Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Mercy’s Taizé Choir Sings For Installation Mass

By MARIE MULVENNA, Special Contributor | Published January 20, 2005

Members of Our Lady of Mercy High School’s Taizé choir had a unique experience Jan. 17, as they sang for the Canonical Rite of Installation of Atlanta’s new archbishop, Wilton D. Gregory. The students will long cherish the special moment, for they were the only high school choir selected to take part in the historic, celebratory event for the archdiocese and the church in North Georgia.

Formed only three years ago at the young Fayette County school, the members of the Taizé choir were radiant in their enthusiasm and outstanding in their vocal skills as they took their place on the choir risers, directly behind a group of musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They performed with excellence as they sang in a special style of music named after the renowned village of Taizé, France.

Mercy Choir directors Cynthia and Franck Launay-Fallasse first met in France when they served four years with a volunteer organization called L’Arche, a group well-known for its work with people with disabilities. They are both now faculty members at Our Lady of Mercy High School, located in Fairburn on Highway 279. Cynthia teaches English and drama, and Franck teaches religion. The couple took part in Taizé singing while in France and loved its simple style and format. Taizé music is noted for its chant-like style of repetitive words and melodies focusing on themes of trust, joy and simplicity. Its simplicity makes it easy to join in, Cynthia Launay-Fallasse adds, explaining that the message reaches one’s heart.

Three years ago, when several students at Mercy asked about the possibility of a choir or glee club at the new regional Catholic high school, the Taizé choir was born. Students knew Franck’s love of singing, and the resulting ensemble was a natural fit.

The Taizé choir has performed at several events in the archdiocese, including a performance at the Chrism Mass in the spring of 2004. The group of 22 teens has participated in numerous parish special events in Atlanta. The popularity of Taizé style music and the role of the Mercy choir have brought keen interest from the student body where 50 students auditioned this year and a waiting list is growing.

The history of the Taizé community itself began in the 1940s when a young Brother Roger came from Switzerland to the tiny village located in the Burgundy area of southern France, intent on creating a community where simplicity of life was paramount and the mission of welcoming and kindness would be a way of life. Today, Taizé is a towering symbol of ecumenical welcoming and the spiritual discipline of simplicity. People from all over the world flock to the site in hopes of experiencing its spiritual sharing and a renewed deepening of one’s inner life. Taizé is served by a community of over 100 brothers, Catholic and Protestant, who represent some 25 different nationalities. They are committed to a life of work and utmost simplicity and decline donations or gifts of any sort. Visitors to Taizé often assist in daily chores with the brothers.

When Brother Roger began his ministry in the old house in Taizé, the doors were instantly opened to others. In World War II, Taizé became a haven for countless refugees fleeing the war, especially for Jewish victims who sought refuge from their persecution by the Nazis. The stories of the sheltering ministry of Taizé are legion.

After the War, Taizé became a home for youngsters who had been orphaned. Two orders of sisters arrived on adjacent property to assist in the welcoming ministry of Taizé to others. Today, the brothers are present in small groups in many parts of the world, living almost invisibly in area of poverty and need, as they live out their commitment to those in desperate condition, bringing unity, love and hope.

The number of guests visiting Taizé grows constantly with a particular appeal for young people who flock to the tiny village for their own inner search for a life that will help others. One estimate put summer visits at over 5,000. Prayer and worship three times each day includes singing as well as silence and personal reflection. It is a very individualized pilgrimage at Taizé, marked by the utmost simplicity and quiet moments for contemplation.

Taizé services are held in churches all over the world—churches of all denominations—and its popularity continues to grow. Taizé is a recognized beacon for all seeking solace and unity in a troubled world.

Cynthia Launay-Fallasse describes Taizé as a “harmony of voices and of people.” It is a symphony of diversity and caring, each visitor taking home his or her own ecumenical pilgrimage to others, strengthened in inner life and commitment to all who share this one world.

The students of Our Lady of Mercy have given Atlantans a taste of Taizé with their melodious message.