Music brings an important dimension to a church service since it is the most abstract art form. It is not seen and it cannot be touched, but brings life to a liturgical celebration and symbolizes the mystery of God’s presence among us.
Mr. Steven LaPlante, M. Mus. (718) 236-0124 x23 Director of Music Ministries
The choirs of St. Athanasius Church have been under the direction of Steven Laplante since 1999. Steven began his training on the pipe organ at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He started winning competition prizes within three years, most notably first place at the 1993 John Robb Competition and second place at the 1996 Royal Canadian College of Organists National Competition. He subsequently became a finalist at the Bach International Competition in Switzerland.
Steven came from a religious family, being exposed to liturgical ministry as an altar server, cross bearer, reader and organist, playing simple hymns and accompanying a small choir at the local church in Summerland, British Columbia. He began his studies at McGill University in architecture, but decided on a change to music/organ performance upon hearing and seeing on several occasions the behemoth Von Beckerath organ at St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal. Within ten years, he was one of the youngest guest recitalists on that famous organ for the “Concerts Spirituels” summer series.
Mr. Laplante’s experience with choral singing began at age 18 when he joined the adult choir of the crypt church at St. Joseph’s Oratory, being exposed for the first time to polyphonic music of the great masters. Over the next few years, he sang at Christ Church Cathedral (Montreal) and St. Matthias’ Church (Westmount), acquiring vital knowledge of the English Cathedral repertory and witnessing the most beautiful church music ever written. During this time, Steven climbed the ‘choral ladder’ every year while at McGill University going through Men’s Chorale, University Chorus, Concert Choir, and finishing with the prestigious ensemble of twelve called Chamber Singers. Meanwhile, important studies of conducting and vocal production were undergone as well as a double major in voice. Steven Laplante was then ready to conduct the choirs of Westmount Park United Church and Montreal West United Church. Upon arrival to New York City, he was appointed Music Director at the Anglo-Catholic church of St. Paul, Carroll Gardens, overseeing a professional-quality choir of twenty voices and playing a large three manual vintage Austin pipe organ. He led music for a congregation that numbered several prominent musicians, including the head of the musicology department for the New England Conservatory, the Dean of the Copland School of Music, and the early music group “Parthenia.” For several years, Mr. Laplante has sung professionally in New York as soloist and in choral ensembles such as the Early Music Foundation, Metro Chamber Orchestra, and the National Chorale at Lincoln Center.
When Mr. Laplante arrived at St. Athanasius Church over a decade ago, he had a difficult mandate to accomplish which was to build the music program from ‘ground zero’. There were no choirs, no cantors at the organ masses and no established serious musical tradition. What a project! Now the church boasts of a 20 member Festival Adult Choir, a seven voice semi-professional Schola Cantorum, a children’s choir, handbell choir, guest instrumentalists for major celebrations, a roster of several cantors, and one of the premier church music programs in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
THE ENGLISH FESTIVAL CHOIR
Provides music at the 11:30 am ‘High Mass’ in the Upper Church. Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings at 8 pm. This choir, with women vested in traditional robes and men in suits, sings a blend of classical, contemporary, and gospel music. Our Festival Choir prepares an anthem each week and provides beautiful four-part harmony and descants to psalmody, hymns and mass parts to help congregational participation in singing.
THE SCHOLA CANTORUM
Provides an assortment of difficult classical and classically based modern choral music. Rehearsals are on Sundays after the 11:30 am liturgy in the Lower Church. A weekly Communion Motet is prepared in Latin or English, with a strong focus on the great tradition of Renaissance polyphony. All members read musical notation at an advanced level and are trained singers.
THE CHILDREN’S CHOIR
Provides a beautiful addition to our music program with musical presentations offered twice per month at the 10 am liturgy. Rehearsals are on Thursday afternoons at 2:30 pm in the Upper Church. These children prepare a special choir piece each time, usually in a contemporary or Light Christian Rock style, and occasionally sing with the Festival Choir on special occasions.
Some choristers also specialize in playing hand bells that are used to enhance various choral arrangements.
THE FX-1 ORGAN
Two years ago, a small group of parishioners memorialized a Yamaha FX-1 organ that is used in praise worship. The purpose of utilizing this unique instrument, really a compilation of massive synthesizers, is to have a ‘one man praise band.’ Much of our modern Catholic music is derived from ‘popular’ music and this rare organ, numbering less than one dozen in the entire world, best represents this style of musical writing. Parishioners have reacted in an extremely positive manner to this new instrument that is capable of synthesizing every instrument in a very realistic manner. This unique instrument is heard at the Saturday 5:30 pm and Sunday 10:00 am masses.
provides music at the 11:30a.m. Italian Mass in the Lower Church. Drawing most of its hymns from La Famiglia Cristiana: Nella Casa del Padre, the choir leads music from the sanctuary, vested in choir robes. Weekly rehearsals are held each Monday at 8p.m. in the Lower Church. The "Italian" Choir provides Organ accompanied music for English-Italian bilingual Masses as well as major feasts of the parish, joining with the "English" and "Spanish" Choirs.
Director: Mr. Tony Vigilante
THE "SPANISH" CHOIR
leads music at the 10a.m. Spanish Mass, in the Lower Church. Using Oregon Catholic Press' Flor y Canto, the choir sings from the sanctuary, vested in choir robes, to the beat of accoustic guitars, bass guitars, bongos, and keyboard. Hymns are also provided on Worship Programs featuring the rich Latino heritage of regional Spanish hymns sung throughout Latin America and South America.