First, they sang at the largest church in the world. Next, they’ll sing at one of history’s most iconic musical venues.
On June 15, the choir from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic church in Cary will sing during mass at the Salzburg Cathedral in Austria – where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized, served as an organist and performed some of his compositions for the first time.
The invitation, a laudable achievement for any musical group, came seven years after the choir sang at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and other churches in Italy.
Janos Czifra, music director at Salzburg Cathedral, “carefully reviewed” audiotapes and considered the choir’s resumé before inviting the group to sing within the “hallowed walls” of his church, according to a letter he wrote to the St. Michael church.
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“Out of integrity to our rich tradition, we must keep a very high standard of musical excellence in discerning which choirs are invited to join us in the regular celebration of our Sunday liturgy,” he wrote.
The choir at St. Michael, located on High House Road in western Cary, includes about 200 people who sing in separate groups across several church services.
About 30 of them will leave for Europe on Tuesday and return June 19. Aside from the Salzburg Cathedral, the choir will perform a concert at St. Stephens in Vienna.
Choir members said it will be fun to visit famous cities and take in some of the world’s most beautiful architecture.
But it will also be good for their spirit, they said.
During their last trip, they prayed together every morning and their confidence was built up by seeing promotional posters for their performance on the sides of buildings, Monsignor John Wall said.
Choir members were so moved by the experience in 2006 during their trip to Assisi, Italy, that they couldn’t help but break out in song in public, Wall recalled.
“It’s a bonding experience not just with each other but with God,” he said.
Choir members credit Wayne Cusher, the music director at St. Michael, for giving them the opportunity of a lifetime.
Cusher became the music director 16 years ago. Since then, he’s expanded the choir by combining his welcoming personality with standards that are challenging, said Lyn Walsh, a choir member.
“It’s very inviting,” she said of the choir. “There’s a cohesiveness that happens when a group comes together with a spiritual goal.”
“It’s not just about musical harmony, but harmony in general,” said Mary Mason, a choir member. “It takes a good director.”
Cusher, for his part, said he’s focused on the basics such as “listening to the blend of the choir, making sure one individual isn’t sticking out over the rest.”
Good choirs, he said, sound harmonic and joyful.
These days, his group is both.