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Home Again, A Reflection on the Windy City

To misquote the Blues Brothers: "It's 850 miles to Chicago. It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses. Hit it!"

The boys of Saint Paul's Choir School visited the home of Jake and Elwood, the Windy City, in April. Like them, the boys were traveling to tour and perform. Unlike the Blues Brothers, however, their venues were some of Chicago's finest churches and one surprise performance at Union Station! Their mission? None other than the repleatur, "let my voice be filled with God's praise."

Chicago is not only the home of the famous singer/songwriter brothers from Saturday Night Live, it is also a hub of culture and history. It is a city that offered a myriad of educational opportunities for our students' young minds to explore.

For an all-boys Catholic middle school, a visit to Chicago is not just a trip; it's an enriching experience that combines faith, culture, and education. This journey was made up of fun, friendship, worship, and music -- all spread across key destinations like Saint Luke's Parish in Evanston, Saint John Cantius Parish, Holy Name Cathedral, the Hancock Tower, an architectural boat cruise on the Chicago River, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Saint Luke's in Evanston holds significant historical and religious importance broadly, but also for our Interim Director of Music, Richard Webster. It is Mr. Webster's home away from home, where he served the parish as Music Director for years before joining Saint Paul's. The parish walls tell the story of Saint Luke with their beautiful architecture, reliefs, and sculpture. The church's serene atmosphere offers a chance for reflection and spiritual growth. Moreover, it holds relics of Saints Joachim, Benedict, and Theresa. There, the boys sang the beautiful Ceremony of Carols by Britten.

Saint John Cantius Parish, known for its stunning interior adorned with intricate artwork and stained glass, provides a glimpse into the rich traditions of Catholicism. It was a fitting place for the Boys of Saint Paul's Choir School to sing the Mass in the traditional Gregorian Chant of Solesmes, France.

As the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Holy Name Cathedral stands as a symbol of faith and community. Its grand architecture and spiritual ambiance make it an ideal place for students to learn about the history and significance of Catholicism in the city, where it sits squarely in the center, surrounded by skyscrapers, high-rises, high-end shopping, and - of course - two McDonald's restaurants.

Our visit to the Hancock Tower offered students a chance to marvel at one of Chicago's most iconic skyscrapers. From its observation deck, they enjoyed panoramic views of the city and gained a deeper appreciation for urban architecture and engineering. Those who participated in "Tilt" also received a unique view while they were lowered off the observation deck in an all glass enclosure!

Many, many thanks to Michelle Melvin for hosting all of us for dinner! Our sincere thanks, as well, to Mr. Richard Webster, our Interim Director of Music, for sharing Chicago with us and treating us like family!

As tourists, and not performers, the boys' highlight was the architectural boat cruise along the Chicago River, which provided them with a unique view of the city's skyline and architectural landmarks. They learned about renowned architects and architectural styles while cruising past iconic buildings like the Willis Tower and the Wrigley Building.

The Museum of Science and Industry provided a treasure trove of exhibits and interactive displays for the boys to explore. From exploring the wonders of science and technology to delving into Chicago's industrial past, students engaged in immersive learning activities that complemented their classroom studies. The most popular of which was found in the James Bond exhibit and challenged students to hang from an I-beam for as long as they could. It didn't complement their studies as much as the artifacts of Westward Expansion, but they argued quite convincingly that it was a meaningful lesson in both biology and physics.

All said, our visit to Chicago blended spiritual enrichment, cultural immersion, architectural marvels, and educational exploration. From the solemnity of historic parishes to the awe-inspiring skyscrapers of the city skyline, every aspect of the journey contributed to our students' growth and learning. Not just a trip, it was a transformative experience in which our students grew in curiosity, appreciation, and understanding of the world around them.



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