What It's Really Like to be a Basilica Choir Member During Holy Week

Notre Dame is your classic loud and proud Catholic University, and trust me, while Holy Week is not the only time of the year that you can hear its shouts from miles away, it’s certainly a time where the mute button does not work. I will be the first to admit that I was a bad Catholic. So bad in fact that before stepping foot on campus, I had never even heard the term Holy Week or stepped foot inside a church on Easter. However, upon arriving at this great University, I was thrown into the world of Catholicism, and I have to say, it rocks! When I was a freshman, I auditioned for the Liturgical Choir on campus and was lucky enough to make it. Immediately, I was given spiritual music and was thrust into various masses and other services week after week. In my first year alone, I probably was in a church more than I had been throughout my entire high school career. By the time second semester came around and Easter approached, I, like many of my peers, began to grow more and more excited. I dreamt of egg hunts with my family but instead was faced with the harsh reality of Holy Week traditions for the Basilica choir members of Notre Dame. Not only was I not prepared to have to stay on campus while all my friends got to go home, but I was certainly not prepared for all of the commitments thrown my way. Excluding the weeks of preparation on the difficult repertoire itself, I was drowning in extra rehearsals and lengthy services. By the time the Good Friday service had come to a close and we were gearing up for the long-awaited three hour Easter Vigil, I just kept telling myself to fight through the pain in my calves and throat and deal with your new annual reality. Truth be told, it wasn’t until the Easter Vigil came to a close that I realized how absolutely stunning Holy Week had been. We had sung incredibly difficult and beautiful music, ministered to thousands of students and residents of the South Bend community, and praised God in his highest glory all over the course of seven days. It was in that moment that I knew how lucky I truly was.

Upon completing my second Holy Week, I can truly say that it is one of my favorite weeks out of the year. Not only is it a week completely dedicated to the Lord, our savior, but it is also a week spent with some of my favorite people on campus, doing the thing I love most in the world: singing! Obviously, it’s not all smiles and laughs the whole week. If you couldn’t tell from above, it is a very busy time and when you have other commitments to attend to as well, it becomes very stressful. That being said, I can honestly say that, even just finishing Holy Week 2017, I already cannot wait to be back up in the choir loft for Holy Week 2018!

You’re probably wondering how a girl that felt so negatively toward the event in the first place could change her mind, literally, overnight. Well, below, I will list my reasons for why, as a member of the Liturgical Choir, I love the University of Notre Dame’s Holy Week festivities!

 

1. EMOTIONAL Roller Coaster

If you’re Christian or know anything about the Christian faith, you know how dramatic these scripture readings are. Jesus died in not only a gruesome and painful way, but by being humiliated as well. The Good Friday Service is one of the most somber two hours one can sit through. However, by the time the church bells ring on Easter morning, you can be promised to be surrounded by joyous uplifting sounds stemming from both the choir loft and the altar.

2. Beautiful EVERYTHING

The Basilica is already a beautiful masterpiece, but on Easter, Notre Dame spares no expense to make sure it looks extra special. The floral arrangements are not only massive, but are delightfully pleasing to the eye as well. All of the colors truly bring life to the already glorified church.

3. The MUSIC IS PERFECT

Not to toot my own horn here, but the Liturgical Choir (as well as all of the other choirs that perform) sound great! I know when I am belting out the descant to “Christ the Lord is Risen” today at the end of the Easter Vigil that we have completely knocked the socks off of everyone down below. I can only imagine the choirs in heaven singing with the same levels of heart and voice that we do throughout the week.

4. TIME TO FOCUS on what matters

Holy Week is a great time to really let scripture move you. Not that you shouldn’t always give the readings your full attention, but this is literally time off from the daily grind given so that you can focus your mind on the Lord and all that he does for us humans every day. I know I always feel a little more connected with God by the end of Easter Vespers!

5. FRIENDSHIP and camaraderie

For us choir members, we are given an entire week to not only grow as musicians and in our personal faith, but also grow our relationships with the talented singers around us. I know, aside from our annual tours, Holy Week is one of the few times of the year where we are forced to interact with one another beyond just our regular weekly scheduled rehearsal. Some of the best people I know are in choir singing with me everyday, but it wasn’t until our after hours choir fun events that I truly got to know them as people, rather than the person that sits two rows behind me and to the left.

Overall, Holy Week at Notre Dame is honestly an extraordinary experience. Whether you’re in the choir loft or singing your Alleluias from the crowd below, you are guaranteed to be mesmerized by the glory of God. I urge you, if you have not yet been able to stay on campus for any of the Easter services, to try to make at least one of them before you graduate. I know you will not be disappointed!

 

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Photos: 1(provided by author), 2(provided by author), 3, 4(provided by author)