By Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer | Published September 28, 2016 | En Español
Sometimes I go out on a photo assignment with one thing in mind, and then I discover something else in the process. That was the case last week when I went to St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, to photograph Deacon Joe Pupo.
Deacon Pupo was serving with the main celebrant and pastor, Msgr. Daniel Stack, during the 7 p.m., Thursday Spanish Mass, but my attention was drawn to the beautiful voices and instrumentation of the parish’s Divine Child of Jesus youth choir. On this particular night, in addition to the vocalists, there were 7 mandolin players, five acoustic guitar players, a bass player and some percussionists.
“This is probably my favorite Mass,” said Msgr. Stack before he started his homily. “The kids and their singing knock my socks off.”
Martin Torres put the choir together in September 2011, and today it has some 40 members, age 17 and under. Twenty-four-year-old Marcela Guzman performs with the choir under Torres’ direction and provides guitar and mandolin lessons to the children. Torres and Guzman are of Mexican decent, but many of the children’s families come from Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico.
Kelly Guartado, 12, said the choir is fun because they get to learn new things and make new friends. Twelve-year-old Christian Zuluaga has been in the choir for nearly a year. Zuluaga, who was born blind, makes the added effort of memorizing every song in the choir’s repertoire. “I enjoy singing for God,” said Zuluaga.
After Mass as Guzman stands by, Torres points to two girls he said cried when they were first learning how to play the guitar and mandolin. “The word ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist in our vocabulary,” said Guzman. “Like many others they persevered, and now they’re dedicated and gifted musicians.”
The choir rehearses on Monday evenings, and they sing on Thursdays for the 7 p.m. Spanish Mass. “The children have taught me a lot,” said Torres. “They are honest, and they give their all to the choir.” Torres thought it was important to provide the choir as an outlet to the children, so they could learn about God, avoid drugs and gangs and learn to love each other.