Whether she is sharing her musical talents in front of 150,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Francis seated just feet away from her, or performing in front of some 200 faithful, including Father William Forrey, pastor, gathered in a small rural church like Holy Infant in Manchester, it is equally a blessing, Sarah Hart says – no matter where she gets to share her love for Jesus and lead people to Him with her beautifully written and sung prayers.
Hart performed a 90-minute concert on March 28 at Holy Infant, where she shared her Grammy-nominated song Better than a Hallelujah that she wrote nearly 15 years ago. In a relaxed, spiritually rich performance, Hart invited the audience to sing along and engaged the parish youth in a sing-along as well. With the lights dimmed and the early spring sun setting, the ambience of her deeply Catholic-rich music clearly resonated with those gathered. This evening was one of her three performances in the last week of March, including one at St. James Parish in Lititz as well. Many Catholic parishes include her songs in their liturgical repertoire, including Holy Infant.
Not only did Hart perform some of her favorite renditions, she also shared stories of her faith-filled childhood and her experience of performing for the Holy Father and then getting to meet him after her nerve-racked, but wonderful performance at St. Peter’s. When it was her turn to meet the pope, she hugged him and, crying tears of joy, her eye make-up smeared all over the pontiff’s white clerics.
Hart’s work is littered throughout Today’s Missal, which features many of her modern written hymns parishes can use in their liturgies. She has written and co-written hundreds of songs that have garnered numerous awards. In addition, her words have been sung by Amy Grant, Celtic Women and The Newsboys, to name only a few. The Nashville-based artist has two college-aged daughters with her long-time husband, and she travels extensively performing, leading workshops and speaking about her faith.
The evening was highlighted by her engaging wit and dynamic energy sprinkled amongst the soul stirring music she performs with guitar or keyboard in hand. In an interview prior to performing, Hart shared her evident passionate spirit for her work in a warm engaging manner.
“It’s a pure joy, and I am very grateful that this is what I get to do with my life, and for every moment I am grateful,” Hart said. “I am humbled, and it is an honor to get to write music for the Church and sing for the Church.” She knows how important it is to be theologically correct and liturgically sensitive while writing songs that can be easily sung by church choirs and congregations.
She added that performing still is an “amazing experience” for her after decades of doing so for various audiences.
“There is something sweet and humbling when people are singing something you have written…. I consider myself a modern liturgical writer…. To be honest, I hate the word ‘contemporary’ Christian music because it puts a negative spin on something so beautiful. I wish the word contemporary would go away – it just causes divides, and we do not need that today. There is room for chants, 1800s hymns, or a song written last year. It’s how we do it, and do we do it well.”
Doing it well, it seems, is what Sarah Hart has been doing for her audiences large and small with her inspired musical ability.
(Photos and video by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness