FLUSHING — It’s all voices on deck each Thursday night at St. Kevin Parish where Steven Vaughan, director of music ministry, is preparing a choir to perform at the Diocesan Eucharistic Revival, Oct. 7, at Maimonides Park.
But this is not the adult choir that performs each week at the noon Sunday liturgy. These 40 stalwarts comprise the Diocesan Choir and, true to its name, come from parishes throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
The latest iteration of the choir has performed at ordinations, chrism Masses, the ordination of a new bishop, and papal visits to New York City over the past four decades.
The week of the Diocesan Eucharistic Revival will be busy for the choir. A few days before the Maimonides Park performance, it will be heard at 8 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph when Bishop Robert Brennan installs the new regional episcopal vicars for the diocese.
Vaughan has been the director of this group for about a year, but he started as one of its singers in 2011. He now juggles directing the Diocesan Choir with his regular job leading the youth and adult choirs at St. Kevin.
“I know how well they work together,” Vaughan said. “I know how nice they are. These people are so fun to be with.”
Many of them are already well-known in the diocese. For example:
Ann Wintergerst is a retired professor of English as a second language at St. John’s University and a Eucharistic minister at St. Margaret Parish in Middle Village.
Joseph Cristiano, a member of St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church, Ozone Park, is also chairman of the board at Divine Mercy Catholic Academy.
Jessica Tranzillo-Smith began singing for the choir in 1984. She has been cantor at many high-profile diocesan events such as ordinations and papal visits. She is also music director at St. Luke Parish in Whitestone.
A call went out a few weeks ago to recruit more choir members for the much-anticipated Diocesan Eucharistic Revival. This local extravaganza, which will draw thousands of Catholics from throughout Brooklyn and Queens, is linked to the three-year National Eucharistic Revival.
The choir members aren’t strangers to Maimonides Park. They sang the national anthem there in June prior to a Brooklyn Cyclones game.
The stadium has a capacity of 7,000 seats, and 6,500 tickets have been sold. While it will be packed for the Oct. 7 revival, some choir members are unfazed.
“We already got a taste in June at the Cyclones game,” said Miriam Soto-Miranda from St. Fortunata Church in East New York. “And we’ve done all the papal visits — Popes Benedict, John Paul II, and Francis.”
Soto-Miranda recalled “being soaked to the bone” during a rainy performance in October 1995 for Pope John Paul II’s Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“It was so beautiful,” she said. “If you’re down in the dumps, or if you’re doubting your faith, all you have to do is play in an environment like that. It lifts you up and fills you with all the beauty that the Church has to offer you.”
Vaughan has added more members to the Diocesan Choir over the past year, but so far, he hasn’t conducted an actual audition because the newcomers have brought strong musical chops.
That’s an important distinction, Vaughan said, because the Diocesan Choir tackles very advanced styles of music, and its members should be able to read music.
“We want people who have good voices, obviously,” Vaughan said. “But we’re working a little faster. We have more music to do, and it’s a little more challenging at times.”
Vaughan stressed, however, that there ought not be any snobbery attached to liturgical music. He said the first choir at any Mass is the people in the pews.
“We’re just here to help them,” he said. “So, for example, here at St. Kevin, everybody is welcome to sing in my choir regardless of ability. If you want to sing, come sing. We’re a parish.”
Among newcomers to the Diocesan Choir is Kevin Flaherty, a member of St. Kevin who also sings in its adult choir under Vaughan’s leadership.
Flaherty and others praised the musical director for how he teaches them to excel and give glory to God. He said singing in a choir is like praying in a group.
“When you’re singing your part, and it blends with all the other voices, you’re joining your prayer with many other people,” said Flaherty, a bass singer. “All of a sudden you hear the sopranos and altos and you think it’s so pretty to hear that. It’s a beautiful sound.”
Want to Join?
Anyone interested in joining the Diocesan Choir should email Steven Vaughan at SVaughan@diobrook.org