The Jubilate Children’s Choir

From the 2017 Advent-Christmas-Epiphany edition of the church’s newsletter

Jubilate means “rejoice,” and St. John’s is rejoicing at the establishment of our new children’s choir. In the few months that Benjamin Kolodziej (known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm) has been at St. John’s, he has recruited, organized, and rehearsed twelve young choristers who, with their parents, are excited about their debut in December.

One item in Benjamin’s long curriculum vitae that caught the attention of our search committee was his building of youth choirs at his previous church. In the interview process, Benjamin expressed a lot of know-how in working with kids: balancing fun with education, instilling a love for sacred music while also training young voices, and working with parents to find rehearsal schedules that promote participation.

His approach has worked at St. John’s. Since September, the Jubilate choir has rehearsed weekly at 9:00 a.m. on Sundays. After spending a few minutes learning the rudiments of music (the names of notes, how rhythm is notated, the dynamic difference between FFF and PPP) the children move to instruments—sometimes simple rhythm instruments and sometimes a set of extremely loud kid’s hand-bells that can be heard all the way to Canterbury and Wittenberg! On occasion, the children explore a piece of music they are learning to sing by using choir chimes, each child holding a chime and sounding it out at Benjamin’s direction.

The kids then move to singing. They learn how to produce a proper singing tone, which is different from one’s regular speaking or shouting voice. They learn to listen to one another and how to blend as a group.
Sometimes, the children begin rehearsal by singing a more folksy song, like “Rejoice in the Lord Always” or another tune familiar from Vacation Bible School. But they are also always working on at least two hymns from the hymnal, as Benjamin believes it is supremely important that our young people learn early in life the music that they will sing the rest of their days.

If all of this sounds overly ambitious and serious, the kids are truly having a blast. Six-year-old Grace Echard says, “Mr. Kolodziej is fun!” Indeed Benjamin has shown himself a genius at working with kids, sometimes interspersing rehearsals with pictures or videos of animals (such as the red panda, the bichon frise, or the slow loris—if you’re unfamiliar with these specimens, ask one of the kids who love these exotic creatures!) or by pulling out a Lego church he constructed and populated with Star Wars figures, which he uses to instruct the choir about the proper way to compose oneself at worship.

In all these ways, Benjamins’ goals with the choir are being accomplished: to instruct the children in the fundamentals of music theory and the basics of choral singing, while introducing them to great composers, great music, and learning the traditions and liturgy of the Church and how to participate meaningfully.

Look forward to the Jubilate Children’s choir singing at the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday, December 3 and at the Lessons and Carols service on Sunday, December 10, at 5:00 p.m.

And rejoice!

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