Colleen Oren, Choir Director
Colleen Oren was chrismated at Holy Cross in 1997, and began directing the choir a year later. She still has *no* idea how she ended up with the job, but she very much enjoys her involvement both with the singers and with the rich hymnody of the Church.
St. Romanos the Melodist was born in Emesa, Syria. He served in Beirut, then in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. He was illiterate, had no musical training and had an irritating voice, but he loved to sing in church. He was despised by some of the clergy. He prayed, weeping to the Theotokos. She appeared to him in a dream and told him to swallow a piece of paper that she handed him. It was Christmas day and Romanos went up to the ambo and sang with an angelic voice what has come down to us as the Kontakion of the Nativity. St. Romanos went on to compose more than 1,000 kontakia. He reposed in 530 as a deacon at the Cathedral.
The Holy Cross choir continues to grow in numbers and in knowledge of the liturgy and its music. We have about 20 adults on our informal roster, with an average of 13 or 14 singers on a given Sunday, as well as between four and ten junior choir members. When I began directing the choir three years ago, a "good" Sunday had 7 or 8 choir members, so God has really blessed us.
The ministry of the choir is (at least) twofold. First, it leads the congregation in singing and offering the liturgy to God; but second, it ministers to each individual who sings in the choir. Spending extra time learning the music means that we get to take a closer look at the message of each hymn, and as we try new musical settings for the texts we gain a new appreciation for their beauty. I remember as we rehearsed our Christmas music one year, it was not unusual to hear an unsolicited, Wow! after practicing a Troparion or Kontakion for the first time.
We refer to our group as a parish choir because it is composed of lay persons from the congregation. We sing because we love the music; none among us considers himself a professional musician. Thus, choir membership is open to all! We’ve had a number of people come on occasion just for the rehearsals, so they can learn the music, and anyone in the parish is welcome to do that. Rehearsals are currently held twice a month after coffee hour and last about an hour and a half. If you’d like to join us and learn the music for Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, join us in February.
I always feel deeply touched when Fr. Gregory prays for "those who serve and those who sing" during the litanies of the services. It is clear that God has responded to those prayers, for we have a wonderful group who enjoys ministering through music. Feel free to come and join us!