SALT LAKE CITY — "The Choir," a 90-minute documentary about the Madeleine Choir School and choristers, received rave reviews after two private screenings June 7 and June 27 at the Salt Lake City Library.
Bernice Maher Mooney, former Diocese of Salt Lake City archivist, said the film was inspiring and she liked its historical aspect.
Paula Fowler, Utah Opera director of education and community outreach, found the film and camera work elegant and the story and students compelling; "filled with joy and good work," he said.
Jeffrey Tucker, Sacred Music Journal managing editor, wondered why Catholics from around the country aren’t moving to Salt Lake and "fighting for places in this brilliant school," he said. "Surely that is coming. Nothing this wonderful can be kept a secret long."
The documentary was a labor of love, said Michael and Miriam Kearns, executive producers. "The idea came about one Sunday evening while we were attending Mass at the cathedral and also planning our wedding," said Michael. "It wasn’t the impressive Gothic revival interior or the distinctive stained glass windows, it was the sound and beauty of children’s voices emanating from behind the ornately carved wooden screen on the back of the altar. We were so surprised to see a mix of boys and girls streaming down the aisle at the conclusion of Mass from the Madeleine Choir School, founded only months before."
"We were moved," Michael said. "We wanted them to sing at our wedding. Who knew that 10 years after our son was born – he will be in seventh grade – that we would be listening to his voice as part of this superbly trained choir that astonished us years before. It was then that we decided to tell the story of this choir, its history, the visionaries who created the school and those talented teachers who produce one of the finest children’s choirs in the world."
"I am a product of Catholic schools," said Michael. "My family has supported Kearns Saint Ann Orphanage and Catholic schools for the past 100 years. We produced this film because we liked what heard. This is the only co-ed choir school in North America."
Under the direction of Gregory Glenn, Madeleine Choir School pastoral administrator, the Madeleine Choir School began as an after-school choir training program and was established as a full-time middle school in 1996. It opened as a K-8 elementary school in 2003, and in 2007 a pre-kindergarten program was added.
"We wanted to document what the children actually accomplish with the guidance of a small faculty and staff," Miriam added. "It’s really remarkable what they do and their level of music is so extraordinary for children their age. The children are taught to understand their sense of service to the community."
The film shows how hard the choristers work. "It shows the guidance from Melanie (Malinka, director of music)," said Michael. "There is a staccato piece in the film where various people say, ‘She’s tough.’ She’s incredible."
The documentary was put together to share the experience and showcase the school with people outside of Salt Lake, said Miriam. "When people hear ‘children’s choir,’ they think of a glee club, but their level of musicality is unbelievably sophisticated and very serious."
The Kearns plan to enter their documentary into film festivals around the world and afterward will give the film’s rights to the school, said Michael, the president of Silver King Media who has been a publishing executive for 25 years in New York and Utah. Previously, was an owner of the Kearns Tribune and owned TCI Cable.
Miriam is the co-founder of Silver King Media and an award-winning magazine editor. She also hosts the "Utah Home & Garden" television show.
For information about "The Choir," visit www.thechoirfilm.com.