Cathedral’s multi-faceted choir program

By Christina Gray

Lead writer, Catholic San Francisco

[email protected]

Longtime director of music and cathedral choir director Christoph Tietze arranged a special Jubilee Concert April 3 to commemorate five decades of sacred music at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The event spotlighted two of the cathedral music program’s four distinct choirs: the cathedral adult choir and the children’s choir. The cathedral also boasts a men’s ensemble and a Spanish language choir.

“Ours is a multi-faceted music program that tries to incorporate all age groups and nationalities,” said Tietze, who has served as the cathedral’s music director for 30 years and brings a deep knowledge to the role. A native of Germany, he holds a bachelor of arts in music from San Jose State University, a master of music and a master of musical arts from Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, and a Doctor of Sacred Music from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

The Cathedral Choir is a semi-professional adult ensemble of about 15 singers. Eight of the singers are professionals. “It’s beneficial to the volunteers because they get to do music that in a regular parish choir they wouldn’t get to,” he said.

The Cathedral Schola Cantorum is a semi-professional men’s ensemble specializing in the interpretation of Gregorian Chant.

The St. Brigid School Honor Choir is a program of the Cathedral Choir School. The program is a comprehensive choral music program for children, encompassing instruction at the elementary school. Members sing for school and cathedral functions and also participate in other archdiocesan and private events.

The Coro Hispano provides music for the cathedral’s Spanish language Mass.

Tietze said he is working to build up Coro Hispano.

“We would like to emulate what goes on in Latin American cathedrals,” he said.

Cathedral director of music and choir director Christoph Tietze. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco)

The commemorative concert consisted of works dedicated to the Blessed Mother, including the world premiere of “Ave mundi spes, Maria,” by Hungarian composer Barna Szabo, scored for choir, children’s choir, organ and strings. This work was especially commissioned for the occasion.

The concert was part of the cathedral’s long-running weekly concert series, held each Sunday at 4 p.m.

“The flagship of the music program is the organ,” said Tietze of the Italian-made Fratelli Ruffatti organ. It has been acclaimed as one of the finest in the world.

“It is certainly one of the most photographed instruments in the country,” he said.

With 5,042 pipes, 66 stops and 92 ranks — organ-speak for its incredible musical capacity — the organ was built in 1971. A five-year renovation project on the instrument was just completed, according to Tietze, including the addition of some new pipes.

“It’s in pretty good shape for the next 50 years,” he said.