When her parish’s congregation didn’t sing along to “Silent Night” at a recent Christmas Mass, choir director Karen Rose Thorpe decided to do some sleuthing.
Thorpe, who leads the music ministry at St. Joseph Parish in Aston, was puzzled that some hymns seemed to resonate with parishioners, while others — even well-known ones — fell flat.
“I created charts to determine which songs worked, and at which Masses,” said Thorpe. “It was a scientific, ridiculously obsessive-compulsive analysis.”
Yet the data proved inconclusive.
“There was no rhyme or reason,” said Thorpe, who is also a singer-songwriter and recording artist.
Determined to better engage the congregation with the music at Mass, Thorpe reached out to veteran liturgical composer and performer Steve Angrisano, inviting him to give an Oct. 27 workshop and concert at her parish.
Angrisano, who has been active in contemporary Catholic music since 1998, is no stranger to Philadelphia.
The Texas resident, who co-wrote the hymn “Go Make a Difference,” composed “Love Is What We Need” for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. His performances blend song with storytelling, and the selections from his latest album, “High Above Our Way,” are “songs for a praying, singing congregation.”
“They’re not concert songs,” said Angrisano via email from his most recent tour. “The songs are really meant to be prayed.”
Angrisano notes that asking why congregations are — or aren’t — uplifted by liturgical music is actually inaccurate, since the whole purpose of music is inspiration.
“I think what’s important is that we remember to express our faith and love for God with music that inspires us captivates our hearts, just was we express our love for each other with music that inspires us and captivates our hearts,” he said.
Although she has not yet attended one of Angrisano’s performances, Thorpe is confident of his ability to energize her parish’s music ministry, which has long relied on his compositions.
“We do a lot of his music in church, and I never get a negative response,” she said. “He connects the traditional with the contemporary, and he’s reached beyond compositional levels to the spiritual.”
During both the workshop and concert, Angrisano will continue to rely on the power of storytelling to help participants connect the Gospel to their everyday lives.
“If all of us really allowed the good news of the Gospel to permeate our entire life, people would be knocking on the door to find out what we were doing in the church,” he said. “No words are necessary.”
Steve Angrisano will lead a liturgical music workshop at St. Joseph Parish in Aston on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the main church. The workshop, which is open to all regardless of one’s musical abilities, will be followed later that evening by a concert at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person for the workshop, $15 per person for the concert, or $25 for both events ($20 for groups of 15 or more). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://stjosephaston.org or email Karen Thorpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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