Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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

‘Swingin’ with the Saints’ features chorales, jazz orchestra

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the April 10, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Michael Saccomanno is director of the music ministry at Sacred Heart Parish, Spokane. (IR photo courtesy of Michael Saccomanno)

Saturday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m. – with doors open at 7 p.m. – the music ministry of Spokane’s Sacred Heart Parish, 219 E. Rockwood Blvd., presents “Swingin’ With the Saints: A Chorus of Faith Singing the Rhythms of Praise.” Performing will be Sacred Heart’s choir, Schola Cantorum, and from St. Joseph Parish in Vancouver, Wash. the Bravo! Vancouver Chorale, plus, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, members of the ecumenical Northwest Sacred Music Chorale. A 17-piece professional jazz band will also participate.

There will be a total of 100 singers. Guest soloist will be composer and clarinetist Dr. Michael Kissinger, artistic director of the Bravo! Vancouver Chorale. Dr. Maria Manzo, music director of the same chorale, is music director for this performance, and Michael Saccomanno, music director at Sacred Heart Parish, is artistic director and producer. Dr. Kissinger and Dr. Manzo are also the co-founders of the Bravo! Vancouver Chorale.

Works to be performed are Dr. Michael Kissinger’s “Sacred Cantata,” selections from Duke Ellington‘s “Sacred Concert,” and “Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Band,” also by Dr. Michael Kissinger. One movement of Duke Ellington‘s “Sacred Concert” is for choir, jazz band, and one tap dancer, Ashley Cooper from Coeur d’Alene.

The parish’s regular 5 p.m. Mass will be celebrated that evening. The liturgy will include sacred music styles ranging from gospel, to jazz, to spirituals, and traditional hymns, with instrumental accompaniment by a 12-piece orchestra. All are welcome to attend this Mass.

Saccomanno said that “Dr. Manzo and I have discussed collaborating with our two choirs for many years, and the opportunity to perform (together). ‘The Sacred Cantata’ proved to be the right catalyst to turn talk into reality. The opportunity for two strong music ministries to collaborate is rare, and the chance to use the many talents of musicians from both Vancouver and Spokane to perform contemporary sacred works was too good to pass up! Coupling Michael Kissinger’s exciting eight-movement cantata with selections from Duke Ellington’s classic ‘Sacred Concert’ ... seemed ... a great way to rejuvenate both parishes.

“By this, I mean that the beauty of the Catholic liturgy is the routine, but there is a challenge here for parishes to connect with people in a new, exciting way,” said Saccomanno. “Events like ours offer a perspective not usually seen in churches – Catholic or any other. It is refreshing to hear the stories and messages of the church told in a new way.”

Members of Sacred Heart Parish’s Schola Cantorum commit to Wednesday night rehearsals from 7 to 9 p.m. and one Sunday Mass – normally at 11 a.m. – each week. In addition, the choir sings for feast days as well as other special liturgical celebrations, out reach performances, and so forth. Saccomanno said the choir is open to all community members ages 16 and over.

The Bravo! Vancouver Choir, from St. Joseph Parish in Vancouver, has released two commercial CDs, a live concert recording of G.F. Handel’s Messiah: An Oratorio, and Hear My Prayer: The American Spiritual. This choir, together with the New Washingtonian Jazz Orchestra from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts (a high school in Washington, D.C. dedicated to education in the arts), undertook an East Coast tour in 2001. The combined group performed concerts at the National Pastoral Musicians 25th Anniversary National Conference in Washington, D.C., and at Alice Tully Hall, at Lincoln Center in New York City. In 1998, the Bravo! Vancouver Choir toured Italy, giving concerts in churches in Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome.

Coeur d’Alene’s Northwest Sacred Music Chorale, according to the group’s website, has “performed to very enthusiastic audiences, some of which have been ‘standing room only!’ We have been recognized by other musical organizations in the Inland Northwest as witnessed by the invitation we received from the Spokane area ‘Cathedral in the Arts’ series to participate in the April 2003 production of “Missa Gaia” at the (Episcopal) Cathedral of St. John, the Evangelist.”

The jazz band which will perform for the April 26 concert has been organized for this event only. It is made up of professional musicians from the Spokane area, many of whom are members of the Spokane Jazz Orchestra.

Father Mark Pautler, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, said, “I had a chance to hear just a bit of a workshop conducted by Mike Kissinger and Maria Manzo the weekend of Feb. 23-24. People in our music ministry commented on how enthused and energized they were by the program. Mike and Maria also joined our regular music group for the 5 p.m. Mass on Feb. 23. If that was a sample of the full meal we will share on April 26, you’d better make your reservations now!”

(Tickets for the April 26, 7:30 p.m., “Swingin’ With the Saints” performance are available by calling 509-747-5810. The suggested donation for tickets is $10 each. The event is not a fund-raiser; Saccomanno said that virtually all income will be dedicated to covering expenses for production.)

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