Church-goers were upbeat after the 10 a.m. Mass Aug. 26 at St. Pius V Parish in south St. Louis.
Part of the reason was what they called inspiring music at the Mass. Its importance is stated by St. Augustine, who commented that “When you sing, you pray twice.”
The St. Pius Parish choir will step out of the church Sept. 16 to take part in the Arts & Faith St. Louis annual concert. Ruth Ehresman, choir director, felt a little uneasy about the invitation at first because choir members see their role as leading music — encouraging everyone to fully participate in the liturgy through song — rather than as performers.
But Ehresman was pleased to learn the words of the song are printed in the program for the concert. “We hope that people will sing along,” she said. “That’s what we’re all about.”
The choir will sing “He Reigns,” a contemporary Christian song by Newsboys and written by Peter Furler and Steve Taylor that focuses on believers in Africa, Asia and elsewhere who echo the same message of praising God. “It’s a really good fit,” Ehresman said.
This is the eighth year that Arts & Faith St. Louis will present a free concert at the Sheldon Concert Hall. This year’s concert, “Great Music of Many Faiths,” will feature both adult and young singers and musicians from faith communities across the metropolitan area. Also performing will be celebrated soprano Christine Brewer and the 442s, an ensemble including members of the St. Louis Symphony.
Claudio DaSilva, who has been in the choir for more than a quarter century, called it “a nice community of people who are fun to be with.”
Erica Perlow, a member for five years, said music is a big part of her life, and the choir is a good fit for her. A bonus is making friends with the other members, she said.
Ehresman began playing the organ in church when she was about in the fifth grade. “I have always had a love of music,” she said.
She studied education in college, not music, but “it has been the most constant thing in my life,” Ehresman said. She taught chemistry in high school and also music. Now advocacy coordinator at Vision for Children at Risk, she raises awareness about the importance of investing in children and ensuring each child has the opportunity to succeed.
A parishioner of St. Pius V since 1977, she began singing as part of the guitar choir. Later, she got the OK to bring the piano and the choir down from the choir loft to the front of church to better engage people in the music. “We have a wonderful group of folks in the choir who enjoy singing, are committed and enjoy leading the singing,” she said. “We really share that perspective that we succeed most when the congregation is singing with us.”
The choir reflects the diversity of the parish. A choir of people from Myanmar and another from West Africa perform once a month.
“We’re a welcoming parish,” Ehresman said, “and that’s reflected in the choir.”
St. Pius is proud of its commitment to its neighbors in the city and its ministry to immigrant and refugees who’ve settled in the neighborhood, she said. St. Pius also is in the process of adding an Assisi House facility in its former convent. Assisi House sponsors a transitional housing program for formerly homeless people.
“We think we are a vision of what the Church really is called to be,” Ehresman said. “It’s a community that has a commitment to people who are seen, quite frankly by many Catholics, as outsiders. We’re really committed to being inclusive and to caring for people who have the least.”
>>Arts & Faith
Event: “Great Music of Many Faiths,” the Arts & Faith St. Louis Eighth Annual Interfaith Concert
When: Sunday, Sept. 16, at 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd. in Midtown St. Louis
Tickets: Free. Available for pick up at the performance. Doors open 4:30 p.m.