Young singers relish traditional music

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As sunset paints the white-walled barns orange, a choir of young singers crowds into a shed-turned-music-studio at a farm near Shumway.  Gathered around a piano and directed by their teacher, they quickly fill the room with sound.

They are the St. Hildegard von Bingen Schola, a group of girls in middle school and high school who perform traditional sacred music, sometimes for concerts, often as part of Masses or services at Catholic or Lutheran churches in the Effingham area.

“We just wanted to do something different,” explained teacher Barbara Konrad, who began the group about three years ago with a group of her students. While many churches and choirs had abandoned traditional choral music, Konrad hoped to provide her students a chance to perform more difficult pieces.

“They love that stuff. It’s more of a challenge,” Konrad explained. “Don’t ever dummy it down to them just because they’re younger than you are as the adult. They love the challenge. They love singing in Latin. They love the language of the Church. They love these old chants, some of them dating back to the 4th and 6th Century.”

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said McKenna Steineman, 16, describing the experience of singing in harmony with the group. “There’s no words.”

Konrad said she has seen a strong response from the crowds that come to hear the choir.

“They just want to come because nobody’s singing like that,” Konrad said. “We’ve dummied down our music because we don’t have music in schools, many churches don’t have choirs anymore … this is an opportunity to be absorbed by a really beautiful sound and a spiritual experience.”

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