Diocesan News

St. Sebastian Choir Hits High Note at Radio City Music Hall

St. Sebastian’s Alleluia Choir. (Photo: Allyson Escobar)

WOODSIDE — If they could make it through traffic on a “gridlock alert” day, the youth choir from St. Sebastian’s, Woodside, is on schedule to perform during the “Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 20, opening for the world-famous Rockettes.

Choir director Laura McManus is grateful for the opportunity.

“I’ve never been so in awe of how something just happens so beautifully. A lot of tourists and people from all over come to see the show and perhaps may have forgotten what Christmas is supposed to be about,” McManus, who’s also a music teacher at Christ the King, Middle Village, said.

“My goal is for these kids to have some sort of spiritual enlightenment and growth from this process, and for everybody in the audience to be reminded of what the Christmas season is really about, to be moved for the first time.”

At Radio City, the Alleluia Choir will perform a five-minute medley of Christmas classics, from “Silent Night” to “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

During the summer, a recruiter from Radio City wrote to McManus via LinkedIn, looking for a school choir to audition. After she sent a video of the choir performing a song in Latin during Holy Week, “they loved it, and it kind of just happened,” McManus recalled.

She spoke at Masses and parish events to recruit more youth to sing — no musical ability, no experience necessary. The choir now has six boys and 12 girls between the ages of 12 and 17.

“If kids want to sing for God, I want them here,” McManus said. “Everybody can be taught to sing, and these kids are proof of that, and a lot of them are singing on stage for the first time.”

Over the past four months of weekly rehearsals, McManus has seen the youth grow in confidence and ability, showcasing their range of talent from sopranos to tenors.

Brother and sister Jacqueline Hernandez and Eric Gonzalez said they were excited to bring the spirited message and music.

“It’s really nerve-wracking, because it’s such a big stage. But we’re excited,” said Hernandez, 17.

Andrea Sanchez, 14, said she was very shy to perform in front of an audience, but has grown in confidence, with help from her new choir friends and regular practice.

“I’ve made a lot of friends through this experience, and we’ve gotten better and with more volume. It really means something,” Andrea said.

Parents and the parish community, who took up two whole sections in the theater, also shared their excitement about the performance.

Silmarie Nieves said her daughter Alyssa, 13, has grown both musically and spiritually after joining the choir.

“She practices all the time; she’s so excited. It’s amazing to represent St. Sebastian at Radio City. It’s a blessing, especially how the kids are so involved and given this opportunity around Christmastime,” Nieves said.

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