The music ministry at St. Mary’s Parish in Canandaigua recently grew a little bit more diverse.
In December Trixie Meteyer, music director at St. Mary’s, put together an all-cello choir, which was to play for its second Mass March 6.
Meteyer decided to put the choir together after learning the parish counts a fairly large number of cellists among its parishioners. Several of these cellists are adults, but a large number of them are children, she said.
“I have some fifth- and sixth-graders who sing in my children’s choir and they kept saying, ‘I can play “Amazing Grace” on the cello, when can I play in church?'” Meteyer said, recalling the impetus for the group.
Rather than assigning individual cellists to play at certain Masses, Meteyer decided to put together a cello choir. Because of the way the cello is built, it’s very easy to play the instrument out of tune. Playing in a group of cellists takes some of the pressure off the individuals and helps make any mistakes less obvious, Meteyer said.
In December she gathered together the parish’s cellists for practice, and the cello choir played for its first Mass at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 2. The 6 p.m. Sunday Mass is still fairly new and a little less formal than some of the parish’s other Masses.
“It was just a real positive experience for everybody,” Meteyer said of the group’s first time playing in public. The seven children and adults that played Jan. 2 had a good time, and several parishioners complimented the choir after Mass, she said.
By late February, the cello choir had grown to include 10 members, and Meteyer expects it will play bimonthly at the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass. After Easter, the parish’s musical offerings might expand even more, she added. Several of the choir members have told her about siblings who play the violin or bass and would like to start their own choir or play with the cello choir, something Meteyer will look into after Holy Week.
Father Thomas Mull, pastor, also plays the bass. He’s been “a real support to the music program,” often playing at Masses for St. Mary’s School students and joining the choir for its first performance, Meteyer said.
Music ministry at St. Mary’s was vibrant and active even before the introduction of the cello choir. The parish also boasts adult and children’s bell choirs, a traditional adult choir, an adult folk group and a children’s choir, called Joyful Noise. Meteyer started Joyful Noise four years ago with seven children, and the choir has grown by leaps and bounds since then. The choir is open to children in second through fifth grades and currently has 25 members, she said.
“Every year we get a few more. I have some fifth-graders now who started in second grade. I assigned them to be buddies, one to one, to the second graders every week,” Meteyer said. “They sit next to them and help them find the right piece of music and find out where we are on the page.”
As a special treat, Joyful Noise will be hosting a concert at the church by the Syracuse Children’s Choir April 10 at 3 p.m. The choir will perform several songs and sing one selection with Joyful Noise, Meteyer said.
The parish also hosts several other music-related events throughout the year, including an annual wedding-music concert. More than 100 people attended the most recent wedding-music concert, which was held at the church Feb. 13. For the past five years, brides who’ve contacted the parish about a wedding in the upcoming year have been invited to the church on the Sunday closest to Valentine’s Day to listen to cantors sing a sampling of songs often used in weddings.
Brides attending the concert also receive a program with the names and words of the songs, as well as a listing of how many and what kinds of songs are required for a wedding Mass. Many brides have never planned a liturgy before, so the program and concert are very helpful to them, Meteyer said.
Bringing a large group of brides together to learn about wedding music and their options also saves time for Meteyer, who is also the parish organist.
“It gives the brides a chance to hear the different singers. For every bride that comes, it’s saving me an hour of meeting with her individually and playing the same stuff, without singers,” she said.
The concert also helps brides understand that a cantor is not just a person who comes in and sings a pop song from the radio, but someone who is leading the singing in a very special liturgy. Meteyer also encourages brides to choose some songs from the parish’s hymnal, so guests can sing along.
“Our guests are not spectators. They’re there to pray for you and to bless and witness you,” and choosing songs from the hymnal is a good way to get the guests involved in the liturgy, Meteyer said.
Meteyer thinks music is important in any liturgy — not just a wedding Mass — because it encourages people to participate.
“I think music can reach people on an emotional level. There’s an old saying that when you sing you pray twice,” Meteyer said, and she believes that saying is accurate.