By: Jason Songe, Seminarian, Archdiocese of New Orleans
At a recent seminary liturgy, I was surprised by the sound of a violin. We are not so normally blessed with a stringed instrument, as these and other instruments like a timpani or horn come out only for solemnities and more exalted Masses.
I learned that seminarian Vu Nguyen, a violinist, is now an ad hoc player with the Schola Cantorum. I sat down with Vu recently, and he explained to me how he became involved.
“I really wanted to be a part of the Schola because of how amazing and inspiring the music is here. Max(director of the Schola) gave me a Mass part for violin and said, ‘Play this for Mass and see how this goes,” Vu said. He thinks he did well enough to be play with the group, and has enjoyed it ever since.
Vu said it can be a challenge getting his un-mic’d violin to cut through, especially since he is situated right next to the organ. So, he’s adapted by playing high-pitched and going an octave higher.
“Playing high is what cuts through. If the violin is audible in the chapel, that’s what’s usually been happening. High-pitched sounds echo off of marble in the chapel, which makes things sound better. Also, my mistakes are harder to notice when there’s so much echo.”
Being closer to the Schola than before, Vu has noticed Max’s talent, first in taking seminarians with very different levels of experience, meshing them together, and making a sophisticated, unified sound.
Also, Vu has noticed that “Max plays with his whole body. When Max gets into the music, everyone gets into the music. He makes me play more expressively and gives me energy when I watch him.”
Vu noted how much musical talent there is in the seminary, an example being Josh Burch, a violinist and viola player who performed with Vu last year in the schola.
“I think there’s a connection between spirituality and music. A priest once told me that one indicator that we’re also spiritual beings is that music can have such an effect on us.”
About the Author: Jason Songe, Seminarian, Archdiocese of New Orleans
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