From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Omak Franciscan among voices for SOAR’s latest ‘Sisters in Song’ project

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the April 12, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Sister Maurita Bernet of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls hadn’t even heard of the Sisters in Song recording series until shortly before she auditioned for the third installment in the project.

The Sisters in Song albums are a fund-raiser to help offset the retirement costs of men and women Religious in the United States. The proceeds benefit an organization called SOAR — Support Our Aging Religious.

The recordings of sacred and inspirational music blend the talents of Sisters from all across the United States. The first two albums have raised over a half-million dollars.

Sister Maurita herself has been ministering in various capacities in the Spokane Diocese since autumn of 1989, in the Omak area. Most of her work has been in various types of ministry to the Hispanic community, in social service capacities, and in fact she now works for the State of Washington in social service.

Although music is part of her background — she taught music for seven years some time ago — most of her active music work is in music ministry at Sacred Heart in Brewster. She learned about auditions for the third Sisters in Song album when she got a phone call from her community’s offices, telling her about deadlines.

“I got this message saying, tomorrow’s the deadline, if you’re interested contact so-and-so,” she said in a telephone interview. Her audition tape could include her singing any song she liked, with any instrumentation she wanted. “It sounded like a good, fun thing to do,” she said.

“I got home that night, got out my guitar, and did ‘How Can I Keep from Singing’” into a tape recorder in her living room.

She hadn’t realized the scope of the project before she got involved, either — that Sisters came together from all over the United States. She was the only one from Washington. “There was one from Alaska, maybe two from Oregon,” she said.

Once she heard that she’d been accepted, she flew to Los Angeles, where the recording sessions took place. She was one of 85 Sisters singing on the project, gathered in Los Angeles under the direction of noted liturgical composer Christopher Walker.

Part of the challenge of the project was the timing: there was just one week last June when Walker was available for the project, and so it had to be completely rehearsed and recorded in that week’s time.

With music in hand ahead of time, the Sisters “flew in on Sonday, and started rehearsing on Monday,” she said. A little more taping was completed the following Saturday; a live concert of the music was given Saturday night.

Attitude was everything, she said.

Walker told them, “This is 75 or 80 percent psychology,” she said. “We never talked about pitch or anything like that. I credit a lot of it to him. He knew when we needed to relax, told stories on himself, about himself, his experiences. He was full of stories.

“Walker kept saying, ‘There are no cabooses. Everybody’s an engine.’ He had a great sense of humor about everything,” she said.

As one song was completed they started immediately on another.

Despite the pace, “it seemed to me that everybody felt it was going well,” she said.

The latest sessions ran until about 11 p.m., she said — hard work, with long days.

Still, “it was a neat opportunity,” she said. “I really enjoyed it.”

(The Sisters in Song albums are titled, respectively, Sisters in Song Rejoice!, Sisters in Song Christmas Spirit!, and Sisters in Song Celebrate!. The recordings are distributed by Oregon Catholic Press and can be purchased directly from OCP by calling 1-800-548-8749 or from OCP’s web site (click here), or from the project’s web site -- click here.)

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