Madeleine Choir School celebrates 25th anniversary

Dec 19, 2021, 10:15 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2021, 3:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The young choristers of the Madeleine Choir School are busy preparing to sing for many services this Christmas season, and they are also celebrating an important anniversary year.

The voices of these children, instantly ethereal, seem to both reach beyond the vaulted ceiling of The Cathedral of the Madeleine in downtown Salt Lake City and, at the same time, reach into our hearts.

In order to create a glorious sound, the choristers start in a classroom. They are fifth through eighth-graders.

There are no auditions because music is part of the curriculum, starting in the second grade. They study music theory in the fourth grade, and then, many step into a choir, singing for Mass daily.

Melanie Malinka has been the music director for two decades.

“Just to really be immersed in that culture, I think really creates that passion, or inflames that passion in them for music-making,” she said.

The choir rehearses every school day at 11 a.m. in the Main Building of the campus at 205 1st Avenue.

When the windows are open, their voices carry, and passersby can wonder if angels are singing.

Jude Payne is a seventh-grader.

“I find myself very lucky that I get to go to this wonderful school and also be in a choir. Of course, there’s the tours and the donuts and all the rewards. But it’s also just fun to put yourself out there and let your voice be heard,” she said.

And they have let their voices be heard, performing in beautiful cathedrals throughout Europe. Past tours have included performances in London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin — including Westminster Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, and St. Peter’s Basilica.

It began 25 years ago, in 1996, with the vision of Gregory Glenn, the founder.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the incredible beauty of the European boy choir and girl choirs, and I wanted to create something like that here at the Cathedral of the Madeleine,” Glenn said.

The results of their intense study in the classroom and extra rehearsals come to fruition through the gratitude of people of many faiths. Gregory Glenn said they receive letters constantly.

“Someone whose mother is ill in LDS Hospital, who stops down for the 5:15 pm Mass and hears the children and writes to us and says what an incredible comfort and consolation that was,” he described.

And these students, still singing with masks, met the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions with Zoom rehearsals when their school was in session online.

Melanie Malinka is so grateful that they are singing together again.

“Twenty-five years, it’s almost like a celebration of coming out of this pandemic and … just seeing how our work is helping these kids again to rise,” Malinka said.

These choristers are young, but they do understand the importance of their music to the community, particularly at this time of the year.

“I really love to sing, and knowing one of my favorite things to do makes the community happy, makes me really happy, too,” said seventh-grader Ronak Tathireddy.

“It’s very beautiful to me and very much of an honor. It’s great to know that they come to see us and try and get in the spirit,” added eighth-grader Georgia Ohman.

As they celebrate both an anniversary and this special season, the young singers hope all who hear them will accept their gift.

Gregory Glenn’s hope is that these children will become responsible citizens who seek to build a civilization of justice, mercy and love.

“That’s the important thing, that they’re creating a better world,” he said.

The choristers of the Madeleine Choir School will sing for services at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and again on Dec. 26.

Here is a link to the Cathedral’s calendar.

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Madeleine Choir School celebrates 25th anniversary