St. Joseph’s Youth Choral Festival offers lessons in music, liturgy

Children from parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit practice singing together during the St. Joseph’s Youth Choral Festival on March 19 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. 
Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

DETROIT — Young voices from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament for what has become a St. Joseph’s Day tradition.

On March 19, an estimated 175 young singers joined their voices together for the St. Joseph’s Youth Choral Festival, an opportunity for youth singers to perfect their voices and sing during a joint Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Robert Fisher.

“Today we got to work on some technical elements of music making,” said Joe Balistreri, cathedral organist and director of music ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit, who led the students in lessons before Mass. “We discussed consonance, precision, tact and release dynamics, meaning getting louder and softer all in rhythm. But we also talked about the history of music and its liturgical meaning.”

St. Joseph isn’t known for music, but Balistreri said St. Joseph’s Day has always been a convenient time for students to leave school for the day to go to the cathedral to sing some of the more celebrant hymns of the liturgy.

“It’s been a tradition in the diocese to have the youth chorale on St. Joseph’s Day,” Balistreri said. “Part of it is that in the school schedule, Lent is the best time for these festivals to happen. And there are only certain days in Lent you can sing the Gloria. So with St. Joseph’s solemnity, we can break from our Lenten fast a bit and enjoy some uplifting music.”

In addition, Balistreri hopes the students realize the hymns they sang with Bishop Fisher are the same hymns sung by the Sistine Chapel Choir when Pope Francis celebrates Mass, showing the universality of the Church.

“One thing I keep telling them is that we are greater than the sum of our parts in a choir,” Balistreri said. “We are stronger when we are united and looking to our chief shepherd, the pope, and to Jesus Christ.”