Last month we sat down to catch up with Zach Mandell, who is serving as Holy Trinity’s Choir Director as part of a two-semester internship. Here are some excerpts.
What have you enjoyed most?
On one hand, getting to know people a little bit better… we do have a large parish so it’s been nice to get to know people better. It’s been really fun working musically with people… There is a varying level of musical training and musical knowledge so it’s been enjoyable to teach and learn how to teach… [I’ve also enjoyed] just being a part of the service [as director] and being engaged… To be at the heart of everything, of the prayers, of the Psalms—it’s just been a real blessing…That is one thing I really love about this parish. So many people in the congregation sing. They are very engaged and that is very encouraging and I think that is very important for one’s spiritual growth.
What are some of your objectives for Lent?
One thing is to work with the choir so we can conserve our voices and use our voices properly. It will be a combination of things like musical technique so that when we have all these services we make sure we aren’t overdoing things. [To help with this] I may break things up a little bit and have smaller groups do services at times. Also, this semester I really want to reach out to the congregation to get more people involved in the choir, especially when [we are entering] a time when there are so many services. I want to take this opportunity to extend a hand to the people who might be interested but haven’t come forward for whatever reason.
Why is rehearsing so important?
When you are singing, you aren’t just performing, it is a sacred office so you need to know what you are doing and be committed to what you are doing… We want to sing to the glory of God, not for entertainment… What is the center is the Eucharist and the service itself. The choir is there to lead but not be the focus of everyone’s attention. You are a part of a much larger thing happening. If you (prepare), knowing what you are doing is prayer, you are able to garner the spiritual benefits.
What is the best way to join the choir?
If you have any interest whatsoever, talk to me, talk to Deacon Alex, talk to Father John—if you have any interest in the slightest, you are welcome. All you have to do is ask and I’ll be there. We will also have a social at the rectory on Meatfare Sunday (February 23) at 6 p.m. for all current and prospective singers.
This internship is an experiment for the parish. Would you recommend the parish doing this again in the future?
It’s been very good for me and my perception is that it has been good for the choir. When you have an internship you know you are going to do things differently than they used to be, and if you do it again, that person is also going to do things differently. I think that is an important thing for a choir as well. A little bit of change is a good thing within context.