BRIDGEPORT—It seems few things inspire the Christmas spirit more than the joyful music of the season, especially when it is performed by young people eager to share their faith through song. One such special group is the Diocesan Youth Choir (C4Y) which is preparing for their fourth annual “Arise and Shine” concert at the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport on Friday, December 21. With over 135 singers from children in grade six through seniors in college, this is a musical journey in which the students and their director showcase a passion for song and a devotion to God.
“This is so exciting for them!” said Mary Bozzuti-Higgins, a professional performer and opera singer who has directed C4Y since its inception in 2014. “This is a special night—a feast for the eyes, ears, heart and soul.”
With a seven-piece ensemble, including piano, oboe, flute, trumpet, violin, trombone and percussion, the program will include traditional carols and contemporary favorites. Beginning with the customary first piece “Arise and Shine,” Bozzuti-Higgins has also chosen singer favorites like “Mary, Did You Know?”, a modern Christmas classic, and “Believe,” a selection from the popular movie The Polar Express.
The students also plan to combine with three children’s choirs from local parishes—St. Theresa in Trumbull, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, and St. Matthew in Norwalk—to perform “Christ Child Noel.” Additionally, concert-goers will be treated to the eight-movement musical journey “Were You There on That Christmas Night?” with four C4Y narrators and two college soloists accompanying the ensemble.
A highly anticipated number is always the final selection “Dark Is the Silent Night,” performed against a backdrop set to resemble a snow topped pine forest. As the lights descend and the piece concludes, choir members hold small candles, enhancing the mood of the dark and silent night.
“The pieces we choose are music they love,” the director said. “And I want them to feel that connection—and have a passion for music throughout their lives.”
In addition to the regular choir, dozens of former C4Y members will be returning from college to participate, sharing that their devotion to their faith does not end when they graduate.
“We have 40 alumni performing,” said Bozzuti-Higgins, who holds the Dress Rehearsal with dinner, cookie swap, and gift exchange for the entire choir the evening before the concert. “It’s so much fun for them that they keep coming back!”
It is that true sense of joy exuded through the music and comradery that keeps students involved. During a recent rehearsal, Evan Bean, a senior from Fairfield Prep, said, “At C4Y we really have fun. I love being in a community of like-minded Catholic youth.”
Singer Sophie Chorek, a junior at St. Joseph High School, considers her involvement with C4Y to be a stress reliever, saying, “This is just another way to express my faith in addition to school and church. And I just love to sing!”
Such reactions from the young people involved validate the original purpose of C4Y, which grew from the 2014 Synod. “This was the brainchild of Bishop Caggiano,” said Bozzuti-Higgins. “He is so passionate about young people and wants to keep them growing on their faith journey. We are so lucky to have him as the Shepherd of our diocese! We also have an amazing of array of dedicated and talented young people.”
This dedication begins long before the Christmas season, as students start practicing in July and attend one of six weekly rehearsals Bozzuti-Higgins holds at various locations throughout the diocese during the school year. At a recent rehearsal at the Catholic Center in Bridgeport, students were consistently encouraged by their director who called out “Gentlemen – good job! Ladies, together now!”
When she then suggested the group review The Polar Express selection, one 6th grader whispered to his friend, “Ooo, I love ‘Believe’!”
With their feet keeping time with the music and their hands holding folders emblazoned with “C4Y,” sopranos, altos, tenors and bass joined voices in the memorable refrain, singing, “We find ourselves again on Christmas Day…”
In sharing a devotion to their faith through a passion for their music, the youth of C4Y will surely bring joy to all those who believe in the glory of this season.