Wearing Santa hats and bundled in the cold weather, Cor Jesu Academy’s chamber choir sang the lyrics to (and suited their actions to) “Here We Come a Caroling” outside of four senior residences the week before Christmas.
Even neighbors across the street and nearby workers came out to listen and watch.
Performing the concerts outside residents’ windows and wishing residents a Merry Christmas left senior Lily Kinnison with a heart full of joy.
Her excitement grew when she saw a woman at Richmond Terrace Lutheran Senior Services who stood on her balcony with her arms wide open, singing with the students. “Moments like that make it all worth it,” Kinnison said.
A senior who is president of the choir program, Kinnison said “we bond over our love of music.”
Earlier this school year, the students were disappointed at the possibility of not making their annual visits in the community. “We knew that this was something that was needed now more than ever,” Kinnison said. “It’s so hard to hear about people being so alone and detached from everything.”
Kinnison’s favorite song in the Christmas lineup is “Christmas Blessing,” which closed the concert. “I’ve grown up singing in church,” said Kinnison, a parishioner of St. Monica in Creve Coeur. “Music has become a prayerful part of my life.”
The lyrics stand out to her: “May the joy of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, the worship of the Wise Men and the peace of the Christ Child be yours this Christmas.”
It’s “a joyful blessing of the Christmas season,” she said. “Singing those words of blessing and being reminded that even in these times of COVID, in these times where we’re so separated, we are united in our love for God and in our journey to His kingdom.”
In the past, the choir accompanied a school ministry to serve a meal at St. Patrick Center’s women’s night shelter program. “After we sing, we get our food and we sit and talk together,” Kinnison said. “It’s one thing to serve, but it’s another to get to know the people you serve and really understand them.”
Amy Hohenberger, a senior who is a member of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, appreciated singing at Richmond Terrace because her aunt lives there. Before the pandemic, Hohenberger visited with her aunt frequently and ran errands for her. The concert “definitely gave her some joy,” Hohenberger said.
Seeing the residents smiling and singing along “really warms my heart,” Hohenberger said. “Singing always brings me comfort and joy.”
It was a little cold, “but our first and foremost idea was to bring Christmas spirit to the residents. It almost feels selfish because we’re enjoying it so much ourselves, really brightening our day, too.”
Her favorite song was “The Work of Christmas” because its lyrics refer to the setting of Jesus’ birth. It also states that another gift of Christmas is “to be able to sing from your heart. It shows how music is an expression of your emotion,” the high school senior said.
Everywhere the choir goes, there’s always a tie-in to faith, Hohenberger said. “Christmas Blessing” is an example, she said, with its lyrics wishing joy and peace in the Christmas season. “It’s a really good way of showing we are praying for you, our prayers through song.”
Claire Conway, also a senior, said “it was refreshing to know that there were people listening to us sing.” Conway’s favorite song was “Jingle Bells,” which included choreographed dance moves.
A parishioner at St. Margaret Mary in south St. Louis County, she likes to create music, something she hadn’t done before high school.
Cor Jesu’s chamber choir is the school’s audition-only choir, taking only 35 of the most talented students
Joleen Shelton, a retired teacher who is one of the residents at Mary Culver Home for the Visually Impaired in Kirkwood, said “they were just absolutely marvelous. I really appreciate them coming here.”
Amy Lepper, executive director of the home, said: “The girls are so talented.”
The residents came to the living room area and were spaced apart, but they could hear the singers from the other side of three large sliding glass doors, Lepper said. Some residents have limited vision, and were thrilled that the girls came up to the glass doors after the concert to wave and greet them.
Cor Jesu Academy’s chamber choir brings Christmas music to the community each year. It was especially gratifying for them to do it this year, outside and socially distant at four senior living residences: Richmond Terrace Lutheran Senior Services, the Mary Culver Home for Visually Impaired Women, Southview Retirement Center and Nazareth Living Center. The choir also performed at Candy Cane Lane in St. Louis.
The chamber choir canceled its annual Christmas concert, and instead recorded one sans audience at St. Francis Xavier (College Church) in St. Louis. It’s available at bit.ly/3p5BgpS.
Kathleen Pottinger, director of music and fine arts at Cor Jesu Academy, said it was good to hear applause and see people on their balconies. “I’ll tell the girls, if what you did affected one life it’s worth it.”
Pottinger’s favorite standard Christmas carol is “Silent Night,” but this year she especially enjoyed the choir’s performance of “The Work of Christmas,” with lyrics stressing that the work of Christmas continues afterward by reaching out to others. “It really speaks to me,” she said.
The concert is very sacred, with fun secular songs sprinkled in, Pottinger said. “It’s so exciting for the girls to see what an effect their music can have on people. We’re going out to do service, but we are the ones really being fulfilled by this, with those conversations and interactions and knowing what an effect it had.”