Sr Rhona Burns tells us about a year as a member of the new ecumenical choir in Rennes (35). A year rich in discoveries which has sealed the friend ship between choir members of different Christian communities.
My participation in this new choir has its origins in a song workshop, followed by a concert in January 2015 in the context of the week for Christian Unity. After this rich but short experience where Catholics and Protestants came together through the singing of the psalms, the group wanted to carry on.
When the diocese proposed to perpetuate it by setting up a new choir open to ‘anyone who would like to share our differences through song’, I signed up. In September 2105, there I was, ready to respond to the challenge, along with some 30 others also ‘curious about the difference of the other that I do not know well.’
For this first year the repertory has been based on the musical history of the psalms through the centuries. We have already experienced some very special moments and made some great discoveries :
- The pleasure of singing under the direction of an exacting choir master, Fabien Barxell, the diocesan delegate for liturgical music), who has put all of his considerable talent and teaching skill at our disposal. He has taught us to sing using all of our physical capacities. At the same time he has known how to communicate his own faith, and shown us how you can sing with all of your intelligence, your heart and your soul in order to praise God.
- The discovery of the music of other Christian traditions
- For the Catholics the music of the Reformation where the melody is at the service of the words
- For the Protestants the beautiful Catholic texts sung to airs composed by Martin Luther
- For all of us, the Via Crucis by Franz Liszt, a moving and sombre piece, that is very rarely sung today in the course of a religious celebration.
- The choir’s participation in the week for Christian Unity in a church of the evangelical protestant tradition.
- The celebration on the evening of Holy Friday in a Catholic parish. On each occasion the Christians were invited to recall the prayer of Jesus “that they may all be one”. (Jn 17, 21)
- A week-end together at St Michel Chef Chef : a precious time of getting to know each other better, for sharing at table and around the Word of God. On the Sunday two members of the choir, one a Catholic priest, the other a minister of the United Protestant Church, led us in celebration. An occasion at once joyful and poignant, which invited to go beyond our wounds and different histories
A pot-luck supper after the last rehearsal found us still very enthusiastic and full of ideas for the restart in the autumn. In 2017 the Protestants will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. A Jubilee Reformation Cantata based on Martin Luther’s celebrated Little Catechism is on the programme.
Sr Rhona Burns