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Indonesia holds first national Catholic choir festival

Participants call weeklong singing competition a 'dream come true'
Indonesia holds first national Catholic choir festival

A choir from East Nusa Tenggara province performs during the Pesparani on Oct. 30. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)

Veronica Xaveria Waren Mop says she practiced really hard to become part of a choir representing predominantly Christian Papua province in Indonesia's first National Catholic Choir Festival.

The 39-year-old's journey began earlier this year when she passed an audition organized by her parish church in her hometown in Kampung Baru.

She subsequently spent hours each week over the next few months attending regular rehearsals in preparation for the next step — a parish-level choir competition in the district.

"It was heartbreaking. All that work and my parish choral group lost the competition. However, the organizers gave us the opportunity to audition for another choir. So I took the chance without thinking twice," she told ucanews.com.

"I was so excited when I saw my name on the list of those who passed." 

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After that, Mop and another 29 women spent at least 12 hours a week for two months practicing how to sing Hodie Christus Natus Est (On This Day Jesus Christ is Born) — a Gregorian Christmas chant composed by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina — and Bagai Rusa Rindu Akan Sumber Air (As the Deer), a song composed by Jesuit Father Antonius Soetanta.   

The women's choir practiced the two songs for the country's first National Catholic Choir Festival, also known as a Pesparani, which ended on Nov. 2. 

"I thank God for giving me the chance to go to the Pesparani. It was like a dream come true for me," said Mop, who sang alto in the women's choir.

Watch a choral group from West Kalimantan province sing the Gregorian chant Lauda Sion Salvatorem during the first National Catholic Choir Festival in this ucanews.com video.

 

Ananius Frederikus Gogirato, a 28-year-old layman from St. Joseph Parish in Kupang, capital of predominantly Catholic East Nusa Tenggara province, was similarly excited.

He joined a parish mixed choir in 2009 after graduating from senior high school. After rehearsing three times a week for about two months, his 35-member choir won a provincial level sing off to book a place at the Pesparani. 

"This is what I dreamed of. I was so excited I was going to take part in the first national choir festival organized by the Catholic Church," said Gogirato, a tenor.

He said winning or losing was not his main concern as he just wanted to sing.

"I can feel God in a deeper way when I sing religious songs. This is something I cannot describe, I just feel that God is there before me," he said.

Papua and East Nusa Tenggara provinces were among 34 provinces that participated in the Pesparani, which attracted nearly 7,000 choristers from many different age groups. 

The Catholic National Pesparani Formation and Development Agency, known as LP3KN, organized the weeklong festival, which was held in Ambon, capital of Maluku province.

Choirs competed against each other to come out winners in 12 categories during the vocal Olympiad, which also included a psalm chant and Bible quiz. 

"The Gregorian chant is one of the Catholic Church's greatest treasures but it has slowly been forgotten by many people. The Pesparani serves as a way to revitalize interest in this form of singing," said Ernest Mariyanto, one of the festival organizers.

It also provided Catholic organizations with a chance to interact with the Religious Affairs Ministry and portray Christians in a positive light at a time when people with hard-line views are targeting religious minorities, organizers said.

"We wanted to provide a deeper knowledge about a good choir and Catholic Church culture," said LP3KN chairman Adrianus Eliasta Meliala.

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