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Students set to raise voices for Corpus Christi

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Jubilate deo - Corpus christi - The Catholic weekly
Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

It has been called the highest art form in the church and on 2 June, Sydney’s mother church will again echo with sacred, centuries-old Gregorian chant music, following the annual Walk with Christ procession.

The many thousands of faithful expected to pack St Mary’s Cathedral after the Walk with Christ from Martin Place will be welcomed by the sublime and deeply theological ancient hymns as sung by students from across the archdiocese.

For the past six years, Jubilate Deo, an initiative by Sydney Catholic Schools, has taught Gregorian chant music to youth across Sydney’s schools and parishes.

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Beginning with a workshop of 60 senior students at Brigidine College, Randwick, in 2018, the program now teaches 1800 students across 12 schools, with more coming on board each year.

This year’s Walk with Christ procession will see a choir made of 30 singers from six of these Sydney schools, as well as singers from parish groups and clergy bringing the centuries old music to new ears.

Named after a 1974 document St Paul VI sent to the world’s Roman Catholic bishops featuring a selection of Gregorian chants, Jubilate Deo uses the sainted pope’s resource as a basis for the ancient and modern sacred music.

Jubilate deo - Corpus christi - The Catholic weekly
Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

It’s the second occasion the Jubilate Deo choir have performed at the Corpus Cristi procession and last year’s massive turn out is driving 32-year-old choir director, Ronan Reilly and his charges to inspire an even deeper sacral experience.

“Last year our children were absolutely blown away and a bit nervy by the 10 000 in attendance. But they did a wonderful job. And this year will be phenomenal. It’s a great opportunity, especially for the young children from these schools to elevate the Sydney faithful in a very sacral way through music. We can’t wait,” Reilly said.

Procession attendees can expect to be welcomed by the centuries old hymn ‘O Sacrum Convivium’ sung by the choir once the procession has moved from the CBC streets into the cathedral. They will also sing towards the end of Mass, at the final benediction.

“It’s a great honour. And to see an expected 15,000 people come together and unite in front of Our Lord at the Mother Church of Australia will be a beautiful witness to our Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament,” Reilly said.

“The kids really rise to the occasion and what we try to instil in the children is in a sense the meaning of these two Latin words Jubilate Deo, ‘to sing joyfully to God’. This is the essence of what we’re doing—which is to praise God,” he said.

“The overarching feedback from that last year was the music had a kind of ethereal effect to it, something transcendent, something out of this world. And that’s what this sacred music gives to people. It’s an experience totally different to what they are used to,” he said.

For Reilly, who grew up singing as a member of St Mary’s Cathedral choir, the event brings him full circle.

Jubilate deo - Corpus christi - The Catholic weekly
Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

“It’s a wonderful thing to continue that cycle and see other children taking up the baton and really enjoying the music whilst discovering a fresh depth to the faith, which is that they can express their love of our Lord and his church through singing. It’s quite wonderful to behold that,” he said.

“Our hope is that it will continue to grow and will attract more musicians and ultimately allow people to put their talents at the service of the liturgy and to elevate these times of prayer when people come together. “

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