If St. Augustine’s words, “he who sings prays twice” ring true, then a Maryvale parish has doubled up on prayer efforts.
What’s more, the 70 singers, known as Schola Cantorum Regnum Dei, are, by and large, those whose only prior singing experience is from the pew. Now the 12 to 70-something-year-olds confidently sing in English, Spanish, Latin and even what might have been the U.S. debut of “Sotto Il Tuo Manto,” a song written by Msgr. Marco Frisina, a renowned Italian composer of sacred and liturgical music — as well as opera and film.
Juan Arvizu, St. Vincent de Paul choir director, scrambled to get the right permissions to use the song in time for the Feast of the Assumption. Although the singers have led the faithful in worship at Mass, their debut concert is Dec. 14 at the church. It’s a performance they spent six months preparing for — outside of regular Mass choir rehearsal — via a free “Choral Vocal” technique course.
Schola Cantorum Regnum Dei
A music ministry at St. Vincent de Paul Parish that offers free training in choral vocal techniques for those who participate in music events such as a regular Mass or solemnity. Teenagers through adults are welcome for the main group. Children ages 4-11 will begin vocal training in January.
facebook.com/scholacantorumregnumdei or (623) 247-6871
Audiences who came to St. Vincent de Paul’s debut performance were treated to the sounds of Christmas, including Arvizu’s favorites, “A Birth Song” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
“A Birth Song” talks about the Virgin Mary carrying the baby and in a way we are also expecting Jesus to be born in our hearts,” Arvizu said.
He also likes “Angels We Have Heard on High” because Jesus’s birth within the human heart is reason for singing happily and offer a big, huge “Gloria,” he said.
He ultimately hopes to have the schola cantorum perform a Christmas and Easter concert, the two most important dates of the liturgical year.
“It’s a group of dedicated people to the learning of polyphony, Gregorian Chant and liturgy,” Arvizu said. Choir members were also introduced to Liturgy of the Hours during a retreat.
Arvizu launched the course to further bring the world to Jesus. He studied music production; was part of symphonic, chamber and jazz choirs throughout nine years of college; and specialized in music for movies. But his ultimate passion lies in what the Catholic Church is and what it teaches.
He wants to see Catholics re-educated or educated for the first time about Church documents and basics of the catechism. Music is a stepping stone. Somehow, his singers, especially the teenagers, are falling in love with classical Church music.
“These teenagers are seeing something and they’re coming in,” Arvizu said.
One teen singer put it this way.
“The fact that there is someone willing to get out of their regular routine to work with us and dedicate the time to us and simply show us the richness in the Catholic Church, all it has to offer, especially with music, which has been lost. True Catholic music has been lost through lack of evangelization,” said Jacky Rodriguez. She accepted Arvizu’s invitation to get out of her comfort zone and learn more.
“The new evangelization can be achieved only with passion and love,” Arvizu said.
If the group continues to grow, Arvizu could split the teens into a separate schola cantorum. He already formed a children’s version three months ago for ages 4 to 11 based on interest. Two dozen are enrolled with formal vocal training beginning in January.
The idea of a schola cantorum isn’t foreign. They’re more common at cathedrals and shrines, but whenever possible, the Second Vatican Council said they should exist in minor churches too.