‘The Gift of Music’ Highlights Catholic Schools Week

A long-awaited winter sun illuminated the distinctive green steps of Allentown Central Catholic High School (ACCHS), where an eager crowd had gathered in anticipation of the 49th Annual Diocesan Music Festival.

ACCHS hosted the Feb. 3 festival, which showcased the abilities of students from the six diocesan high schools. The musical event capped Catholic Schools Week, a national celebration of Catholic education.

Once inside the high school's Masson Auditorium, attendees were welcomed by Father Stephan Isaac, chaplain of ACCHS. Father Isaac opened the festival with a prayer of thanks for “the gift of music, which lifts our hearts and minds and helps us to grow closer to You.”

ACCHS Principal Randy Rice, in his remarks at the beginning of the program, shared that “the coming together of our students, choral groups, and instrumental ensembles has been exciting to witness. Their love of music is the key ingredient for creating an experience that they will always cherish.”

Dr. Michael St. Pierre, Superintendent of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Allentown, noted, “In the Catholic tradition, the arts provide us with a perfect opportunity to bring us closer to God. We are drawn to the true, the good, and the beautiful through the arts. So what a great gift this is!”

The audience of nearly 200 rose to its feet for the first number, a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The piece was performed by the Diocesan Band directed by ACCHS’s own Pamela DePietro.

The program continued with a selection of band favorites, including the “Colonel Bogey March,” popularized as the tune whistled by soldiers in the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”

Instrumentalists from Allentown Central Catholic, Berks Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Marian Catholic, Nativity BVM, and Notre Dame high schools comprised the Diocesan Band, their glinting brass and gleaming uniform whites lighting up the assembly. On the stage in front of them, a spike-leafed bouquet of yellow flowers echoed the ACCHS school colors of green and gold.

After the Diocesan Band performance, the Diocesan Choir, a group of nearly 50 student vocalists, took the stage. The choir’s selections ranged from the sweet ballad “Slow Dancing in the Snow” to an energetic interpretation of “Hail, Holy Queen.”

The final song in the choir program was the Scripture-based “Go Ye Into All the World,” a fitting piece for Catholic school students being prepared to answer Christ’s call to discipleship and evangelization.

The Diocesan Band and Diocesan Choir combined their talents for the closing number, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Sister Mathilde DeLucy, S.C.C., assistant director of ACCHS Campus Ministry, directed the vocalists, and Pamela DePietro led the band.

Printed in the festival program was a QR code that enabled performers in both band and choir to receive congratulatory messages. Fans and admirers could scan the code to have notecards created and sent to students at their respective schools.

Observed across the United States, Catholic Schools Week is now in its 50th year. In the Diocese of Allentown alone, it is celebrated by 8,600 students, 600 full-time teachers, and 34 schools. The national theme for this year’s observance was “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community.”

Affirming the purpose of Catholic education, Dr. Michael St. Pierre said, "Our schools are not only centers of academic excellence, but really living laboratories, in order for our students to grow in virtue and their love of God.”

Article by Celeste Behe. Photos by Nick Chismar.


Mass Livestream