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Art of the heart

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Musical unity a feature of Chautauqua celebration

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placeholder October 5, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Musical unity a feature of Chautauqua celebration

When Ariel Mayormita became musical director of Chautauqua in 2011, he changed the way the event, literally, the gathering of people, looked at music.

19th Gathering of People
"Mother Mary, Untie the Knots of our Lives"

When: Oct. 10, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland

Procession and Mass celebrant: Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ

Entertainment and food after Mass

For more information:
"I introduced the Unity Choir, where everyone was singing the same song," said Mayormita, who serves as music director at St. Joachim Church in Hayward. Previously, various ethnic groups would lead a song, and make way for the next group, he said.

The new practice involves a half-dozen rehearsals in venues all around the diocese, as well as two rehearsals at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, which, on Oct. 10, is hosting Chautauqua for the first time. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m., which will be preceded by a procession to the cathedral.

In that first year, Mayormita went to the different ethnic communities, "wherever they met," traveling as far as Santa Rosa, he said, inviting them to join.

From 80 participants that first year, the Unity Choir grew to 120 for its gathering at St. Jarlath Church in Oakland in 2013.

The director expects at least 100 people will take part in the Unity Choir this year.

Chautauqua parking will be available at a flat rate of $5 in the cathedral parking garage and the Kaiser parking garage.

"When the choir is together, we are just very happy to be together," he said. They share stories — and food — at their gatherings.

The cathedral has room for about 50 musicians up front. With several of the ethnic communities bringing drums, that space will be saved for them, with the singers settling in the first few pews near the ambo.

"For me, it's an honor and privilege," Mayormita said, "to work with different musicians and music." It has helped him learn more about other cultures, and see how that art will be seen by other cultures."

For example, he said, the music written by the Tongan community differs from the way western music is written.

Several of the musical selections have verses in various languages that are sung by all. Worship aids in the pews will help those in the congregation join in.

The gathering hymn, he said, shows how despite their struggles, the people bring their gifts to share to the church.

"They express themselves in music," he said.

The communion hymn is one Mayormita composed in 2011, and was sung again in 2013.

"One God, one heart, one body in Christ," Mayormita said. "Those are very profound words."

The gathering hymn, he said, shows how despite their struggles, the people bring their gifts to share to the church.

"They express themselves in music," he said.

At the end of the day, he said, "I feel very happy to see what we have accomplished in spite of our cultural differences."

During its 19-event history, Chautauqua has moved among parishes for the celebration, which is always dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year's theme, "Mary, untie the knots of our lives," refers to a particular devotion of Pope Francis.

Among the ethnic and pastoral missions represented this year will be the African American, Asian Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Fijian, Filipino, Indonesian, Kenyan, Kmhmú, Korean, Latino, Nigerian, Polish, Portuguese, Tongan and Vietnamese communities. All people from the diocese are welcome at the celebration.

Each will bring its own icon or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In keeping with the theme, they will be adorned with rope, signifying the knots of people's lives that can be untied with the intercession of Mary.

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