As I admire this image captured at the Carol Service of 2023, at The Church Of The Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, I’m reminded of the verse above.
I’d like to explore what it means to be part of the Jesuit Young Adult Ministries (YAM) choir community, and in particular what participation in an Advent event such as the Carol Service in Church, means to young adults. This exercise is inspired by an expression of gratitude by a participant in the carol service choir. As a source of joy, I'm confident that the ‘Jesuit YAM Choir’ (community) will live long and prosper! Just like the waves of the ocean: calm and collected, with an immense ability to roar! Ad majórem Dei glóriam!
The Jesuit YAM choir is a talented group of singers from the YAM community who volunteer their time to regularly sing for the YAM masses and for larger services such as the Carol Service, amongst others, throughout the year. Their usual repertoire consists of four part hymns and choral works, including a capella singing. The choir is conducted and overseen ably by Audrey Fitchett, who is meticulous in her approach while exhibiting a keen ear to get each harmony just right. Above all, she has displayed compassion and is welcoming to each choir participant.
Here are a few thoughts from choir members, based on themes that emerged through the Carol Service Choir 2023. We sincerely thank the choir for their effort, contribution and for being generous with their time and talent.
Something for God
Audrey, Matt O'Dowd and Maria Wyard held that the YAM choir is one of the most special things that they are involved with and feel truly blessed to lead and bring voices together in worship and in love of God. Erin Kendrick commented “It’s something that has the ultimate purpose of giving glory to God.” Isabella felt that the carol service was an experience of “Peace and love.” Matt relished the opportunity to share his love for music with other young Catholics which is echoed in the words of Declan who thought of the event as, “One Catholic carol service and it's with the Jesuits.”
“It is an opportunity to share my love for music with fellow young Catholics”, said Matt and he was inspired by those with limited singing experience, worked hard to participate in the carol service. Matt derived a lot of joy from the carol ‘O Radiant Dawn’ while Erin loved the palpable sense of joy that she felt, radiating from both the choir members and the congregation. Hubert said, “It was a wonderful return to the singing that I enjoyed as a schoolboy.” Another singer, Mara had this to say, “It was a joy to sing carols I know so well as well as learn new pieces with friends in the community”. Adding to the joy, Charlotte said “It was a joy to sing with the choir but then it always is when you are a soprano and shy of sight singing (we always get the tune).” Ian is grateful for the experience of compassion and re-discovered the joy of having mentors in music.
Friendship and Fun!
Rhiannon found the carol service experience to be a lot of fun! Similarly Erin said that she made new friends. Stuart commented that the social side is quite important and he said “Meeting new people in the choir, as the choir has grown in numbers since I joined, has been great!”
Different Music Traditions
Dunstan, a Jesuit who participated in the choir said “It was wonderful to discover beautiful music from different traditions”. The Jesuit YAM community is truly international and this is consistent with Audrey’s effort to sing some hymns at the YAM Sunday evening mass at Farm Street Church, which are not in English.
To sum up the choir member’s comments in a few words, they loved working together, chipping in, building their confidence, helping first timers and above all doing something special for God!
Music forms a firm base for the choir and the piano accompaniment for the choir is regularly provided by Barbara, who is skillful at gentle jingles and loves an allegro piece! At the carol service, Barbara was joined by Sarah, another talented musician, who played the flute.
Special thanks to the Jesuits at the London Jesuit Centre for offering their premises for practices as well as Fr. Jim and Fr. Kensy who actively manage the Jesuit Young Adult Ministries. I also remember and appreciate all the readers at the carol service, David Graham who was masterful on the church organ for congregational carols, and all those who helped in the Arrupe hall. A note of appreciation for Christian Duhay, who recorded each carol as well as those involved in making the livestream possible. Thanks to all of you who attended and shared your joy! If I have missed out anyone, know that I recognise and appreciate your contribution. A special thank you to Dunstan: his inspiration, constant encouragement and support made this exercise possible. I’d also like to thank Audrey, who had so much to convey, for taking time to review this piece, while being unwell. In the words of Hans Christian Andersen, “Where words fail, music speaks.”
If you enjoyed the music or could not be present at the service, it can be viewed here.
In John 15:11, Jesus said "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” The voices from the choir, family and friends have conveyed this experience of joy.
As St. Ignatius said “It is not much knowledge but the inner feeling and relish of things that fills and satisfies the soul” I experience something similar each time I pause to watch waves as they build and approach the shore, and I wait in anticipation for crest to turn to trough. The collective sounds and pauses are magnificent, akin to listening to the choir sing and pause for a musical rest. Sometimes, there is the magic in an unexpected piano glissando. The YAM choir community is about working together and relying on God, and each other, to produce this feeling of inner peace and joy.
I encourage you to share your joy and may the Jesuit YAM Choir Community grow from strength to strength.
Have a Happy Christmas!
Ian Peres Da Costa
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