- Randy Hodge
Lifting our Voices in Song
Each March, the Diocese of Grand Rapids hosts an annual event called Songfest. All the fourth-grade students in the diocese are invited to West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids for a fun and exciting day.
This year, 461 students from 23 schools across the diocese participated in the 24th annual Songfest. The day starts with the students gathering at West Catholic for rehearsal. Deacon Dennis Rybicki, director of liturgical music for the diocese, directs the program. He begins the day going through and explaining the music and has students practice all the songs they will be performing that evening. The students have all been practicing in their music classes before the big day. He is assisted throughout the program by Mr. Kevin Varner, principal of Our Lady of Consolation School in Rockford, and Ms. Cindy Thomas, principal of St. Stephen School in East Grand Rapids, as moderators.
Each fall, the 4th grade students are assigned a pen pal from another school from within the diocese. They write letters back and forth throughout the fall and winter. Then following morning rehearsal, they get to meet each other during lunch. This year, our students shared letters with students from San Juan Diego Academy.
After lunch, it is back for dress rehearsal. Deacon Dennis leads them through the program one more time trying to emulate their performance as close as it will possibly be for the evening performance.
After dress rehearsal, each school has open time to explore before the evening begins. For St. Patrick School, we visit Frederick Meijer Gardens. This time of year is perfect because we can check out the butterfly exhibit along with walking around to look at the various works of art in their gallery and on the campus.
After visiting Frederick Meijer Gardens, we have dinner at Applebees. Following dinner, it’s back to West Catholic for a little time to relax before for the big show.
The evening program begins with a welcome and prayer from our diocesan Superintendent Mr. David Faber. Fourth-grade students lead the singing of our national anthem. It’s then followed by songs including but not limited to Blessed Are They, the Fifty Nifty United States and Go Light Your World. It is always a student and crowd favorite when the students “make it rain.”
Our students are excited about this opportunity to participate in Songfest. It provides for a memorable day and it also gives them an opportunity to see they are part of something bigger and more than just our school here in Portland. It’s an experience they share with their classmates making memories that will last a lifetime.