgical life upon which we place tremendous emphasis. Providing music for Mass by singing is not only a gift to God, but a service to the worshiping community. When well done, sacred music can lift hearts and minds to the Almighty!

The key ingredient for the Children’s Choir is an understanding that sacred music is sung prayer. We sing first and foremost for the glorification of God at Mass, offering our very selves in the rendering of the purest and best prayer we can muster. Such beauty of liturgical song does not arise, however, entirely of its own accord; it can only be achieved through systematic practice, learning, and performance.

Just such a system is found in the Ward Method of musical instruction, an ingenious means of teaching children the fundamentals of singing, reading, and conducting. The Ward Method is the brainchild of Justine Ward, a New Yorker who dedicated her entire life to learning about liturgical music and especially Gregorian chant. She moved to France and studied for a number of years with Dom André Mocquereau, a Benedictine monk of the world-famous Abbey of Solesmes. Solesmes is responsible, almost single-handedly, for the compilation, study, and distribution of the ancient chant repertoire in its full splendor to the Church at large.

I am pleased to say that one of our parishioners, Mrs. Adelaide Anderson, has spent this past summer undergoing intensive training in the Ward Method at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Ward teachers spend several weeks mastering Mrs. Ward’s pedagogical tools so as to teach children of all levels of musical ability. A considerable benefit of the Ward Method is that it teaches literacy in reading all types of music, with the rate of success directly proportional to the time the children devote to the lessons. Mrs. Anderson is very excited to offer her services as a Ward instructor to St. Mary Church, and I am equally excited to present this unparalleled opportunity to all of the children of our parish. No previous musical training or choral experience is necessary for children to participate. It is our sincere hope that this training will bear fruit in the repertoire of chant, hymnody, and polyphony that the Children’s Choir will sing this coming year at Mass.

To this end, I would like to invite any parents who are interested in having their children participate in the Children’s Choir to a meeting on Thursday, October 11th at 6:30 p.m. in the Parish Center. (Please note that the date of October 12th printed in this week’s bulletin is incorrect; the meeting will be on October 11th.) At that time, I will present, with Mrs. Anderson, a demonstration of the Ward Method, and we will discuss the schedule of rehearsals and Masses for the coming year. Parents are encouraged to bring their children to this meeting, as singing in a choir involves a commitment from the whole family. Refreshments will be served.

If you should have any questions about the choirs in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone (203-866-5546 x115) or e-mail (music@stmarynorwalk.net). The past year was a happy and fruitful time for the young singers in the Children’s Choir. We are delighted once again this year to welcome all our singers, old and new, to make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Yours sincerely in Christ,

David J. Hughes
Organist & Choirmaster

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