Singing for the Glory of God: EWTN Boys Choir Offers Gift of Song at Chapel Masses
The young choristers, currently ranging in age from 11 to 18, enjoy making a joyful noise for the Lord.
Viewers of the Eternal Word Television Network’s Mass on Sept. 10 heard Panis Angelicus sung by the choir as a Communion meditation: It marked the debut of the new EWTN Boys Choir.
“We began with half a dozen boys, ranging from ages 11 to 18, and we are open to boys from 10 to 20 years old,” Jeffrey Caulk, the director of the boys choir, told the Register.
While the EWTN chapel choir “is a group of high-level college-age musicians through seasoned professional musicians, these boys are different by age and musical level, naturally, being only fifth- through 12th-graders. But many of them bring a vast amount of experience from either their church service or musical training. Some are altar servers, some take private musical instruction, some have spent years in the Birmingham (Alabama) Boys Choir, and some do it all.” This new choir’s aim is “to train young men to know God and serve the Church through music,” Caulk said. “The tradition and history of the Church in chants, hymns and choral music is a magnificent tool for both spiritual and musical education.”
“We are leaning on our EWTN Chapel Choir men as support during this first fall season,” he continued. “As our repertoire, numbers and confidence grow, our boys will slowly take on more ownership for the musical part of those Masses. It’s a tried-and-true model that churches have used for centuries.”
He finds the boys’ parents enthusiastic about the endeavor.
Mary Ann Renna has two sons in the new choir.
“We accepted the invitation to join the choir because the boys love to sing,” she told the Register.
“They enjoy being in the Birmingham Boys Choir, and the EWTN Choir gives them even more instruction and practice in singing sacred music for the glory of God, which is especially beautiful in the Mass. The boys are learning from and singing with very accomplished vocalists and musicians. It is a privilege to be a part of this group.”
Caulk himself is no stranger to music or choirs. With a degree from Samford University in Birmingham, he looked back at the quality of training he received, pointing out that his college choir professor currently sings as a retiree in the EWTN Chapel Choir and one of his friends has a daughter at Samford who has now started working under Derek Paul Kluz, the EWTN Chapel Choir’s director, as well.
Caulk, who has three young children, taught music in local schools for 12 years until late this October, when he was named executive director of the Birmingham Boys Choir. For more than 12 years he has been associated with this regionally and nationally known choir that performs sacred and secular music regularly for churches, schools and other organizations in the Birmingham area (EWTN is located in nearby Irondale) and also tours internationally.
Under his leadership and expertise, current plans call for the boys singing at two Saturday Masses per month. “It really helps the families” because several boys have “major commitments to serve at their own churches as altar servers,” Caulk said. “They are highly active.”
The boys see their commitment to the choir as something far more than simply singing in a group.
Michael Rumore, a 17-year-old member of the boys choir, shared what being in the choir already means to him.
“The EWTN Choir has been a huge impact on my life, musically and spiritually,” he said.
“Singing for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father is a true gift and the way we can contribute to the Mass. God has given us a gift, and we all must use it to grow closer to him and his Son. Singing was mine. So I cherish it and use it to make his Son’s sacrifice of the Mass even more special and beautiful, as it is intended to be.”
The formation and debut of the EWTN Boys Choir has been an “absolute joy” and “very encouraging,” said Caulk.
“The initial reactions have been extremely supportive and encouraging. There is interest from boys and parents to better know traditional chants within the Mass. Some have expressed interest in personal spiritual growth as a desire, as well.” He added that priests and other folks have shared their kind praise of the choir’s singing.
Father Joseph Mary Wolfe of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, EWTN chaplain and chapel dean, said of the new choir, “We have been inviting boys and girls, young men and women, to enrich our Masses by their presence in the creation of the girls choir and now the boys choir. For some time now, we have also been grateful for the young men who serve and now read regularly at the daily televised Masses. Their presence at Mass brings many graces to each one of them and their families and always lifts the spirits of our congregation and our viewers.”
He continued, “Bringing these young people close to the Lord at Mass helps them to hear the voice of the Lord and to respond to his call to follow him in priesthood, religious life or holy matrimony in God. My hope, too, is that our young viewers, and they are many, will be inspired by the example of these young people and follow the Lord more closely in their own lives. I often tell these young men and women that they are bringing the Gospel to other young people just by being present at the televised Masses so faithfully and prayerfully.”
Caulk said he aims to keep the EWTN Boys Choir growing. For one of his primary goals, he is “hoping to double our numbers this spring and double them again by next year. These boys are such a joy to be with, to teach, to sing with, and to worship with.” He said he hopes “this choir will become a place of musical belonging and personal growth for our boys across the diocese [of Birmingham].”
“EWTN is a special place, with kind people and much knowledge and wisdom to impart. Our boys will grow into young men, fathers, priests and community leaders,” Caulk said. “The EWTN Boys Choir will be a place to help edify our boys towards these pivotal roles.”