We PUERI CANTORES sing our faith.
For this reason we are a sign of hope for the world.
Our worldwide community aims to be a symbol of the love of God for all people and of love for each other.
I. A brief history of our development
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16) In the beginning Singing is part of Christian liturgy ever since. And very early children, boys undertook the cantorial part during services. In the effort to train these choirboys, singing schools were established. First foundations of these “Scholae Puerorum” are documented already in the year 600. In the Middle Ages, almost each cathedral or monastery trained choirboys. While this old tradition was interrupted during 18th and 19th century, it was Pope Pius X who enacted his “Motu proprio” about the renewal in church music in 1903 and expressly alluded to the need of renewing the tradition of choirboys and dispreading it into the world. In 1907, the „Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois“ in Paris were one of the new foundations. Reasons for the French foundation were not only promoting liturgical singing, but also providing musical and religious education. In 1924 Abbé Fernand Maillet became a leader of “Petits Chanteurs”. With regard to the papal order he went further and began to dispread the idea of singing children all around the world. His vision was to contribute to international understanding by singing. In the following years „Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois“ travelled to many countries and with their performances they encouraged new foundations of boy choirs worldwide. The experience of the Second World War confirmed Abbé Maillet in his vision and his aim of a worldwide federation of choir boys. He was convinced that joint singing of children from different nations in praise of God and their prayers for peace would become an important contribution to international reconciliation. „All the children of the world will sing the Peace of God“ was his vision of building a new world. On 2 July 1944, for the first time, several French choirs met in Paris for a Holy Mass, conducted by Abbé Maillet. So, during World War II already, the foundations for the worldwide movement of Pueri Cantores were laid. In the following years choirs from other countries were filled with enthusiasm for this idea, so In 1947 the first International Congress of the Pueri Cantores could take place in Paris. 90 choirs coming from several countries were there. Badge of recognition in this time was a little wooden cross, carried around the neck. After the 2nd International Congress in Rome 1949 with a Mass clebrated by Pope Pius XII in the Basilica of St. Peter’s the delegates of many countries decided on April 24, 1950, to found officially an international federation of Pueri Cantores, and they elected Abbé Maillet as president. Since then about every two years several thousand Pueri Cantores meet in a big convention, the last congress (37th International Congress of the FIPC) took place in Granada in July 2012. St. Dominic Savio was established as Patron Saint of the International Federation of PUERI CANTORES by a the brief of Pope Pius XII on June 8, 1956. A strong support of the service of Pueri Cantores was the Constitution of Liturgy ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’, edited by the Second Vatican Council. In SC 112 singing is declared as a necessary and integrative part of the liturgy and in SC 114 choirs are encouraged insistently. As a consequence of the documents of the Council the new founded choirs of girls and mixed choirs of children and young people were accepted in the federation. Many Popes, notably Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI every now and again thanked the Pueri Cantores for their services for the church and encouraged them in their committment. At present the Pueri Cantores Federation is composed of children’s, boys’, girls’ and mixed youth choirs, all of them involved in different forms of liturgical singing. The Federation is actively present in 35 countries, on all continents, including in all about 40,000 youth and children.
II. PUERI CANTORES – a movement of young people inside the Catholic Church
The idea of PUERI CANTORES has their origin on a deep ancient Christian conviction that singing is one of the most important instruments of worshipping God. It has been a significant element determining the musical form of Roman Catholic liturgy all over the centuries. 1. Singing, especially singing in a choir, is a way not merely to learn music and vocal studies, but also to discover a very important kind of human communication and spirituality progress so to develop the own personality. 2. All members of PUERI CANTORES feel the importance of belonging to the Christian community – not only in their parish or nation, but in a worldwide community – by being part of the federation as a kind of family, whose members share the same intention, love singing in praise of God the same way, being messengers of the Gospel and experiencing themselves as an special movement for Christian Faith inside the Church. 3. Being part of the choir family of PUERI CANTORES young choristers learn to take responsibility for one another. Singing for peace, experiencing other cultures by visiting them and singing together PUERI CANTORES are building a better world. Missions of PUERI CANTORES 1. Music sounds louder than words – human and spiritual education Experiencing music and spirituality is important part of personality. Singing is a way to find one´s personal spirituality. In this way, early in life children get the chance to discover prayer, and especially musical prayer, as an essential part of their own life. Words are always a basic element in the education of young people. When they repeat and sing the texts of great choral works, by means of melody and rhythm, these penetrate their intellect and consciences. It opens to them an access to the contents of these texts in a nonverbal way, too. Singing is a way to express feelings and to discover music as a form of communication. Choral singing of children is an excellent school for personal development: posture, breathing, voice. When children sing, they learn first to listen and to open themselves to others. In a choir, no one becomes a star: even those children who sing a solo part still remain choristers. A choir is a school of life, an initiation to become part of a group, to communicate within a group by music and to understand that others, too, have something very particular to say (or to sing). 