Sacred music is an important form of worship for Catholics, and is beautifully sung by the St. Thomas Aquinas Choir at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, near Southern Methodist University (SMU). Despite its proximity to SMU, many in the University of Dallas community participate in this choir, including alumni Will Remmes and Mary Fougerousse, instructor Dee Donasco and freshman Clare Blackman.
Donasco, vocal instructor at UD, believes that the main point of the choir is to praise God through music. According to its website, this choir has done so for generations, both at the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass and a handful of concerts.
“It’s not easy music, but everyone that’s there is a volunteer, and wants to be there because they want to create good music,” Blackman said.
The parish can take pride in its high participation. Though about 30 sing on a typical Sunday, even more members participated in their recent Requiem concert. Within the group, the choir benefits from a variety of professional talent and balanced vocal ranges.
“It’s very even. I mean, there [ are fewer] guys, but they carry themselves extremely well,” Blackman said. “Two of our section leaders are professional musicians and two [others] are studying to be.”
Despite the high caliber of all participants, ages range greatly.
“I’m the youngest, I think, but not by far. There is a lot of young people, and there are a lot of older people,” Blackman said.
Blackman also said that the choir sings many Latin and modern hymns, all in keeping with the traditional Catholic music tradition.
“It’s not primarily Latin, but we usually do two different anthems each Mass … for the most part it seems like one is in Latin and one is English,” Blackman said. “I don’t know if that’s what they usually do, if that’s what they think, when they’re planning or that’s just how it ends up.” “We do a lot of Marian things … nothing super weird and modern.”
“The choir’s repertoire spans over a thousand years of church history, from chant and polyphony to contemporary composers, with an emphasis on the works of Bach, Mozart and other baroque and classical composers,” according to the choir’s website.
The choir has performed many remarkable works in the past, such as Stabat Mater by Pergolesi and Handel’s Messiah.
“Many people don’t realize that these pieces were originally written for the Church,” said Dee Donasco, the section leader of the soprano section of the choir. “The Church is really what has kept music going [throughout history].”
Blackman finds participating in this choir rewarding.
“To me there’s just something especially special about just creating good music,” Blackman said. “It just brings this connection to the people singing and to the people listening that’s different than any other connection. But also we sing at Mass, and that adds an entirely new, divine connection.”
Students interested in joining the choir can contact the Director of Music at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. The choir requires regular attendance, choral experience and the ability to read music. Rehearsals for the choir are Wednesdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. throughout the academic year.