A Modern Choir School
by Fr. Ted Ley, SM, DMus
Once many years ago a choir school went on pilgrimage to Rome and sang for the Pope. Their singing was very beautiful. The Holy Father whispered to an aide next to him, “Where are they from?” The aide replied, in Latin, “They are English” – “Sunt ANGLII.” The pope answered in Latin, “No, they are ANGELI” – Angels! Perhaps that choir was from Cambridge, because the choir of King’s College there is said to have today the most beautiful children’s choral tone in the world.
Choir schools today carry on a tradition begun over a thousand years ago when, during the so-called “Dark Ages,” something happened that was truly bright and promising: the monasteries of Western Europe founded the first real schools. Some of them became famous for Music, the first choir schools.
The oldest existent choir school is near Barcelona, Spain, the “Escolanía” of the Monastery of Monserrat. “Escolanía,” in the regional Catalonian language means, “choir school.”
And so, our four-and-a-half year old choir school, in the historic Spanish district of Los Angeles, has the name, Escolanía Pacífica, linking it also to our sponsoring adult choir, The Schola Cantorum of the Pacific.
The founding of our Escolanía is certainly a “pipe dream” come-true; the pipes being the choristers’ young voices piping in very high register, notes with a tone uniquely that of children, a very special and universally beloved choral tone. And if it is oft-times “heavenly” in its sound, it is also often uniquely cheerful; for, children love to sing!
All the students of Assumption School in Boyle Heights, are members of the Escolanía, boys and girls, pre-K through Grade Eight. They are now receiving a thorough Music Education centered on Sacred and Classical Choral Music but including popular and folk repertoire, and the study of such supportive instruments as Classical Guitar, Violin, Mandolin, Flute, Drums, Keyboard and String Bass.
Enthusiastically co-sponsored by the staff and faculty, clergy and leadership, of Assumption Parish and School, the Escolanía also derives keenly from the spirit of the Society of Mary, the Marianists, whose ministries are especially for children and the disadvantaged. Boyle Heights, being one of Los Angeles’ oldest neighborhoods, is not without the serious needs of an inner city district, including better schools and family and child safety. Escolanía Pacífica provides something special to the young people for their school’s “claim to fame:” While the Escolanía sings, “From Gregorian to Gospel,” it is also developing as a concert specialization, the Music of Old Spanish California, a unique cultural contribution among schools in the Southland.
Already the concert ensemble of the Escolanía has performed with the adult Schola Cantorum of the Pacific. Now the Escolanía looks ahead to stage its own Spanish zarzuela-type musicale, “Fandango en Nueva California,” enacting a fiesta in the style of Early California with authentic music of the epoch.
We are fortunate to have an enthusiastic school family, Assumption, for our Escolanía. Our school parents are wholeheartedly in support of the Escolanía. Our hope is that in only a few years our choir school will be able to stand alongside some of the world’s finest choir schools, and like them, prepare self-confident young people to become successful leaders in many fields, motivated by their experience at Assumption School. This hope is summarized in the lyrics to the school Alma Mater which the children sing in choir school style in three parts:
“We love Assumption School. Together we’re at home. We learn, we pray, and win in every way. The Queen of Angels’ arm will keep us safe from harm, as joyfully we run in the footsteps of her Son, until the greatest victory in life is won: To give the love of Jesus’ to everyone.”
Fr Ted Ley, SM
Festival of Lights
Did you miss our Christmas performance at the Festival of Lights? You can still watch it on our Facebook page. Moving forward, we will be live streaming our performances, which will be recorded and saved on our Facebook page.
Keep updated through our Schola website, www.pacificschola.org, and our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheScholaCantorumOfThePacific/
Assumption and Escolanía in Boyle Heights, “A Catholic Magnet School in the Communication Arts,” in more ways than one.
Make Donations on AmazonSmile
Have you heard of AmazonSmile? It is a simple and automatic way for you to support The Schola Cantorum of the Pacific. Every time you shop on smile.amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will be donated toward your favorite charitable organization. This is an easy way for you to contribute to our mission by making purchases that you would normally make on Amazon. So what do you need to do to set this up?
Visit smile.amazon.com. If this is your first time visiting the website, you will be prompted to search for your favorite nonprofit charity. Search for “The Schola Cantorum of the Pacific” and you will quickly see our logo. If you have already selected an organization, then when you visit smile.amazon.com you will be greeted with the usual Amazon front page. You can change your organization by selecting “Supporting” right underneath the search bar.
Alternatively, you may visit our unique link:
AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your subtotal minus rebates or coupons. It’s important to know that these donations are made by AmazonSmile Foundation, so these donations are not tax deductible by you. However, it’s a great way to passively make donations on purchases you were already going to buy. The shopping experience is identical to Amazon.com and there is no additional cost to you or to The Schola Cantorum of the Pacific.
We are happy to provide more options for you be part of our mission. There are now three ways to support us at home: Mail a check to our P.O. Box, PayPal (http://www.pacificschola.org/donations/), and now AmazonSmile.
Thank you for being part of our journey as we continue to provide a free music education to the youths.