Mass ‘Rocks’ at South Carolina Parish

HNP Communications Features

This is the ninth in a series of articles about the music ministries of Holy Name Province. The previous installment — in the Aug. 24, 2011, issue of HNP Today — featured the music ministry of Holy Name Parish in New York City.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Saying that the “Mass rocks” and is “Spirit-filled” is often how parishioners describe the music program at St. Anthony of Padua Church.

Music director Stanton Greggs said that parishioners enjoy attending church services because St. Anthony offers authentic music for an African-American Gospel-style Catholic church.

With a variety of musical traditions under his belt, including a New Orleans style, and the experience of having grown up in the Baptist church, Greggs has led the church’s nine choirs for the past 14 years.

Greggs — with assistant director Ann Poole — directs the three folk choirs, the male chorus, the Gospel Choir, the Sanctuary Choir, the Unity Choir, and the children’s choirs. Each group includes approximately 12 members.

The church, he says, welcomes approximately 300 persons to each of its three Sunday Masses.

Singing from the Heart
“Our choirs are so successful because they sing from the heart about songs that describe coming up the rough side of the mountain,” said pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM.

This theme is the title of a CD that the Gospel choir released in December. “Rough Side” includes songs that describe climbing on the rough side of the mountain, according to Greggs. The $10 CD is available by calling the church office (864-233-7717). Proceeds from its sale go to the St. Anthony of Padua Scholarship Fund.

“Many, many of our choir members have difficult lives and they desperately need Jesus and faith in the Holy Spirit,” added Patrick.

People find hope and healing in the St. Anthony music program. “They come to hear the word of God, but they like the music,” Greggs added. With a degree in music from Claflin University, Orangeburg, S.C., Greggs plays the keyboards and sings solos, in addition to directing the choir. He also runs his own music school. He composes all the church’s music and likes to rearrange traditional compositions to put the St. Anthony of Padua Church touch on a piece of music, which he calls “uplifting, joyful, heart-touching.”

For example, at the Christmas Masses, the traditional hymns of “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night,” were accompanied by saxophone, guitar and bass.”

The Heart of the Soul
“Music is the heart of the soul here,” said Greggs. “We give God the glory and praise through music. We make music touch your heart.”

“If I can touch only one person, I’ve done my part. I’ve done my job for the day. A lot of people are grieving and have problems. When we’re finished singing, they go out the door happy.”

As a result, he added, people are often seen expressing emotion through both joy and tears.

This success doesn’t come without much practice, and Greggs estimates that each choir works one hour a week preparing for Mass. Choir members don’t need to be accomplished singers, but Greggs asks that they “sing a little bit. I’ll work with them on the rest,” he said with a smile. “We have lots of energy and personality, and I take them as they are.”

He describes the music program by saying: “The word of God is most important. The music enhances it. Music stimulates the mind and heart. People come in hurt and depressed and music stimulates them. When they go out the door, people laugh and clap.”

“We offer very uplifting, inspirational, heart-felt music. When you leave, you know you came for something and you got it.”

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.