October 24, 2019
Dear Loved Ones,
My Hungarian father Francis adored a beautiful Italian girl named Julia, Italian opera, and singing in church. When he wasn’t serenading love songs to my mom, he could be found singing along to the recordings of Mario Lanza, Enrico Caruso, and Luciano Pavarotti. On Sundays, he then shared his voice and talent with two church choirs. Each week, he could be found singing at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church 9:00AM mass and the 11:00AM mass at St. Aedan’s Catholic Church in New Haven, Connecticut.
I am disappointed that I didn’t inherit my dad’s beautiful tenor voice. I never worked at developing my voice like my dad, but I do enjoy singing our hymns each Sunday. I believe that singing helps us to express our love towards God with our whole being and is joyful noise to the Lord! Throughout Scripture and in our worship, we are commanded to sing—whether we have talent or not. Or can carry a tune or not. Or have confidence or not.
We read in Psalm 98:5 “Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!” and “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2) . True worship happens when the heart sings. Suddenly, we are filled with the Spirit, and then we devote everything we are to worship, thanksgiving and praise.
You may have felt it before, when you have that goosebumps feeling after you hear a particular chord, or a tear comes to your eye when a familiar refrain is sung. Our body and heart actually responds to the music and when we sing together, we begin to feel a physical transformation of the heart and a corporate connection to God.
In our desire to feel that connection, we have undergone a long transition time with our music program this past year. Carol Weisel, Dru Torregrossa, Bruce England and Andrea Pugh assisted me with this process and to them, I am most grateful. Musical talent, an abiding faith, personal and professional integrity, and a commitment to worship, were our criteria for a new Director of Music.
I am happy to say that we found that in Joel Alarcón our new Director of Music. Joel has demonstrated his commitment to this Parish by introducing his lovely and devoted family to us, including them in our music program, and kneeling with them at our altar rail. I haven’t asked him if he knows how to play the lyre, but he certainly can play the violin and piano! His musical abilities with the violin especially, give me goosebumps and bring tears to my eyes. A number of parishioners have told me of the same physical reaction!
His musical family, including Ray his wife, Luke his son, daughters Rachel, Alli, and Leah, and niece Kaylia, can often be found by his side. Many from this talented family often accompany him with the organ, viola, piano, violin, clarinet and even, ukulele. His mother, Zolia, a music and art teacher from Honduras, can often be found playing the flute beside him. Even his niece Anna, on a recent visit from Spain, played the violin one Sunday morning. Kaylia and Leah are new acolytes, too! Joel and his entire family actively demonstrate how music with a variety of instruments, styles, and sounds, along with a commitment to worship, can profoundly touch our hearts in surprising ways. Their love for each other is evident, and we are blessed to have them lead us in song and worship.
You can read from his impressive resume, linked below, that Joel brings to us a wealth of talent and experience. His commitment to teaching, as a newly appointed adjunct violin instructor at Cecil College, will afford him opportunities to build a local music program. Soon, Joel will offer music lessons for local school children at SMA! We are excited about the possibilities and will keep you informed of this new ministry.
Beyond teaching, Joel shows a willingness to embrace and incorporate your talents into our worship experience. Two Sunday’s ago, he played an awesome violin/guitar duet with fellow parishioner and guitarist Dell Lord during our 10:00AM service. Longtime parishioner and guitarist, Rick Waterhouse, is also encouraged to continue to sing and play at our 8:00AM services. If you have musical ability, please speak to Joel and share it with us!
We were also blessed to discover Alex Bi during our search process, and have offered him the position of Choir Director. Alex demonstrated his piano and organ talent early in the interim period but in the spring, returned to China to visit family. He returned to the States this summer and is now enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Maryland. We have asked him to contribute his musical abilities to building our choir. Like Joel, Alex has an impressive resume–especially as a composer—so we are blessed for him to contribute his talent to our worship experience.
Our choir, which had been on a long hiatus, will begin to rehearse with Alex on Sunday mornings following our 10:00AM service. As I mentioned earlier in this letter, our choir is vital to our worship so we encourage singers, from beginning to advance, to join in.
Alex is developing plans for growing our choir and together, he and Joel want to offer concerts too. Their collective abilities and collaboration, and their cultural diversity, promises to bring a unique richness and variety to our music program and worship. Their efforts, along with the addition of your potential musical interests and willingness to learn and participate, can help us all work toward that physical transformation of the heart.
Please consider becoming part of our musical future! Let’s overcome any hesitation and collectively and boldly sing, from the choir or the pew, a “melody to the Lord with your heart”. With this new and exciting plan in place, and the blessings we have been given, we have every reason to sing praises to the Lord, and to give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us lift every voice and sing—“Alleluia!”