Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Convergence

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Over the years, people have often commented on the gifts that the Folk Choir brings to their work with assemblies around the world.  And chief among them is a spirit of participation in the liturgy: not just mute observation, but a desire for the human voice to be a vital and joyful part of prayer.

If this is so, then a unique convergence of resources was about to take place, and it was to happen at our next stop, in Dublin: Harold's Cross Parish, home of the second Teach Bhríde (House of Brigid).

We knew the following:
-  we now had a beach head in Dublin, established by three great new members of the House of Brigid with whom to work – Geoff Burdell, Rikki Koebbler and Susanna Floyd;
-  all three of these volunteers had a strong relationship with and access to the two elementary schools within their parochial boundaries;
-  the Folk Choir would be in their neck of the woods, and more important would be there on an important Marian Feast, the Feast of the Visitation;
-  we had a long runway to both teach some of our music and to learn some of the Marian repertoire from their own sacred tradition.

In addition to this, because the Folk Choir had provided the music, years ago, at Dublin Castle (for the 2012 Notre Dame/Navy game weekend), we also had a great relationship with Finbarr Tracy and the media people at Kaiross Communications – the broadcast specialists who routinely provide video for RTE's televised Masses.

So what would happen if we worked across the waters with this parish community, learning their Marian songs, while at the same time using our own recordings and You Tube clips to teach their kids some of our own repertoire (specifically, the Mass for Our Lady)?  We knew that the young children in grade school adore spending time with American college students.  Could we not use that admiration to create an amazing celebration of song and prayer?

And most important – could we get the whole thing recorded and filmed, such that it might become a teaching tool for Irish grade school children in years to come?

Once again, we were rolling the dice.  We were hoping that we could have access to the students in the grade schools, that they'd be open to learning some of our music, that the House of Brigid volunteers would be willing to add this task to their already busy schedule.

And then, of course, that we would find a way to pay for the broadcast company to show up and put the event in the can for us.

But bit by bit, issue by issue, the planning came together.  Guided by some of our Irish friends, we learned some beautiful Marian hymns (new for us, ancient for the Irish).  We put together some homemade clips of the Folk Choir singing portions of the Mass for Our Lady, so that the school kids could learn their parts.

And on May 31st, on the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady, a grand convergence took place.  The broadcast trucks rolled in the day before, running video and electrical cables through every nook and cranny of the church.  We had a perfect day for the event with sunny skies, and the grade school kids in high spirits.  Just as we had done in many other Irish and Scottish churches leading up to this event, we spread the choir out, sprinkling them in the midst of the school children, electing to use them as leaven, and not as a show or performance ensemble.

And as a bonus, on hand were a group of Notre Dame friends and supporters to witness the labors of a year of liturgical planning.  We raised the rafters with songs like "When Creation Was Begun" and my friend Feargal King's "Dominican Magnificat" – both chosen under the guidance of our Irish friends.  And the kids in Harold's Cross parish sang their hearts out with this new Mass setting that had been shared with them by their American friends.  The Parish Priest, Fr. Gerry Kane, gave a magnificent homily about the "half door" of Ireland and it's significance for the Feast of the Visitation.

It was a liturgical celebration to step back from and admire with great wonder.  We had, once again, taken a great risk.  But in the midst of that risk, great reward was given.

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