December 18, 2019
The entire diocesan community was invited to a free Advent-Christmas concert featuring the singing priests of the diocese along with the Diocesan Choir under the direction of Mr. Peter Kolar on Sunday, December 15 at St. Mark Parish. The concert was the brainchild of Fr. Germán Alzate and featured solo performances by Fr. Germán, Fr. Tony Celino and Bishop Mark Seitz, all of whom received cheers, thunderous applause and standing ovations.
For Fr. Germán Alzate, Parochial Vicar at St. Mark Parish, the concert was an opportunity to simply say thank you to the many parishioners who make the work of the Church possible. Fr. Germán was ordained at St. Patrick Cathedral on June 28, 2018. A graduate of Mundelein Seminary, he was inspired by the seminary's annual Christmas concert, as well as his religious and cultural traditions in his native Colombia, to have his fellow clergy come together to offer thanks in song to the diocese at large during the Advent season. During his remarks at the end of the concert, he said, “I told you not to bring your wallets. This was a gift for you.”
Diocesan Choir Director Peter Kolar says that the priests of the diocese are especially music-minded, with their impressive singing voices often heard whenever they gather for diocesan celebrations. In addition, he said that recent cohorts of seminarians have shown great musical interest. He attributes this in part to Bishop Mark Seitz’s own example of a singing presider and his love for music. “The liturgy invites us all to sing, starting with the priest; this opportunity to feature the singing priests is wonderfully symbolic in that the ordained are united in song with choir and assembly, all celebrating and upholding this very integral part of our Catholic worship.”
Kolar, a distinguished composer, has led the Diocesan Choir since 2007 and writes much of the music that the group performs. His original composition Misa Luna was sung for the 2015 papal liturgy in Philadelphia, for the 2017 beatification Mass of Blessed Stanley Rother in Oklahoma City, and is used in parishes and cathedrals nationwide. Mr. Kolar gave introductions to the songs, invited attendees to sing, praise God in song, and provided contextual information that allowed for a richer appreciation of the music and our faith.
The Diocesan Choir is an all-volunteer choral ensemble comprised of singers and instrumentalists from parishes across the diocese. The choir provides musical leadership at major diocesan liturgies and other events—typically in the Cathedral. Their unified voice has graced ordinations, Chrism Masses, the Papal visit to the borderland, and most recently, funerals for the victims of the August 3 mass shooting.
Seminarians, priests—Fr. Apolinar Samboni, Fr. Buzz Hall, Fr. Germán Alzate, Fr. Gleen Carpe, Fr. Joe Molina, Fr. Tony Celino, Msgr. Victor Kayrouz, Fr. Victorino Loresca—and Bishop Mark processed to Priestly People and performed the concert in the sanctuary surrounded by the Diocesan Choir and instrumentalists. The concert included such hymns as Creator Alme Siderum, Soon and Very Soon, marian selections, and popular Christmas carols. Some concert highlights were Bishop Mark’s solo performance of O Holy Night, a performance of Himno a Juan Diego by Fr. Germán Alzate, a solo piece during Night of Silence by Fr. Tony Celino, an improvisational piece on piano by Peter Kolar and vocal performances by his daughter, 11-year-old Chloe Kolar. The 1,200 capacity church was completely full and concertgoers cheered loudly until the final blessing given by Bishop Mark. When it was over, guests gathered for photos with priests and their loved ones inside the church and outdoors by the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. If you missed it, check out the live feed on the Facebook page of the Diocese of El Paso.
Photo Credit: Fernie Ceniceros