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PHOTOS: Cantata spends weekend in New York City

Choir performed Missa Gaia/Earth Mass in honor of the Feast of St. Francis Day Celebration.
STATELY+SPACE+%E2%80%A2+Cantata+members+admirethe+view+from+their+seats+in+St.+John+the+Divinein+New+York+City.
Matthew Ramirez ’26
STATELY SPACE • Cantata members admirethe view from their seats in St. John the Divinein New York City.

Since 1993, music teacher Mr. John Shankweiler has taken Strath Haven’s Cantata choir to New York City for Paul Winter’s Missa Gaia/Earth Mass for the Feast of St. Francis Day Celebration.

In the morning hours on Saturday, September 30, Cantata students loaded into a KRAPF coach for The Cathedral of Saint John Divine in New York City. Upon arrival, students saw the steps to the cathedral’s main entrance for the first time.

“I was shocked by the beauty, and I felt honored to be singing in such a gorgeous cathedral,” junior Jeremy Peyton-Jones said.

The Cathedral of Saint John Divine began construction in December of 1892 and remains unfinished to this day. The cathedral spans a floor area of 121,000 sq. ft. as well as a length of 601 feet. This makes the cathedral the sixth largest church building in the world.

As part of the trip, students took the subway to the Theater District, shopped, and ate lunch. They also watched the Broadway musical, Six the Musical.

“The cast was incredible. I was especially inspired by the power of each woman’s voice. I loved the message, too. It was awesome to see an all-female show changing a historical narrative that definitely deserved a rewrite,” senior Jo Kelly said.

The following morning, on Sunday, October 1, students woke after a night’s sleep after being on the streets of New York City on the floor of the cathedral’s hot basement gymnasium.

“It was a little bit uncomfortable and was way hotter than expected, but you get used to the temperature, in the end, it was okay,” sophomore Pearl Tweedy said.

Breakfast consisted of various options of bagels, cream cheeses, fruit, and beverage choices between coffee or orange juice. After breakfast, the choir prepared for their performance with a quick rehearsal and sound check.

Missa Gaia/Earth Mass is a contemporary mass recorded in 1982 that musically discovers the range of the living world. The mass was written and first performed at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

Since then, the mass is annually performed at the cathedral on the first Sunday in October for celebration of The Feast of St. Francis. The Feast of St. Francis Assisi is a holiday of the Catholic Church that acknowledges the environment and animals of the world.

The mass was opened with “The Beatitudes” from Missa Gaia/Earth Mass. The choir also performed “Canticle of Brother Sun,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” “Kyrie,” “Missa Gaia,” and other religious pieces such as “Alleluia,” “Ubi caritas,” “Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” and “Iemanja.”

The Cantata trip is an opportunity that Shankweiler opens to students every year.

“I know that over the years, students really love the experience,” Shankweiler said. “The uniqueness of the music and the experience makes it enjoyable for students; singing in a building that’s two football fields with four thousand people in there.”

For many, it was the first time traveling with Shankweiler to perform Missa Gaia/Earth Mass. Shankweiler noted that students were hard-faced with the difficulty of such intimidating conditions.

“A lot of ninth graders were putting music together in like four rehearsals,” Shankweiler said. “It was catchy and fun music, but it’s really hard to go into a professional situation with professional musicians and other choirs that know it. I think we held our own pretty well.”

After years of commitment, providing an experience to students motivates Shankweiler to continually participate in this event.

“We educate by giving the students an experience that they would never have in their life if I didn’t do it,” Shankweiler said. “But the real question is: would they do it again next year?”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Ramirez '26
Matthew Ramirez '26, Social Media Editor
Matthew Ramirez is a sophomore and a member of the Haven Yearbook. Matthew enjoys photography, art, and listening to music.
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