On June 29, 124 teenagers from eight student choirs in six states gathered in Washington, D. C. Upon arrival, the positive energy was palpable, and the mass choir’s focus and intensity was readily apparent the minute they began to sing.

After several mass rehearsals over the next four days and a miniconcert at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, this lean and mean combined choir descended upon the National Cathedral on Saturday evening, July 1 for its Grand Concert. Not only was it an exciting experience; beyond that, it was an evening filled with transcendence and beautiful holy moments. The students and orchestra did a spectacular job together! The music, the scripture recitations, the other speaking parts all came across without a hitch.

In a rehearsal toward the end of the week, I had mentioned to the students in the week: “In 26 years of bringing student choirs to the National Cathedral, you are the smallest mass choir we have ever gathered. However, musically, chorally, focus-wise, balance-wise and tuning-wise, you are clearly in the top 5 of all the mass choirs we have brought together here.” They seemed rather happy about that distinction. But after the Grand Concert, I would fine-tune that statement even more to say: these 124 singers were musically and chorally in the top 2 of all choirs we have put in the National Cathedral. Yes, they were that impressive! And beyond their ability in choral singing, they were also a kind, sweet, and respectful community of soon-to-be adults. It personally gives me great hope to think about these young leaders being in charge of our world someday!
A thousand thanks go out to all the directors and adult counselors who brought their teenagers to Washington, D. C. the week of June 29 through July 2. The hoops these directors jumped to make this festival a reality is truly something special in this, the first YouthCUE evening coming out of the pandemic.

This was the YouthCUE festival that was planned and carried out against all odds and following a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. It would take way too much time and space to go item by item enumerating the planning challenges of this event. Suffice it to say, the designing and execution of this festival was hands down the most demanding project YouthCUE and its staff have ever faced.

Grand Concert Video Link: https://youtu.be/4bdH7tf1vpQ

I will mention one crucial decision made early in the planning process. We determined from the beginning that we would require vaccinations for all participants of the festival. We lost some choirs registrations and participation over that issue, and we understand and completely respect viewpoints and directors who disagree with our assessment of the vaccination issue at YouthCUE events. YouthCUE, being an entity for bringing together students, directors, and counselors into a mass group from across the United States, felt our responsibility was more complex than that of a local church set in one community with one congregation of people.

As it turned out, we believe the actual events in D. C. confirmed our decision to require vaccinations, although our attitude is not one of “knowing we were right.” We humbly set out to provide as safe a space as possible. That was our only goal. In the middle of June, a new wave of COVID began making its ugly way across the nation, giving all our groups an extra challenge above even what we had anticipated. The truth is that a significant number of festival participants returned home and quickly tested positive for COVID.

The good news is that the vaccine requirement may have helped those who did catch COVID to have lighter cases, some being entirely asymptomatic. We believe the vaccinations may have contributed to the cases being light. In our case, bringing students and adults across the nation into Washington D. C. and spending time together singing and becoming community, we felt that liability issues alone made the vaccination decision necessary, not to mention the moral obligation of doing our best to keep everyone safe. While we honor other’s views of this issue for themselves and their churches at home, the YouthCUE staff, board and risk management of the organization all agreed this was what was best for our event.

Here are the directors who made this event what it was. They and many others across the country who felt they could not participate in the festival are all heroes at YouthCUE because of your commitment to your students. Thank you for all you do week by week, month by month, year by year for your youth choirs.

It is my hope that, as some form of new normal becomes a reality in the coming days, we will have many more times when YouthCUE festival and other events can thrive across the United States.
Thank you for being a part of the dream, the vision, the YouthCUE network!

Randy Edwards
[email protected]


Birmingham, AL
Dan Lawhon, Director

Gainesville, GA
Mark Green, Co-Director
Glenn Eernisse, Co-Director

Waynesville, NC
Mitch Huskison, Director

Greenwood, SC
Joshua Harrington, Co-Director
Beverly Psomas, Co-Director

San Antonio, TX
Randy Edwards, Director

Signal Mountain, TN
Beth DuRoy, Director

San Angelo, TX
Tim Lyles, Director

Austin, TX
Emily Craven, Director