“It also shapes us quite strongly in religious terms”

Young choir singers © Ja Crispy (shutterstock)

Many a church choir has problems with new blood, church youth choirs do not. The 2.700 participants of the choir festival Pueri Cantores in Paderborn, where it is not only about singing.

Interviewer: How was the coming together thenso far?

Domkapellmeister Thomas Berning (project leader Pueri Cantores in Paderborn): The festival started on Thursday in the Paderquell area with the president of the association, the vicar general, with music, choral singing and a large procession to the cathedral. It was very moving, because all the choirs sang during the procession through the entire city and an almost kilometer-long lindworm stretched through the city to the cathedral, where the archbishop then greeted the children and young people. He himself was very moved by the large number of children in the empty cathedral, which had been cleared out especially for this purpose.

Interviewer: After all, it is no longer a matter of course to sing in a Catholic choir these days. But 2.700 young participants don't exactly sound like a problem for young people…
Berning: There are opposing tendencies. The classic church choir – consisting of older members and deserving parishioners – has problems. We hear that everywhere. But the musical youth work in the congregations, where professional church musicians are at work, is not really struggling that much. On the contrary, there are great new ensembles and great new choirs emerging. And they really get input and encouragement at such a large festival, because they realize that they are not alone in the field.

Interviewer: And the togetherness of the children and young people is probably not to be underestimated. Choir singing creates social closeness?

Berning: Absolutely. We also notice how the choirs treat each other. The "garbage guerrillas" set up especially for the festival – who walk behind the choirs to see what is left lying around – said yesterday that they were almost out of work, because everyone is actually watching that no one leaves anything lying around and that there is no garbage lying around.

Interviewer: It is said that singing strengthens the immune system. Is there something to it? What are your experiences?

Berning: Whether it really strengthens the body's defenses is a question that would have to be asked more precisely by doctors. But in any case, singing strengthens social togetherness. In fact, it is said that the brain waves, the left and right hemispheres, are mutually fertilized by singing. And that also seems to have an effect in many ways on school matters and the like.

Interviewer: Pueri Cantores is about a meeting of catholic choirs. Is this a way to bring young people in contact with the church??

Berning: Those who come to us are, as a rule, already in touch with church – sometimes more and sometimes less. But of course they get another very intense experience at a festival like this: through prayers for peace and joint church services. Especially in a cathedral church, it feels a little different than perhaps in their small local church community at home. And that already shapes the children very strongly in religious terms as well.

The interview was conducted by Carsten Dopp.

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