By Barb Arland-Fye
RIVERSIDE — Music ministers from parishes throughout the Davenport Diocese gathered Dec. 6 for a service of Advent lessons and carols that also served as a get-acquainted session for a Diocesan Ensemble.
Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy, told the gathering of about 50 people at St. Mary Catholic Church in Riverside that one of his hopes since arriving in the diocese was to see the establishment of a diocesan ensemble. It’s a way of creating community, he said.
He expressed appreciation to Kay Temple, a master of ceremonies for Bishop Martin Amos, for taking on establishment of a diocesan ensemble as a ministry.
Bishop Amos presided at the service of Advent lessons and carols, an abbreviated version of a service of Scripture and song called Festival of Lessons and Carols that originated in the 19th century.
Although the music ministers were singing together for the first time, they and Bishop Amos found the experience uplifting and encouraging for the genesis of an ensemble.
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” a traditional German carol, was the service’s opening song. Bishop Amos invited the gathering to “recall the advent of the One whom all the prophets’ oracles foretold.”
Five Scripture readings, or lessons, were read, each followed by a carol. A participant lit a candle before each lesson; the bishop said a prayer after each carol. The service ended with the singing of “Go tell it on the Mountain;” the joyful cadence prompted some singers to sway to the music.
Bishop Amos thanked the singers afterward, pleased that they were sharing their musical talents beyond individual parishes.
“It was wonderful, and Bishop was so uplifting and encouraging,” said Mona Ball, who plays the organ for St. Joseph Parish in Hills. “It was fantastic,” said her husband, Terry, who leads St. Joseph’s choir. “It was just a joy to see the teaming up throughout the whole diocese.” In fact 12 participants came from the nearby Hills parish. Judy Stebral, another Hills parishioner, said she’s excited about being able to sing in a larger venue, in addition to singing in her small parish.
Karen Keninger, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, traveled to Riverside with fellow parishioner Bryan Healy and her sister, Teresa Haifley, the choir director and organist at St. James Parish in Washington.
“I was interested in singing with a choral group,” said Keninger, who is employed as director for the Iowa Department for the Blind. She was thankful to Temple and Deacon Agnoli for providing her with music ahead of time to be translated into Braille. “This is a good introduction,” Keninger said after the service.
Temple assured the participants afterward that they were all welcome to be members of the ensemble. Tryouts weren’t necessary. “This isn’t about competition; it’s about coming together to sing and praise the Lord.”
The ensemble’s first time assisting at a diocesan liturgy will be for the Rite of Elect on Feb. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. Musicians will prepare in a variety of ways, but “there’s going to need to be at least one rehearsal beforehand, where we’ll try to get as many people as possible to come together as a group,” she said.
Temple, a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, is organizing the Diocesan Ensemble as part of her independent study toward a master’s in theology at Loras College in Dubuque.
“I didn’t start this out intentionally as part of a class at Loras. I started out simply because we need a diocesan ensemble,” she added. She hopes to maintain the enthusiasm and cohesiveness of the group. The ensemble will continue, she said, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For more information about how to participate, contact Temple at firstname.lastname@example.org.