Friday, August 12, 2022

Musicians Bring Sacred Art to Life with ‘Falling into Music’ Recitals

Opera, operetta, musical theater and sacred songs were the highlights of a trio of recitals presented by esteemed musicians as part of the ‘Falling into Music’ program presented at three Harrisburg-area churches this fall.

Tenors Christyan Seay and Dr. David O’Donnell and baritone Matthew Robinson were accompanied by pianist and organist Daniel Dorty – bringing art to life as they performed selections such as “The Lord is My Light,” “Fix Me Jesus,” “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” and “Pie Jesu.”

The series was organized by Robinson, who serves as a soloist and cantor at four parishes in the Diocese and has performed with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, West Shore Symphony Orchestra, Center Stage Opera, Oyster Mill Playhouse, Little Theater Mechanicsburg, Sylvan Chorale and the Carlisle Theater Company.

“My goal for this recital series was to provide quality, thoughtful, live music to our community following the pandemic. Music warms hearts and brings people together, and I think our recital series did just that,” Robinson said, adding that performing the recitals “with close friends and colleagues of many, many years makes it all that more enjoyable for us.”

The recitals were held at St. Patrick’s Historic Shrine Church in Carlisle, Camp Hill United Methodist Church, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Mechanicsburg.

“We are very blessed to be able to perform these concerts after the prohibitions on singing during the worst of the pandemic,” said Dr. O’Donnell, who is the Director of Music at St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle. “The ability to bring musical artworks to life in front of a live audience is the most exciting aspect of being a musician, so it was difficult when the pandemic prevented opportunities for these performances.”

“After the initial lockdown, almost the only institution where any live music was offered was Catholic churches. For Dan, Matt, and I, who all work regularly in Catholic Church music, the Church’s insistence on only live music for services was very important to them in an artistic sense, as they were able to continue to perform music in the liturgical context,” said Dr. O’Donnell, who has performed with Opera Lancaster, Capitol Opera Harrisburg, Harrisburg Opera Association and Messiah College Opera Theater, among others.

Robinson and Dr. O’Donnell were joined in performances by Seay, who has performed extensively with the Harrisburg, Lancaster and West Shore Symphonies, among others, and by Dorty, director of music and organist at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Mechanicsburg and the collaborative pianist and organist for the Susquehanna Chorale.

Robinson expressed gratitude to Father Donald Bender, pastor of St. Patrick’s, and Father Charles Persing, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, for opening their parishes for the recitals, and encouraging parishioners to attend.

“Sacred music in our churches is the foundation of all four of us as musicians. St. Augustine of Hippo [is attributed] with, ‘He who sings prays twice,’ with which we all whole-heartedly agree.  Our goal in presenting and contributing to worship is to enhance the people’s worship as they lift their hearts to the Lord,” Robinson remarked.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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