The Young Catholic Musicians choir performed in Toronto in early June. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Choir hits a high note in Canadian visit

  • June 12, 2018

Mary Sharp joined the Young Catholic Musicians choir because she found an outlet for her joy of music and the joy of the Gospel. Last week, for the very first time, she and her fellow musicians shared their joy with audiences in Canada. 

“Nowadays, there’s a lot of evil in the world and we kind of really want to bring something light-hearted and joyful to do our part to make it a brighter and happier place,” said the 18-year-old native of St. Louis, Mo., which is where the group is based. 

For most of the 40-member choir and orchestra, the Toronto concert tour was the first time they’ve set foot on Canadian soil. It was the first time they held waterproof, plastic money that smells like maple syrup and the gold and silver two-dollar coin.

“I love Canada so much, the people here are so nice,” said Sharp, who is president of the choir. 

“Our performances here in Canada, I feel like are some of our best performances because we’re all really energized about coming to a different country and showing what we can do.”

The Young Catholic Musicians (YCM) visited Toronto June 3-8, performing at some of the city’s biggest attractions, like Canada’s Wonderland, Casa Loma and the Ontario Science Centre. They also performed at St. Francis of Assisi School, St. Mary’s School and Holy Family Parish. 

Their songbook includes well-known pop songs from across the decades, as well as a sacred music repertoire. 

The choir and orchestra are made up of musicians aged 10 to 18 years old from the St. Louis area. Members come from 40 different parishes across three dioceses to audition to be a part of this state-wide group. 

Fr. Bruce Forman, music director of YCM, established the group in 1974. Because of his strong classical and modern music background, the newly-ordained, 26-year-old Forman took over a youth music ministry at his first parish assignment. 

After two years, he was reassigned to another parish to start up a new youth music ministry and he decided to bring the members from both groups together. 

“We got a lot of people who played string instruments and an assortment of other instruments and singers,” said Forman. “We put the two groups together and took a tour to Hannibal, Mo., and the chemistry was good and they liked each other and they liked what we were doing.”

From there, Forman said the ministry just grew larger and larger. The group began to tour across the state, animating Mass for a different parish once a month. They would often receive donations from the different parishes that they visit and every Christmas and summer time, the group travels to a new city to perform a concert tour. 

YCM has visited New York City, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Denver, Dallas, Houston and of course, Toronto. 

“At a high school age, their memories will focus on these moments and experiences and it’s something that will last all their life,” said Forman. 

“The bond of the group is built not just in the social activities in between (tour stops) but also in praying together.”

Forman said the most valuable part about touring this music ministry is that these young musicians can see how different parishes and communities worship. He said the people can change from city to city, but the Mass and the Church is universal.

Sharp and Miller agree that Forman is not only their music director but also their spiritual director. 

“When we’re doing the Mass, we’re actually doing something, we’re making a difference and we’re helping people with their prayer. And that’s kind of been a life-changing thing for me to learn,” said Sharp. “You are in the choir and your job is you are helping them pray.”

“I’ve never really been able to get into, like, the ‘Glory to God’ because you say the same exact words,” said Miller. “But now, I really connect to the text and I’m very enlightened by it.”

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