Music’s important role in our diocesan history

By Jeremy Korba

Special to The Message

75th Anniversary Reflection

Since the cornerstone of St. Benedict Cathedral Parish was laid, music has played an important role in the liturgical life of the parish. From a small choir loft with a very small pipe organ, musical prayer began to fill the Church. Early services were no doubt led by a small, dedicated choir (schola) in mostly Latin chants.

As music styles changed from chant and acapella singing to accompanied hymns, a parish choir program developed. A new pipe organ was installed in 1943 thanks to a donation by the Fendrich family. With a new, larger instrument in place, the style, scope and grand nature of the music continued to grow.

Music for many important diocesan events was provided from the small, cramped choir loft – including the 1999 dedication of St. Benedict as the Diocese of Evansville Cathedral. The choir loft served as the primary home for the choir and musicians until around 2005 when they were asked to move to a temporary home on the side of the Sanctuary. This “temporary” home was in place for nearly 12 years, and then another temporary spot behind the altar was used. The parish choir and expanding diocesan choir were growing too large for the space they were occupying, particularly for diocesan liturgies.
As renovation plans for the cathedral were made, the location of the choir and primary music ministry was an important question. It was decided that a significantly enlarged choir loft would be the most reasonable choice. A gathering space, cry room, storage and an additional restroom would be located below the newly expanded loft. The new loft would accommodate the needs of the parish and diocesan choirs, along with housing the musical libraries of the choirs.

The parish choir has been in place for well over 50 years. They sing every other Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. Mass and at other important liturgies throughout the year. When I was hired as the first Director of Music for the Cathedral and the diocesan choir, I was charged with trying to combine some of the resources to grow the ministry. Thanks to the hard work of Anthony (Tony) Buccilli and many others, the diocesan choir program was well underway when I arrived as music director. It has continued to grow and includes an even larger mix of people from across the diocese. The choir recently sang an ordination with members ranging in age from 14 to their early 80s.

The future looks bright for the music ministry at St. Benedict Cathedral. The parish choir is learning how to use its new home in the expanded choir loft. We are busy preparing for the Nov. 6 dedication of the renovated cathedral. New people are joining the parish and diocesan choirs. Young people are involved and encouraged to participate in many ways.

We were thrilled to accept the gift of a new pipe organ from a non-parishioner. It is scheduled for installation in mid-2022. This new organ will be a significant addition to the cathedral and the diocese, and it will provide an amazing opportunity for organists and musicians for years to come.

I am excited that our musical efforts are providing prayerful liturgies for the Diocese of Evansville. Let us sing our praises to the Lord!

Korba is Director of Music for St. Benedict Cathedral Parish and the Diocese of Evansville choir. His wife Jennifer serves as director of choirs.