by Andrea Meier
From an interview by Andrea Meier of Steve Newberry, director of music, and Anna Teagarden, associate director of music
Q: Tell us about your vision for intergenerational music.
Steve: The Anglican tradition has probably one of the strongest choral programs in Christianity right now, in the Church. And they have had a long tradition of youth choristers being part of the everyday worship life and the liturgy. And to me, our worship should be intergenerational anyway. We should worship together as a body of Christ. I mean, we’re young, we’re old. And so, I think it’s important that our services represent that.
Q: How do you see that value expressed through intergenerational music here?
Steve: Our young choristers are learning the liturgy. One of our goals is to have them a part of worship on a regular basis, and learning and being trained in the liturgy through private vocal coaching and group situations. Anna does a great job one-on-one and in groups with the students. But, building this young chorister program, for music ministry, is our number one priority. I see a whole next chapter in the life of the program here. And with the church’s emphasis on young families and children, I think this program is our calling.
And as we develop the love of singing in the three, four, and five-year-olds in the Cherub Choir and learning basic music skills in the Preparatory Choir, the Choristers will be in worship periodically, and I can see our Junior and Senior Choristers leading worship maybe twice a month, singing intergenerationally with the adult choir. And in 2024, we’re looking towards a choir tour to England, doing a Salisbury Cathedral residency. We’re hoping to take some of our Junior and Senior choristers with us to sing daily the Daily Offices there.
The kids are so joyful and so anxious to be in choir and want to sing. And that is what we’re about, developing a lifelong love of singing and a lifelong appreciation of the liturgy. Singing is a lifelong skill, and we hope they worship for the rest of their lives. The songs we sing become ingrained as a part of us and really influence our spirituality.
Anna: We have been handed the perfect rubric of wha t to do from the English Cathedrals. I mean, they had their choir schools where they had the boys coming and living and doing the Daily Offices and learning music and singing it intergenerationally with professional altos, tenors, and basses. When that model came to America, we adapted it to what works best for our culture. And it just works. I have choristers that started with me when they were three years old that are in choirs now. I would say 90% of them sing in choirs and are members of a church. I’ve learned everything from Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and all my trips to England. The Voice for Life curriculum from RSCM that we’ve taken on here really is voice for life!
Q: What is the vision for how mentoring relationships work in your program?
Anna: There are two ways I see mentoring happening. First, the older choristers model for the younger choristers. Right now, I have two or three older students who come to the Cherub and Preparatory Choir rehearsals. They stand in front, walk around, and make sure the younger choristers are in the right place in the music. All the younger choristers know they can look to the older choristers to ask a question, and they are inspired by having an older child to model after. The second area of mentoring that I would like to develop more is to have adult from choir or anybody with a music background volunteer to help the children with their Voice for Life books.
Q: What is the overall benefit of children singing in church?
Anna: I think participating in worship just escalates your whole experience and understanding of why we do what we do. On Palm Sunday, the children clearly understood that Hosanna was the word of the day, and it meant to praise. Why were we praising? Jesus was coming — they could tell you the whole story. He was coming into Jerusalem on a donkey. They laid the palm branches down and were saying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” They could quote the story for you exactly.
Steve: I think children singing in church is important because we’re training up the next generation. Also, as the body of Christ, we’re not just a bunch of old people over here and a bunch of young children over there — we should be together.
You can be a part of leading worship through one of our choirs by joining as an adult chorister or child or youth chorister, or by volunteering as a musical mentor or Royal School of Music support volunteer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to take your first step.