Motet choir to sing at Divine Mercy shrine

St. Jude Church in Fredericksburg is building a new church. Until it's completed, the congregation worships in a converted warehouse in Fredericksburg. Despite meeting in a place where motorcycles and jet skis once were sold, the church has an accomplished motet choir.

A motet is a type of chant, sung by a choral group in polyphony. Usually choirs sing with one voice. In polyphony, singers sing independent melodies. It's a form of music that has roots in the Renaissance and was sung in churches and cathedrals for centuries. The music is complicated and takes hours of practice to pull off successfully.

Johanna Rubin is the director of the 18-member St. Jude Motet Choir. She also teaches Gregorian chant and blended singing.

Rubin said that in a motet choir, you should not be able to identify an individual singer.

Her father, John Joseph Garvey, was a pre-eminent composer of liturgical, classical and contemporary music. He imbued a love of music, including polyphony, in his daughter.

Garvey began writing music for the the Arlington Diocese in the late 1990s, when he was a parishioner of St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg. Father Paul D. Scalia, the bishop's delegate for clergy, was a parochial vicar then and asked Garvey to compose music for the Latin Mass at the church.

This tradition of liturgical music continued with Rubin. About a month ago, her group was invited to sing at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. The shrine is a ministry of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Divine Mercy Sunday is April 12, and it's a big celebration at the shrine, with expected attendance of 20,000. A motet choir that was supposed to sing couldn't perform, so the music director of the shrine called Rubin. The celebration will be broadcast live April 12 at 1 p.m. on EWTN.

The opportunity is challenging.

"We are practicing to fill two and a half hours on Divine Mercy Sunday," she said.

Rubin said that St. Jude Church has been supportive of the choir and its appearance at the shrine. She also said that the Marian Fathers are helping financially to make the trip a reality.

The group will drive a convoy of cars to the shrine April 10 for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing for Divine Mercy Sunday.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015