Spirits Soar Through Song

Oct. 7-14, 2004
Spirits Soar Through Song
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
More than 500 gather for Christian concert with Marty Haugen

FAYETTEVILLE –– Those gathered at Immaculate Conception Church on Friday, Sept. 24 were there to join in song and spirit with gifted, internationally-known musician, Marty Haugen. His music was familiar to all those in attendance – even for those few who weren’t familiar with him. From his first note to his last, he carried the audience with him through song, stories and humorous anecdotes. Haugen’s songs, which have been heard thousands of times in churches throughout the world, took on new meaning by the sheer volume and heart with which they were sung. Haugen is an artist and was a treat for all present. Katie Cox, a senior at Fayetteville-Manlius High School and a parishioner at St. Ann’s Church in Manlius, came because after singing all of his songs as part of the choir at St. Ann’s, she wanted to see him perform live. Katie has been a member of the choir for four years and is very familiar with Haugen’s music.

“We’ve started a teen choir at St. Ann’s and we thought hearing this concert would be inspirational for us,” added Erin Ward, who is also a member of the choir. Erin is a junior at Fayetteville-Manlius and has been in the music program for four years. “I’m expecting the concert to be both spiritual and upbeat,” said Erin, as she waited for the concert to begin. “I’ve heard it’s very moving. I’m excited to be here.” Erin’s positive expectations came from Denny Giantomasi, the director of the teen music ensemble at St. Ann’s. “I had the opportunity to see him in 2000 for the same event,” said Giantomasi. “It wasn’t just a concert then; it was something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Haugen is a musician who has the rare gift of singing from his soul. Being a musician and composer myself, seeing the gift he has is inspiring.” Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, director of the Religious Education Office for the Syracuse Diocese, addressed the audience to introduce Haugen. Haugen’s performance was to kick off the Journey of Faith conference in the Syracuse Diocese. “There are a couple of phrases from Marty’s songs that ran through my head when I was preparing for this weekend,” said Sister Katie. “‘Gather in the Love of Christ,’ and ‘All are Welcome.’ Marty has enriched our liturgical celebrations for many, many years. One of God’s special gifts to us is Marty and his gift of music. It is a thrill to welcome Marty Haugen,” she said.

Haugen is a composer of liturgical music, including such favorites as “All Are Welcome,” “Gather Us In,” “Shepherd Me O God,” and the “Mass of Creation,” among others. For the past 20 years, he has presented workshops and concerts across North America, Europe, the Pacific Rim, Asia and Central America for church musicians and faith-filled audiences. “It’s a blessing to be here,” said Haugen. “I am humbled by the number of people who are here tonight.” Haugen joked about his flight saying, “I had a wonderful flight here. Unfortunately, my suitcase didn’t,” he said, explaining his casual dress of jeans and knit shirt. The wonderful sound and spirit coming from the congregation was much more powerful than what one would witness at Sunday Mass. Haugen was amazed at the participation he was receiving. “It’s interesting that these are the same people who go to church on Sunday. What a sound!” he said.

Keeping the audience involved and laughing caused the two-hour concert to move quickly. Haugen used Bible stories as a basis for his music as he retold the Gospel messages through song. He often sang a capella and attempted to teach the audience an African song in three-part harmony using no musical accompaniment. In addition to African spiritual songs, Haugen also introduced Celtic music as well as songs from Hawaii and Australia. Ruth Burke, a parishioner of St. Augustine’s in Baldwinsville, had the pleasure of seeing Marty perform at his last concert in Syracuse in 2000. Burke has been a choir member at St. Augustine’s for more than 30 years. “I enjoyed him so much the last time he was here,” said Burke. “You get such a different feeling listening to his music. He’s more than a musician. He’s a spiritual leader,” she said.

Carol Van Skoyk, also a choir member at St. Augustine’s, agreed. “His music is spiritual and upbeat,” she said. “It’s exciting to meet the person who wrote all the music we sing in church.” Eight confirmation candidates from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Windsor, N.Y., traveled more than two hours to listen to Haugen perform. Their confirmation instructor, Virginia Phillips, said that this was her third year attending the Journey of Faith concert and she wanted to share the experience with her students. “This is my first year teaching confirmation,” said Phillips. “I wanted to give the students a cohesive start – something uplifting, a bonding experience.” During intermission, the confirmation candidates were asked if the concert had met their expectations. Mike Olbrys, a tenth grader and first year confirmation candidate at Our Lady of Lourdes, thought the concert was going well. “He has an awesome voice and when everyone starts singing, it sounds great,” said Mike. “In between songs, he tells jokes and stories that help us learn more about him. He really holds the audience,” he said.

Heather Carroll, also a tenth grader and a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes, lives two miles from the Pennsylvania border and was happy to have made the two-hour long trip to Syracuse to hear Haugen perform. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t think he would be that good,” said Heather. “But I really like his music. He got me to sing. You know when you hear music, you have to be in the mood for it? I could always be in the mood for this music,” she said. “And being here with my friends makes the experience that much better.” Heather said she is usually too embarrassed to sing at church. By the end of the evening she and her friends were not only singing, they were waving their arms to the beat of the music. Song and music are equalizers no matter what country, language or age group is participating. Marty Haugen brought 500 people of all ages and backgrounds together for an evening to remind them of one thing – that song is a powerful tool for praising God.

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