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San Francisco children’s choirs to sing for Pope Francis during Christmas season

December 3, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

Three children’s choirs from the San Francisco area will be singing for Pope Francis during the Christmas season this year.

The Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers will participate in the 40th International Congress of Pueri Cantores in Rome, singing at the World Peace Day Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Jan. 1.

St. Brigid School Honor Choir and St. Mary’s Cathedral Archdiocesan Children’s Choir are also going to Rome but at the invitation of the Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra, a Vatican based foundation for sacred music. The children will sing a papal Mass, together with the Sistine Chapel Choir, on Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany. The choirs are directed by Christoph Tietze, music director at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

All three choirs are Archdiocese of San Francisco institutions in their own ways.

The Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers is directed by Steve Meyer, and includes boys from the East Bay and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It is a regional Catholic boys choir, but includes boys of any denomination. Meyer is also music teacher and choir director at St. Vincent de Paul School in San Francisco. Twenty-eight boys, ages 8-18, will go on the trip, Meyer said.

The St. Brigid Honor Choir starts auditioning singers in second grade, but the choir is officially third to eighth grade. The Archdiocesan Children’s Choir is based at the cathedral. The two choirs usually sing together. Seventeen children, 14 from St. Brigid and three from the Cathedral choir, will go to Rome, said Tietze.

The choirs benefit from a re-awakened appreciation of classical Catholic music and both belong to Pueri Cantores, founded in France in 1944, which is the official student choral organization of the Catholic Church. All three choirs participated in a regional Pueri Cantores Mass celebrated by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone at St. Mary’s Cathedral in March.

When the Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers first joined Pueri Cantores in 1988, there were only 12 American choirs participating, Meyer said. “Now there are 400 choirs in the U.S.,” he said, noting that around 1970 many choirs were disbanded “because people were saying we don’t need choirs after Vatican II. That’s not really true. There is a place for choir at the liturgy along with the congregational singing and whatever else might be going on.”

The choirs have been fundraising for their trips to Rome, and Tietze said his group has been fortunate to raise a fair amount of money from a foundation and from private donors. The Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers began fundraising a year ago, and has held a number of successful events, Meyer said.

The International Pueri Cantores Congress, held every five years, is Dec. 26-Jan. 2. The Golden Gate Choir and Bell Ringers will join more than 5,000 singers, with over 1,000 from the U.S., including boys and girls from fourth through 12th grade, to sing at several locations including an opening ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Paul VI Hall Dec.28, a National Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on December 29 and will participate in a Carols from Around the World Christmas celebration on December 31.

The St. Brigid Honor Choir and Archdiocesan Children’s Choir will join 500 other children from the United States to sing at a Mass at St. Peter’s Jan. 2, a concert at St. Ignatius Church in Rome Jan. 3, a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Jan. 4, and the papal Mass Jan. 6.

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