CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Musical introduction to spirit of Christmas

HONG KONG (SE): A packed house at St. John’s Cathedral was treated to an evening of reflective and enjoyable Christmas spirit by the Cecilian Singers at its Christmas Concert, billed as Gloria, on December 11.

In introducing the 40-strong group, Ciara Shannon, spoke about the St. Barnabas’ Society and Home, which began operations in 1987 serving the homeless and the poor of Hong Kong, as well as Michelle Kim, a concert pianist, who gives her energies to bringing hope out of despair through music.

Both charities were beneficiaries from the evening door takings.

The evening produced a variety of Christmas songs, from the all time greats like Vivalid’s Gloria, the Carol of the Bells and the spiritual, O Magnum Mysterium.

O Little Sweet One and a Christmas Lullaby were followed by a variety of popular Christmas songs, both old and new, featuring unique arrangements from the 16th century, as well as modern lyrics from Europe, Jamaica and Africa.

The conductor and musical director of the Cecilian Singers, Kent Lee, also had the gathering on its feet for community singing of the well-known favourites, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, The First Noël and Hark! The Herald Angels.

Shannon described his way of approaching each song as being deeply spiritual. “He really reflects on the words, explains them in detail, which all helps us to sing with deep feeling that communicates the spiritual messages of the composers,” she told the gathering.

Kent also conducts a choir at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, as well as the Hong Kong Wind Symphony. He tutors at the Institute of Education and SPACE.

The Cecilian Singers was formed in 1962, making it one of the oldest mixed choirs in Hong Kong. It sings a wide variety ranging from the Madrigals, world music and Mozart, in the style of a cappella harmony of pieces with accompaniment.

It is a registered charity and devoted to supporting active, hands-on community service and development groups.

Speaking during an interlude in the programme, the chairperson of the St. Barnabas’ Society and Home, Andrew Ngo, explained, “At our day centre, we provide hot meals, hot showers, washing and recreational facilities, as well as daily necessities, relief items such as canned food and clean clothes.”

He added that since most of their guests are unemployed, the home also runs vocational training programmes to assist them to in reconstructing their lives.

“The Sunday Dinner Project and the Flea Removal Project are two self-reliance projects in which our friends can participate,” he explained.

“The projects enable people to learn a skill and earn some money, as well as rebuild their self-confidence and self-dignity,” he continued.

He described the beauty of the centre as being a place that provides a place to rest, eat and find warmth and friendship, hope and encouragement.

But, he stressed, “Most of all we provide love and care.”

Kim introduced one of the products from her Hong Kong Generation Next Arts, which was registered in 2009, a student of only four years who played a studious piece on the piano during the interlude.

“It is aimed at nurturing artistic excellence and personal success in our next generation of young artists, transforming lives through music,” Kim explained.

Kim teaches music at the St. Stephen’s Society rehab centre for the drug addicted, ex-triad members and trouble young people, as well as for Operation Dawn.

She was included in the list of Inspiring Women of Hong Kong by Marie Claire magazine for her contribution to society in October this year.

 

The Cecilian Singers now gives three concerts each year and its annual Christmas concert introduces a spirit of the season reflecting the all-embracing salvation of the child who was born in Bethlehem.

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