Church of St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir at a performance.
Photo provided by St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir

SINGAPORE – During a pilgrimage in June, the St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir will be performing for Pope Benedict at his weekly Wednesday general audience.

The 30 members will visit the major churches in Rome, and discover the life and spirituality of St. Francis when they visit Assisi.

The pilgrimage follows their inaugural participation in the Grand Prix St. Petersburg 2010 World Choir Festival held Jun 16-20.

Since 2008, the choir has planned to participate in the competition. Concert fundraisers and parishioners’ support and donations enabled the project to succeed, said John Goh, a choir representative.

“This foreign trip hopes to bring about the choir members’ personal development as they get ready for the competition, learn about teamwork and how to overcome challenges, but most importantly, to enrich our own faith experience,” said Mr Goh.

Members have attended workshops and retreats to prepare them physically, mentally, and spiritually, for the competition.

“On the music front, the choir has been improving steadily with the regular training schedule and feedback from external choral clinicians,” said Mr Goh.

He added that the choir hopes to gain exposure from choral workshops conducted by renowned conductors and experts, and by participating on an international stage.

Tricia Lim who is looking forward to participate in the competition and pilgrimage alongside fellow choir members whom she knows for many years, describes the trip as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

The preparation has been “a bit stressful, yet fulfilling”, she said, explaining that she has had to memorise nine songs to perform in the folk, chamber, and sacred music categories.

Practice has intensified from twice to thrice weekly in the past month.

Ms Lim added that her faith has deepened through the spirituality-focused camps and retreats organised by the choir master, Denis Leong. She said that Mr Leong has emphasised that the participation is not just for the choir members themselves, but for God.

St. Francis Xavier parish priest Father John Bosco Pereira wishes the choir well that “they do well in the competition and carry the Singapore diocese flag high”.

The choir were previously awarded gold in the Senior Youth Category when they participated in the 21st Century International Choral Festival held December 2003 in Genting Highlands.

By Darren Boon
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