Sara Conway ’21
Any Providence College student who attends Mass at St. Dominic’s Chapel is familiar with the choirs whose voices flood the room with sweet melodies. Recently, I sat down with Gabrielle Manion ’18, the student director of Schola Cantorum, to talk about her experience.
Sara Conway (SC): I know that you are a music major (with a history minor), so what caused you to choose these areas of study?
Gabrielle Manion (GM): I’ve played the piano since I was in first grade, so that was always a part of my life. I wanted to continue with music in college because I had given so much of my time to it and realized I could make a living doing what I love [while] using my gifts well. I added a history minor my junior year because I’ve always had a deep fascination with history and taken many classes at college already. Music and history have a lot of overlap, but history is a way for me to explore something that I love outside of music.
SC: When did you join Schola Cantorum? How did you hear about this choir/why did you join? How did you become their student director?
GM: I joined Schola Cantorum my freshman year and have been a member ever since. I think I heard about the choir when I came and visited PC my senior year of high school. The group was listed on a program for one of the Masses. I’ve been involved in liturgical music since middle school and so I knew I would continue doing so at PC. Schola did the type of music that I have a deep appreciation for—Gregorian chant, polyphony, et cetera, so I was really eager to join. I became the student leader this year after applying through Campus Ministry. I had accompanied Schola for two years under the previous director, Susannah Clarke, so I knew the ropes pretty well.
SC: What are some positives in leading Schola? What are some of the challenges?
GM: One positive aspect of leading Schola is that I get to help and see each singer growing throughout the year. That sounds so cliché, but it’s true! I love having the opportunity to bring out the best in people’s musical gifts and see them putting their gifts to use. It’s also a great privilege to provide music for Mass so that’s definitely the highlight. There are challenges, of course. It can be hard to let go of control and realize that it’s in God’s hands. I often think that if I work the choir really hard or if I’m a better leader, we’ll do better. And then I have to step back and remember that we do our best when we offer it up to the Lord and don’t get consumed by every mistake.
SC: What is your process in choosing the music (if you have one)? What kinds of pieces especially inspire you?
GM: My process for choosing music is: I look at the readings for Mass and think about the liturgical season and mood. I want to pick things that the choir enjoys and will lift the hearts of the congregation to prayer.
SC: What is one of your favorite pieces that Schola has sung (if that is not an impossible question)? What is your greatest takeaway about leading/being part of Schola?
GM: I think my favorite piece Schola has done is Tantum Ergo by Gabriel Faure (Sorry men, I know this is a ladies only piece!). The women worked so hard on this beautiful piece. I suppose my greatest takeaway from Schola is the privilege of working with my friends to praise God. It’s a really unique opportunity since Schola is a close-knit group and it’s beautiful to share this goal with people I love.