Saint Paul's Choir School Update

March 31, 2020

Covid-19 Hits Home

I am very sorry to report that our community lost a loved one yesterday evening as Sylvia Fernandez del Castillo (Gala Chair and mother to Juan Pablo Fernandez, former student) lost her mother to it. Our hearts and prayers out to Sylvia, Carlos, JP and their entire family. The family will be in quarantine for a while and truly appreciate all our prayers for their health and well-being during these very difficult days.

We continue to meet every evening for the SPCS virtual rosary at 7:00 p.m. and welcome all families to join. Here is the ZOOM meeting link: Meeting ID: 522 786 909

Updates from our Teachers

During today’s teacher meeting I shared some of the feedback from parents during last Friday’s Parent Guild Meeting. Most importantly they appreciated the applause for their efforts (such as the sentiments in this email I recently received today):

“Dear Amazing Teachers, I just want to send you a quick thank-you note and let you know how much we appreciate all the wonderful work you have been doing since the school closure due to Covid-19, and I guess more importantly the great work you did prior to that which taught the boys how to manage their time and tasks and to work hard regardless of the circumstances. Your work on remote learning not only allows our son to advance his learning unlike many other kids (including our other son) but also gives my wife and I time and space to actually work from home! Stay healthy and wish you and your family all the best!”

Virtual Homerooms – Now Mandatory: Teachers are already busy implementing some additional supports that were recommended, including beginning and ending homeroom meetings to provide bookends for the day and to reintroduce structure into their studies. These homerooms also allow us to take attendance, albeit only for a moment. We see these meetings as a way for students to connect with each other and to help each other better understand the expectations that are in place for each day. Homeroom teachers use these meetings to do some of the tasks that were routine while we met at school such as morning prayer, notebook (or Google Classroom To Do) checks and share some good humor.

Virtual Monday Assembly: We held our first Virtual Monday Assembly, which will continue to be held every Monday at 10:40. This week we were able to celebrate the two “gold brick” winners for Mr. Moran’s History LEGO MASTERS competition, 5th grader Xavier Maricich and 3rd grader Zyan Mehdi. Both boys designed extraordinary medieval castles and shared pictures and a video of their work for all to admire.

Daily Schedule: Among other things, teachers are working with me to prepare a schedule of each day’s classes to help students and their parents to better understand what is happening every day of the week.

Google Classroom 101: Ms. Cunha is preparing a video presentation for parents to guide them through Google Classroom and some of the tools that it uses to help students and parents to keep track of assignments, deadlines and other materials that are being used in online classes.

Music Program Updates

Chorister Exercises:

Choristers are logging their daily piano practice and voice warm ups in their Google classroom with Mr. Kennerley. They have also begun to study the Messiah, appropriate for study as we head towards Easter. Handel created the 3-hour drama of the life of Jesus in just two weeks, the period of time the boys will be studying it. The three musical parts that portray His Birth, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.

The task this week is to listen to the first hour of the performance of Messiah at least twice as they consider and write reflections of the following things:

  • The musical overture that happens at the beginning. What mood does the music portray? What key is it in?
  • How many sections is it in? What words can you use to describe the various sessions?
  • How does Handel use voices?
  • What instruments are playing?
  • What kinds of voices do you think Handel would have had in the choir originally?
  • Think about the mood of each section
  • On the second listening, follow along with the libretto - that's the text Handel was given, and the sections are taken straight from the Bible. Think about how Handel goes about setting those texts to music.

Choristers can look forward to an upcoming routine of having a daily music “check in” at 1:30 or thereabouts.

Pre-Chorister Exercises:

The last few weeks have been an enlightening time reports Mr. Adach, “In devising my remote curriculum for the pre-choristers, I have had to really think hard about the value of every piece of information I give to them. They have responded well to my plainsong course and I am looking forward to seeing the results! To paraphrase St Paul, I am confident that the pre-choristers will sing in the spirit, and they will also sing in words they understand. (1 Cor 14.15)”

1. An Introduction to Plainsong includes a 3 to 4 week Seesaw course. It consists of presentations and assignments which go through the basics of plainsong. These contain a slideshow narrated by Mr. Adach. Upon completing my course, the students will be to:

  • Complete a simple analysis of a piece of plainsong. This includes identifying neumes by name (porrectus, torculus &c.), marking half-steps/whole-steps, as well as explaining various markings (horizontal episemas, custos notes, and clefs). Sing Mass V [KSBA] from memory.
  • Answer simple questions about the history of plainsong.
  • Answer simple questions about the theology of the Mass and the theological meaning of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei texts.

2. Marian Antiphons includes a Seesaw course like the above, starting the course after Easter. Upon completing the course, students will be able to:

  • Sing the four Marian Antiphons and the Repletaur Os Meum
  • Answer questions about Mariology
  • Answer simple questions about the theological meaning of the texts
  • During this course and the Summer, the boys will also consolidate their understanding of plainsong theory by completing their own 'Antiphoner'. They will copy and 'illuminate' each antiphon onto a sheet of parchment (letter sized paper stained with tea/coffee and put into the microwave). Next September, we will bind them up and create a display of them in the Library.

Third and fourth grade parents can look forward to a weekly Zoom meeting with the pre-choristers on either Thursday or Friday at around 11.30 a.m. after the day’s streamed Mass.

Catholic Schools Office Online Learning Survey

You should be receiving a request for your feedback on the quality of support you experienced from St. Paul’s Choir School. Please take a few minutes to respond – I did. This will help us to better serve you and it might also help the Catholic Schools Office see hear about the great things you are experiencing and share them with other Catholic Schools around the Archdiocese. Do it as soon as you see it or it will get lost in the pile of emails we all receive. The CSO would greatly appreciate if you could complete this survey by Tuesday, April 7.

Parish Updates

Fr. Kelly and the staff at the parish are working very hard to provide as much as possible given the circumstances to keep the Eucharist central to our spiritual life. Beginning this week, they are live-streaming daily Mass at 11:00 here: St. Paul Church Harvard Square. We will keep this time free from any school related commitments so that the boys are available to tune in to YouTube as they would ordinarily be doing so every day at school. I watched the “Totus Tuesday” Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration at St. Paul’s in Harvard Square in the Chapel of the Women Doctors earlier this evening. Holy Hour includes exposition, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, meditation, hymns, and Benediction every Tuesday at 8:00.

All the best, Tom