History of The Arlington Diocesan Choir

By Dori Sewell

Start with achoir, representing each parish from all over the Diocese, helping the Bishopcelebrate several diocesan events each year. Add a renowned music director andorganist. Embellishwith various brass ensembles, bell choirs, and instrumental soloists forcertain events. Blend well to ensure the people attending the celebrations areled to deeper and more joyful prayer through the music portions of the Mass orother event.

One thing iscertain: such a recipe became a reality in the Diocese of Arlington, thanks toBishop Paul S. Loverde and Dr. Rick Gibala. Less certain is how to count its start date. In1999 the initial call went out to the parishes to form what would be called theDiocesan Festival Choir to help with the Mass of Celebration for the 25thAnniversary of the Diocese of Arlington. Hundreds of singers from across theDiocese participated in the Mass at the Patriot Center, attended by thousandsof the faithful. The nextyear a similar call was made, this time to help with the Millennium CelebrationMass, with similar results.

Then in 2001, the Diocesan Choir of Arlington got its current name and mission - to sing for several diocesan events each year,primarily at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. After singing for two major events in its firsttwo years as the "Festival Choir", for each of the past eight yearsthe "Diocesan Choir" of Arlington has been singing in support of theBishop's celebrations of the Blue Mass, Marriage Jubilee Mass, Rite ofElection, Diocesan Confirmation, and Deacon Ordinations at our cathedral in Arlington.Every other year, the Diocesan Choir also sings at the Diocesan Pilgrimage Massat the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception inWashington, DC. Once, thechoir sang at the Priest Ordinations in Arlington. Members were honored with aninvitation to audition to sing in the choir for the Papal Mass in 2008 when ourHoly Father, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Washington, DC, and several memberswere able to sing with that choir. In 2009 the choir also participated in theMass of Celebration for the 35th Anniversary of the Diocese and is singingin its first concert - a joint concert with the Cathedral Concert to celebratethe 10th anniversary of the Diocesan Choir, the 20th anniversary of Dr. Gibala'smusic direction at the Cathedral, and the 40th anniversary of the CathedralChoir.

Choir membership numbers are fewer for the"Diocesan Choir" than for the "Festival Choir", but somethings don't change. In addition to the shared love of the Catholic Faith andmusic, throughout the choir's history has been the constant of prayer beforeeach rehearsal and event both in praise to God and in petition for each other'sneeds - notably for several years for one choir member, Stephen Schultz, wholeft the choir to enter the Seminary. The choir was overjoyed to sing at hisordinations to the transitional diaconate and then to the priesthood! The choirhas become like an extended family from many parishes of the Diocese, withpeople generously giving of their time and talent, celebrating the good timesand supporting each other during the tough times, such as "losing" anearly choir member, Connie Hayden, from this life into the next. Anothernotable constant has been that of all the "behind the scenes" timeand work done by Donna Brown and others.