Halfway to Paradise

Oct. 20-26, 2005
Halfway to Paradise
Theresa Murray practices with the choir at Holy Trinity Church on a recent Wednesday evening.
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Kathryn Deuel
Binghamton–Singing drifts down from the ceiling of the cavernous Holy Trinity Church on a Wednesday night. From the center aisle, only a huge pipe organ and a musician’s back are visible. To see who has the beautiful voices, one must climb nearly three dozen stairs into a loft that’s just below a massive stained-glass window.

On this evening, ten members of the choir are sitting on chairs nestled between the two banks of shiny pipes which sit atop dark wood bases. Vibrations from the organ gently rumble across the floor. The music stops and Choir Director/Organist Bruce Bozdos recites Polish and Slovak hymns that will be used at the Heritage Day Mass in November.

Soprano Theresa Murray listens intently and moments later joins in singing from memory. That’s a plus, because she can’t read music and can’t see the words. Murray, who is blind, has been in the choir for about nine years. She is able to put some of the hymns into Braille, so she can follow along.

“I give them the music for the Mass usually the week before, which doesn’t offer a lot of time to get everything Brailled.” Said Bozdos. His rehearsals are conducted in a fast-paced hour each week.

“I don’t tend to see Theresa as different than anyone else, so I tend to just move along. Then I have to catch myself,” said Bozdos. “She usually picks up faster than the other people.”

“I usually pick it up by hearing, but sometimes I Braille. But most of the time I pick it up by sound,” Theresa said. She makes use of her senses to follow along.”I use my fingers, I use my hands,” she added, putting her hand behind her ear.

When someone sat several feet in front of her at rehearsal, Theresa turned toward the observer, still singing although slightly distracted by all the attention.

Theresa is now 46, but she first started with voice lessons in her teens. When she moved into Broome Developmental Services’ Deyo Hill home nine years ago, they learned of her love of singing.

Social Worker Paula Williams reminded Theresa of their conversations about what she liked to do. “When we were talking about it, and what were your passions? What you said the most often was your music, your singing. And we also talked about the fact that you have such a skill in Brailling your music.”

Theresa decided she wanted to be involved in a choir, and pursued it at the urging of the staff at Deyo Hill. She works during the day. There are chores to handle with five others when she gets home. But she always makes time for the Wednesday night rehearsal at the church.

“She’s extremely dedicated to choir.” Said Bozdos.” She’s in a lot of other things, and she has a busy life just like anyone else does. But she makes sure that she comes to choir. I can pretty much count on Theresa being here unless there is something special going on. She’s very dedicated in what she does.” “I want to put choir first before a dinner party or another activity,” Theresa added.

Theresa enjoys opera, doesn’t play an instrument, and seemed intrigued when asked if she considered writing music. “I’d never thought about it,” she pondered.

She makes her way around her home unaided, and uses a cane elsewhere. Others help her make her way up and down the flights of stairs leading to the choir loft. Theresa has some encouragement for people who say they can’t sing in a choir, because they can’t make it up the stairs, or read or see the music.

“I would say that’s a poor excuse,” she responded. “If you really try, you can do just about anything.” Holy Trinity is making efforts to include more people in the choir with some singing planned for the main floor of the church as well as in the choir loft.There’s a second organ just a short distance from a entrance for the disabled.

Theresa doesn’t mind being high above the church with the others in the loft. She’s happy when told she’s among the angels, painted on the walls just a few feet away. “It’s too bad my dad’s passed along. But when he’s up in heaven. He hears my music,” she said. And she’s pleased that her mother has the chance to see her from time to time singing in the choir. “She’s very dedicated and she’s truly wanted to stay with this and make it a passion.” Said Social Worker Paula Williams.

“If I keep it up, I’ll be in heaven,” Theresa exclaimed. “You’re halfway there, up here.” quipped Choir Director Bozdos, surveying the view from above the church.

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