By Celine Klosterman
FORT MADISON — In honor of St. Cecilia, patron saint of music, singers and instrumentalists from throughout the Keokuk Deanery will gather later this month to celebrate and praise God through song.
St. Cecilia, Sing! will take place at Ss. Mary & Joseph Church in Fort Madison at 3 p.m. Nov. 15, a week before the saint’s Nov. 22 feast day. More than 70 members of parishes in Mount Pleasant, Burlington, Fort Madison, West Point, St. Paul and Houghton will perform at the free concert, one of many that the National Association of Pastoral Musicians encourages Catholics to organize each November.
“Music helps us lift our hearts and souls to God; it can touch places mere words can’t,” said Diane Mahoney. She is director of liturgical music at Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and one of three concert coordinators.
A member of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, Mahoney helped coordinate a St. Cecilia, Sing! concert last year at Ss. John & Paul and at Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington. This year she decided to take the event deanery-wide, which she said offers smaller choirs the opportunity to sing music they wouldn’t normally have enough members for.
Having more voices means Catholics can offer an even larger gift of song to God, said Luanne Pruett. She is another concert coordinator and a choir director at Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison.
“There’s a saying that singing is praying twice,” she said. “I think the words of hymns are essentially prayers.”
The concert also frees choirs to tackle pieces that may not fit into a certain Mass, noted Carleen Fedler. She is a concert coordinator and a choir director at Holy Family.
The hour-long performance will feature Scripture readings and the accompaniment of piano, organ, percussion and Father Troy Richmond, Holy Family’s pastor, on trumpet. Mahoney promised a “wide variety” of traditional and contemporary hymns, including Gospel, folk and sing-along selections.
“People in church choirs sing not only because they love to sing, but because they love sacred music,” Fedler said. “Singing, to them, is prayer. It’s worship.”
A reception will follow the concert, which organizers hope will become an annual event.
The saint whom the performance honors was a Roman martyred in the early centuries of Christianity. In images, she often appears with an organ to acknowledge the legend that while pipes were playing on her wedding day, she sang in her heart to only God.