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Silent night? Not at joyous Christmas Masses

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SAN DIEGO — Music ministries across the diocese are busy fine-tuning their songs, getting ready for holiday Masses.

One of them, the youth orchestra and choir at The Immaculata Parish, will serve at the Christmas Eve Family Mass at 4:30 p.m.

Their leader, Rose Musico, stresses that they are not “performing” but rather “serving” through their musical gifts. She has led the parish’s Youth Music Ministry for about seven years, ever since her daughter was in the second grade and a choir member; today, she’s in high school.

The ministry is currently composed of 17 vocalists and 11 musicians; of the latter, a few play for the San Diego Youth Symphony. From diverse cultures, they range from second-graders to seniors in high school.

“They are resilient and joyful,” said Musico, “and they get better every year.”

They have been rehearsing together on Sunday afternoons since the end of October for the Christmas Mass. On a recent Sunday, they began by playing and singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” They also will be presenting “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night,” “The First Noel,” and ending with “Joy to the World.”

The orchestra has five violins, three violas, three harps; and one flute and one clarinet  — though not all will be present at the Christmas Mass.

Musico plays the piano to cue the musicians and vocalists and Susanna Han serves as their conductor.

Last year’s Christmas Eve Mass is still fresh in Han’s mind. She had just started mentoring the string musicians when she was tapped to lead the entire ensemble just before the Mass started.

“Oh my gosh, I’m going to faint,” she recalled thinking. “But I did not faint. They sounded great, and it turned out to be one of the most meaningful times of my life.”

The mission of the Youth Music Ministry is “to engage the youth in an integral way in the liturgy and parish community and to nurture and inspire our youth to a lifelong love of music and ministry by building their musical skills and confidence,” according to the parish website.

Each rehearsal starts and ends with a prayer.

Musico has a simple message for her young charges.

“We’re there to lift the spirits of parishioners and visitors up to heaven. I tell them that the choirs of angels are all singing with us. It’s all for God’s glory.”

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