Siena Musicians Play at St. Anthony Shrine

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province


BOSTON — Earlier this month, two groups of HNP musicians collaborated to make a “joyful noise.” Siena College’s music ministry, Psalm 150, performed with the Arch Street Band of St. Anthony Shrine at two Masses on April 9, an experience that was gratifying for all involved — musicians and leaders, laypeople and friars.

A busload of 50 singers and instrumentalists traveled from the Loudonville, N.Y., campus to the heart of Boston to both share prayer and music, and to get to know the community of the nearly 70-year-old ministry center. Psalm 150 includes members of the college’s chamber ensemble and praise band.

“The vibrant energy and spirt of devotion were palpable during both Masses,” said George Camacho, OFM, who because of his role as an intern in the Siena Chaplain’s office, accompanied the group. “Psalm 150 and the Arch Street Band worked together seamlessly and created a rich prayer experience. As a member of the congregation, it was impossible to resist both singing along and moving to the beat of such inspired music.”

The collaboration was initiated by Kate Kaufman Burns, Siena’s director of liturgical arts. Burns said, “In the spirit of continuing to build bridges, to build community, to spread the Good News, and to help promote a vibrant and resounding spirit of worship, I try to arrange a visit each year to a Franciscan community. This enables Psalm 150 to ‘make a joyful noise,’ work in collaboration with other ministers to enhance the worship experience of those gathered, celebrate the gifts that these young people are to our larger communities, and learn from those involved in similar ministries throughout Holy Name Province.”

She continued, “Three years ago, we were guests at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, where our music ministry celebrated a Saturday Mass in October. It was a beautiful experience — one we all cherish and hope to repeat one day.”

Appreciating Hospitality
In Boston, Siena’s musicians were “welcomed with open arms” by Thomas Conway, OFM, executive director of St. Anthony Shrine, and Mark Emery, director of the Arch Street Band, where Siena Psalm 150 joined the professional musicians to perform at the 4 p.m. and the 5:30 p.m. Masses, said Burns.

“When Psalm 150 joined us for two Masses that Saturday, they demonstrated how easily a large group can mobilize when everyone’s heart is focused similarly,” said Emery. “I was immediately taken by the maturity, focus and Franciscan spirit of these students. Director Kate Kaufman Burns is clearly beloved by her ranks, and radiates the type of grace that this type of collaboration requires.”

Emery also noted that the groups only had one hour to rehearse the music together.

“The cooperation, listening and artistry all pointed at the Mass, not at us, and that was remarkable,” he said. “The day required sacrifice, the ability to switch gears and manage energy and attention to detail, and the need to be but a small part of a larger whole. All of this was done with astounding aplomb by this wonderful group.”

Both lay members of the congregation as well as other friars approached George after the Masses to express gratitude for the students’ presence and service at the liturgy, he said.

“The hope is that the opportunity for the students to engage a Franciscan community beyond Siena College enhances their own faith journey, provides them with a better understanding of the larger fraternity within Holy Name Province, and instills a sense that they are and will always remain a valued part of this Franciscan family,” said George.

Dennis Tamburello, OFM, who plays drums with the group, said, “It was great to have an outing with Psalm 150. Our group blended well with the Arch Street Band and I think the congregation had as much fun as we did.”

Dennis, who prays with the group on Sunday evening, is a key part of the Siena Psalm Music Ministry, said Burns, adding that he is a co-leader with her and a co-mentor to the young people. “Keeping the beat is symbolic. I am blessed to work with him in this important work of bringing students closer to Christ through their participation in Psalm 150.”

Using Their Gifts to Glorify God
The student musicians expressed pleasure at being part of the Shrine visit.

“The trip to Boston was a great time for Psalm 150 to come together as a community of musicians and use our gifts to glorify God,” said Jolene Cobb, a junior. “It was heartwarming to see the congregation being uplifted by our music with the Arch Street Band.”

“I think I can speak for everyone when I say I felt very welcomed at the St. Anthony Shrine,” said senior Andrew La Greca. “We had a great time getting to know their musicians.”

“Our trip to Boston was eye-opening, and the warmth we all felt from the people at St. Anthony Shrine was remarkable. I am so happy I was able to go,” said Caroline Steadham, a freshman.

“In the true spirit of Psalm 150, we praised the Lord with each breath and filled Arch Street with lively, prayerful song. God certainly had a smile on his face Saturday,” said Kristy Wilkinson, a senior.

Developing Psalm 150
Burns, who joined Siena’s staff in 2010, has built the college’s music ministry in both spirit and participation. A large component of her job initially was to organize a music ministry and liturgical ministry that would support and uplift the Masses on campus, enhance the worship experiences of those gathered and draw students closer in their relationship with Christ.

“I inherited six music ministers and 20 liturgical ministers,” she said. “Today, I have 65 musicians involved in Siena Psalm 150 and more than 100 liturgical ministers. It has been a process of grace to witness the growth of our campus ministries.”

The group’s name was created several years ago as a way to express its mission.

“Before they graduated in 2014, the senior class of music ministers met with me to brainstorm a name more fitting for our explosive and dynamic music ministry at Siena. Since the musicians who lead the 7 p.m. contemporary Mass comprise voices, trumpets, alto sax, flutes, guitars, drums, conga, bass, trombone, clarinet, and more, and because our 11 a.m. more traditional Mass is accompanied by violins, violas, flutes, cellos, trumpet and an upright bass, we decided to break off into two arms: The 7:00 p.m. Praise Band, and the 11 a.m. Chamber Ensemble.

“When you put all of those joy-filled sounds together, it reminded us of Psalm 150, which calls us to bring pipes, strings, trumpets, cymbals — in fact, everything that has breath — to praise the Lord. That’s where we found our voice, our true identity, in the psalm that calls forth every joyful, loud, resounding noise that helps us praise God.”

Burns added, “I am forever grateful to Fr. Larry Anderson, OFM, for his continuous support of our growing ministry and for the students who are the salt of the earth — the light of the world — for me and so many.” Larry has been chaplain of Siena since 2014.

Siena Psalm 150 accompanies Masses on Sundays throughout the year. They also perform at other events on campus, such as the opening and baccalaureate Masses. This academic year, they sang at the inauguration of F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, in October.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s Note: This is one in an occasional series of profiles of music ministries around Holy Name Province. The last installment featured Assumption Parish in Wood-Ridge, N.J. 

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