Six downriver choirs form spirited collaboration

Bill Blaul | Special to The Michigan Catholic

Joe Balistreri, director of music for the Archdiocese of Detroit (on the piano), leads a rehearsal for ‘Six in the Spirit’ at St. Timothy Church in Trenton. Members of six downriver parishes make up the group, which holds Taize prayers and participates at liturgies and in concerts throughout the year.

Detroit ­– A passion to enhance the liturgy through sacred song often leads parishioners to share their talents with their parish choirs. Several years ago, a desire to collaborate and the motivation to enhance their skills led dozens of choir members to form the ‘Six in Spirit’ Southern Downriver Catholic Choir, now performing throughout metro Detroit.

“Parish staffs in our area started meeting monthly when the first phase of the Together In Faith pastoral planning process began years ago”, said Kevin Ryan, Director of Music and Liturgy at Sacred Heart Parish, Grosse Ile, and co-director of the Six in Spirit Choir. “Our parishes are pretty strong individually, including in sacred music and song, but we thought we could do even better by forming a combined choir,” he explained. “The music directors from the six parishes in our planning group started bringing their choirs together for special occasions, and we then formed the Southern Downriver Catholic Choir which now has several performances throughout the year an annual workshop.”

Each parish has about 20 members in their choirs and approximately 80 voices participate in the larger Six in the Spirit performances.

The music directors at the Six in the Spirit parishes meet monthly to discuss collaborations in education and worship, music planning, rehearsals, and events for the Choir. They also hold several  Taize prayer services annually and bring the entire Choir to each of the parishes for a weekend Mass so all six congregations can witness the fruits of this liturgical endeavor.

“Most of our music is liturgical and the choir sounds absolutely professional,” he continued. “We strive to balance the traditional, like Gregorian chant, Mozart, and Latin selections with a variety of contemporary music. It’s a varied repertoire that everyone likes.” The Choir meets weekly for Sunday afternoon rehearsals.

“It’s really a wonderful story,” said Joseph Balistreri, Director of Music for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “This kind of inter-parish cooperation is just the sort of thing we want to achieve through Together in Faith,” he said. “The collaboration on this scale and to this extent is unique, and I hope it catches on.”

The second annual Southern Downriver Catholic Choir Workshop is set for the evenings of August 27-29 at St. Timothy Parish in Trenton, offering the area’s Catholic choral community an opportunity to explore their talents and prepare for a new year of liturgical singing. During the course of three evenings, the combined choirs will work under the direction of guest clinicians and local music directors to hone their craft while enjoying music making as part of a large ensemble. The Six in Spirit Choir will also perform at the annual St. Cecilia Sing in November.


‘Six in the Spirit’

The six-parish choir includes members of:

• Our Lady of the Woods, Woodhaven

• Sacred Heart, Grosse Ile Grosse Ile

• St. Cyprian, Riverview

• St. Joseph, Trenton

• St. Pius X, Southgate

• St. Timothy, Trenton