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Opening concert sets 'uplifting' tone for Congress

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CHARLOTTE — The eighth annual Eucharistic Congress opened with a concert of sacred music inspired by this year's theme, "Behold the Lamb of God."

The concert was conducted by Dr. Scott Turkington, principal organist and choirmaster of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Charleston, S.C. Instrumental interludes were played by a brass quartet that included members of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and organ accompaniment was provided by Dr. Larry Stratemeyer of St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte.

"Each year we work to present a sacred music concert that brings the listener music that spans the history of the Church," explained Tiffany Gallozzi, director of music at St. Barnabas Church in Arden and organizer of the 45-member choir. "I am always amazed at the great lengths composers, instrumentalists and singers will go through to offer beautiful and dignified music to God."

"It is a joy to prepare the music for the sacred music concert each year with the dedicated volunteer singers who represent the churches of the diocese," added Stratemeyer, choir director and organist at St. Patrick Cathedral. "Their eagerness to explore the rich tradition of choral music, and their openness to learning new things is inspiring."

The singers – who represented 12 parishes – practiced throughout the summer, coming together for a full choir rehearsal only the night before their Congress performance.

"It's not very often that I get together and sing with other churches," commented John Van Camp, a member of St. Matthew Church in Charlotte. Van Camp was also a trumpet player the brass quartet.

Before the start of the concert and the official kick-off for the 2012 Congress, Bishop Peter J. Jugis opened the Congress with a recitation of the "Prayer for the Success of the Eucharistic Congress."

At the conclusion of the concert, Bishop Jugis rushed to the stage to thank Turkington, shaking his hand to congratulate him. He then raised the conductor's hand in the air in a victory sign as the elated assembly applauded.

"I enjoyed the concert," said Ellen Cotter, who came up to the Congress from Greenville, S.C., where she is a member of Our Lady of the Rosary Church. "The music is beautiful! My favorite is 'O God Beyond all Praising,' which was sung at my sister's (religious) profession."

Cotter's sister is a Sister of Life and attended the Congress with Sister Bethany Madonna, S.V., who was one of the keynote speakers at the Congress on Saturday.

"The Agnus Dei of Zachary Wadsworth is the piece this year that speaks to me," noted Gallozzi. "At first I found it to be difficult to embrace, but after learning the composer's intention to lead us from stress into hope, I was able to walk away from it with a greater appreciation for the need to find that hopeful resolution amid chaos. That hope is only found in God."

Added Stratemeyer, "We seek to present music that will touch people's hearts and minds. We share each year new pieces that we can hopefully take back to our individual churches to sing as well."

"It was very uplifting and gave me goosebumps!" said Ashleigh Lawrence, a member of St. Patrick Cathedral. "It is definitely not entertainment, but meditation and deep appreciation of the faith."

— Mary B. Worthington, correspondent. Photos by SueAnn Howell, Catholic News Herald

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