In the rear of St. Dominic Church in Washington on a Saturday
afternoon last May, Matt Klosterman felt the pressure. The
parishioner of St. William of York Church in Stafford and
technology trainer for the Arlington Diocese was about to
audition for the Papal Mass Choir, that will sing at the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
in Washington for Pope Francis' Mass Sept. 23.
"When it was my turn, I could not remember ever being that
nervous before," said Klosterman. "Not for my wedding, not
for basic training, not on stage in high school. When I was
doing my audition, my hand shook so badly, I had to clench my
fist to make it stop."
Klosterman was called to the front of the church and given
four selections to sing. The soaring ceiling of the
19th-century church provided the perfect venue for his
"One gift that God gave me was the ability to bellow," he
said. "When I sang for the audition, (I sang) loudly enough
to hear myself echoing off the back and ceiling of the
It worked. Of more than 300 who auditioned, Klosterman was
selected for the 90-member choir. Liz Isbell, a parishioner
of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria and another staff
member of the chancery, also was selected for the choir.
The self-described "bass 2" sings the lowest range in the
"Think Caiaphas in 'Jesus Christ, Superstar,'" Klosterman
He started singing in high school with the choir of All
Saints Church in Manassas and has sung with choirs at Holy
Spirit Church in Annandale and the chapels of Shepard Air
Force Base in Texas and Mountain Home Air Force Base in
Idaho. Currently, he sings with the St. William of York choir
and the Arlington Diocesan Choir.
But none of his experience could prepare him for the rigorous
rehearsal schedule of singing in the Papal Mass Choir.
Under the direction of Tom Stehle, choir director of the
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington,
rehearsals are every Monday, 7 to 9:30 p.m., at St. Mark the
Evangelist Church in Hyattsville, Md.
"Stafford and Hyattsville aren't exactly across the street
from one another," Klosterman laughed.
In addition, the music the Papal Mass Choir has been
rehearsing is a challenge. The selections include pieces in
English, Latin, Spanish and a bit of French.
"You're dealing with over 20 songs being sung by a choir of
90 people, most of whom have never sung together," said
Klosterman. "But it should sound spectacular once we iron
The Sept. 21 rehearsal will be the last one the choir holds
on its own. They will join a gospel choir, intercultural
choir, the choir of Catholic University in Washington and the
Choir of the Basilica at the shrine Sept. 22 for a dress
rehearsal expected to last some seven hours.
On the day of the papal Mass, Klosterman will meet his fellow
choir members at St. Mark for a charter bus to the shrine,
arriving around noon for last minute warm-ups and practice.
They will begin their performance at 3 p.m. with a prelude
and sing for the Mass around 4:15 p.m.
To prepare for the big event, Klosterman has simple plans:
"The night before, I plan to get sleep," he said. "My best
bet would be to even avoid talking after the (final)
The significance of this event is not lost on Klosterman who
said the highlight of the Mass for him will be the
canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra.
"I will get to not only attend but participate in a Mass
celebrated by the leader of all Christendom, with a
canonization rite thrown in for good measure. There's not a
whole lot of people who can say that," he said. "For someone
who appreciates the beauty and solemnity of the holy
sacrifice of the Mass, there's not much more to hope for."
Witko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
The response that will be sung for the prayer of the faithful
during Pope Francis' closing Mass for the World Meeting of
Families in Philadelphia Sept. 27 was written by Rick Gibala,
director of music at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in
Gibala received an email during planning for the pope's
liturgy in Philadelphia, asking permission to use his music.
"I was in shock," said Gibala. "It's amazing to think the
pope might very well be singing my response.
"I feel like now I really have 'been to the mountain,'" he