Carmelite Nuns Use Technology to Celebrate St. Teresa

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RENO, NV - It's a 500-year-old religious order, its members scattered across the world, separated from each other, and often from the world outside. It's now brought together for the first time by song and technology. It's an historic moment that began in Reno.

They come from 23 countries across the globe. Speaking different languages, few have ever met face to face. Now they are joined in song, brought together, blended by technology: a virtual choir.

The members of this choir are nuns of the Discalced Carmelite order. Each face and voice recorded in their monasteries or homes around the globe, many of them still living in cloistered communities.

It began when someone showed Dolora Zajick a YouTube video of a virtual choir performance of Eric Whitacre's Lux Arumuque. Zajick is an international opera star and a friend of Reno's Carmelite community.

"I thought, why not have something that they could all participate in vicariously?"

Sister Claire Sokol, who wrote the song, said, "She said, put this into your google search and I did. And I heard a virtual choir for the first time. I was absolutely amazed."

One day after a meeting she gathered the other sisters around her computer. "And I heard sniff...sniff. They were crying as they looked at this. And I didn't look around at them. I just said 'Can you imagine trying to get a group of Carmelite nuns together to do this. And they said, 'We have to try.'"

She began contacting others around the world. Sister Christine Morel and the others at her monastery in Normandie watched and listened.

Souer Christine Morel of Carmel Du Havre in France said, "And after, there was a big silence. And after about three minutes, several of the members of my committee said 'Well, we have to be part of this.'"

All this happens as the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Carmelites' founder, St. Teresa of Avila, approached.

Friday, August 22, 2014, in a cathedral in San Jose in a commemoration of that birth, the virtual choir premiered. A hundred voices blending. The piece, composed for the event by one of their own, Sister Claire herself.

"There's so much sadness and brokeness in our world that I hope people will be inspired to believe in the goodness of human beings and will be touch by a spirit that is beyond us."