Prayers answered: Groton-Dunstable chorus will sing at Italian basilica


By Anne O’Connor

GROTON — The high school chorus forced to pass on an opportunity to perform at an Italian basilica on Easter Sunday has rescheduled a performance at the historic venue.

The Groton-Dunstable Regional High School Chamber Chorus will perform a concert of three works between Easter Sunday Masses at St. Anthony’s Basilica in Padua.

“Keep in mind that this is a complete break in tradition for St. Anthony’s and it speaks to the level to which they were excited for us to perform,” wrote Chorus Director Tim Savoy, Principal Michael Woodlock and Superintendent Bill Ryan in a letter posted to Facebook. “It is a great honor that they would alter tradition to allow us to perform on this very special day in their religious year.”

A performance scheduled for Easter Sunday Mass at the basilica was canceled by former Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez on the advice of legal counsel after the district received a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The private interest group said that the performance would violate a clause in the First Amendment.

The decision was not popular. “As many of you know, the need to reschedule this has caused a stir throughout the media and in our towns,” the educators wrote.

“It is our hope that, going forward, we continue to be positive and set the right example for our young people,” they wrote.

Americans United contacted the district after receiving a complaint from a former school committee member, Leslie Lathrop. Lathrop said in an interview last week that she objected to the students performing during a Mass but not with their performance at the basilica.

Lawyers contacted by the Nashoba Valley Voice said it would be difficult to prove that the originally-scheduled performance violated the First Amendment.

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