2. Laudate pueri dominum – care for music and liturgy Children’s choirs are an integral part of the Christian community. They experience personal growth within and through the Roman-Catholic Community and become messengers of the Gospel. They contribute to the common good and in this way, when they perform in a liturgical context, they are not singing as if it were merely a concert or a contest, but become an important and integral factor in the liturgy of a community. As active members of a choir, children become actively immersed in liturgical action. Thus they experience both a personal and a congregational encounter with the divine, while at the same time helping the community itself to do the same. Liturgical education is realised by means of the musical commentary of its texts and readings. This makes for a far better comprehension of various aspects of Christian spirituality. A choir is a place where Faith is understood through sacred music. Singing in a choir for young people helps them to live truly adult, artistic and Christian lives. 3. All the children of the world will sing the Peace of God – open to others In the choir family of PUERI CANTORES learning social competence and becoming a good citizen of both one’s country and the world Children learn perseverance and discipline, the value of effort and commitment and the light of the Gospel by studying and learning pieces of music together. Children love to be recognised individually, but they are also very proud to belong to a group that offers them friendship and a social context. To take responsibility of the individual in the context of the whole group – e.g. older singers gradually take on responsibilities for the younger ones – is a very important element in choral life. Being part of this group is therefore a fundamental factor for children´s development. But being part of PUERI CANTORES means even more: it means singing for peace, experiencing other cultures, experiencing the worldwide community at international congresses and communicating through the international and intercultural language of music. This has always been and is until today an important path towards becoming a good citizen of both one’s country and the world. So Abbé Maillet’s vision has not lost its relevance today. Congresses and choir meetings are the most important part of the federation´s work. To continue this tradition and at the same time to develop their contents and processes gives an important opportunity of development within the whole organisation. In addition to meeting, praying and singing PUERI CANTORES feel the responsibility for choirs in developing countries, and support their work.
III. Congresses and choir-meetings on all levels as the core of the movement
Singing together with chorister of all levels and nations is the most important experience of being part of PUERI CANTORES. In this way friendships and partnerships between choirs grow, and the network of the movement is built. The participants of the congresses become acquainted with singers of other cultures and feel the special “smell” of the region where the Congress takes place. “Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame” so not only established music but new and contemporary compositions are part of the every congress and improve the quality of choir singing. Choir meetings and congresses get arranged in a regional, national or international form of organisation
Elements of a typical Pueri-Meeting are:
– One special motto, which engraves all actions and compositions of the Congress
– Opening ceremony and closing Mass
– Duration of 3-5 days
IV. Where do we go?
As a movement with a long tradition PUERI CANTORES also have to react to the large-scale changes today and in the future. Therefore the FIPC created two commissions: the commission of identity and spirituality, and the commission of music. They have to constantly develop their missions. 1. Spiritual and human education Formation of Pueri Cantores singers is achieved by active involvement in the lives of their own choirs and it is two-dimensional: human and spiritual. The human formation is heavily influenced by: development of inter-relationships, ability to see others and care for them, as well as by cultural development through a direct contact with the richness of Christian culture, sacred music, in particular. Spiritual formation is achieved through active participation, along with a choir, in liturgical life (services) of a community. By preparing liturgical chants choristers enter into a closer contact with God’s Word (Word inextricably linked with music) which is present in various forms in chanted pieces. We hope that such kind of involvement genretaes the desire to receive holy sacraments and to develop in faith. Liturgical Year determines in the most natural way the rhythm of acquiring and deepening the mysteries of our faith. Repertoires of liturgical chants, as prepared by choirs, set the base for catechesis. On the other hand, performing liturgical songs by choir members may become a true challenge of faith if it is a conscious act. Faith professed in such a way brings the living presence of our Saviour and according to the measures assigned by God Himself (cf. Gen 1:26) 2. Music and liturgy So a central concern is the demand for music quality in liturgy: It means to encourage choirs and composers to convey the essence of sacrum through newer forms and different kind of sensitivity. Finding new forms of aesthetic expressions, of musical prayers as a form of language in presence of God – this is an important upcoming aim of PUERI CANTORES. Because singing is an outstanding form of active participation in liturgy (SC 30), Pueri Cantores have an important duty in encouraging the community to sing during the liturgy. Composing new sacred music two aspects should be taken in consideration: On the one hand the cooperation of choir and community, on the other hand the variety of the choirs’ composition. This way, the common repertoire of Pueri Cantores that consists of old and contemporary music will be developed continuously. 3. Open to the others In time of globalisation it is a very important mission for us to support choirs in other countries, especially developing ones, and to participate in activities for peace, justice and “one world”, which are promoted or initiated by the Church or other worldwide or Christian organisations (e.g. UNICEF, Red Cross, Caritas International, Pontifical Society of Holy Childhood etc.). PUERI CANTORES themselves can become messengers of tolerance and understanding between the religions and especially in ecumenism through singing and understanding the works of composers working within other Christian traditions and experience, and other plainchant traditions, religious folk and popular music, hymnody, and many, many others. 4. Communication Internet and Web 2.0 rapidly transformed the kind of communication in the past 20 years. Especially for saving and supposing the contacts in the times between the choir-meetings PUERI CANTORES advance the website: www.puericantores.org and the websites of the national federations. The using of Web 2.0 will be developed.