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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: When classrooms aren't classrooms

April 10, 2013|By Joe Puglia

I’m still at loss for words trying to express the essence of the La Cañada High School choral artists’ Cantemus tour through Central Europe. If you remember, when I last wrote, the choir had just finished singing in Bratislava, Slovakia.

“You are cultural ambassadors for America,” Keith Eddins, the chargé d'affaires of the American Embassy, told the La Cañada students.

Even the Greek heroes Prometheus and Hercules couldn’t prevent the divisiveness between the Titans and the Olympians. I hope the choir understood that it’s not power that unites us, but rather heart and gesture. Their voices spread goodwill, winning the hearts and minds of those present.

My story continues as we sailed the Danube to Vienna on a cold Monday. The music of Mozart and the philosophy of Goethe resonate in this monumental city, the gateway to central Europe. Vienna’s streets are paved with culture. During the students’ third performance, Jeff Brookey, the choral director, brought their final note to a climatic crescendo in Saint Francis Cathedral, which is famed for its acoustics. The choir stood breathless as they listened to a five-second echo and marveled at their beautiful voices. It was a musical moment and all present were wrapped by an epiphany that we had witnessed something remarkable.

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We docked in picturesque Krems, Austria. I spent time like a Bohemian with a cigar and a coffee at a local café, pecking at the great American novel. Through the window that opened to the main thoroughfare, I witnessed a metamorphosis. The angelic singers of LCHS transformed into kids savoring and rampaging through the desserts, souvenirs and charm of the town. When I observe kids, I realize that parts of ourselves given up for dead are merely dormant and that old joys often re-emerge, but in a different form. These kids were showing me how it’s done.

Amid the grand cathedrals depicting man’s most eloquent creations adorned with golden angels, flying buttresses reaching to the sky, and masterful artistic renditions of the divine, central Europe has fallen into a malaise of secularism. The only proof of God is from the angelic voices of the artists as they sing the holy liturgy in the cathedrals. Europe has lost its soul and after the artists sing, the colossal edifices built for the grandeur of God become silent and wait for the Messiah.

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