In 2006 Clyde musicians John and Nancy Bryan collaborated with Father James Hewes to produce an album whose sales would raise money for the impoverished people living in the Payatas garbage dump outside of Manila in the Philippines. Now four years later, the Bryans have again produced an album that will raise money for others, but this time they’ve focused their philanthropic efforts closer to home.
This time, the Bryans have teamed up with Catholic Charities of Wayne County, which is helping distribute their new album, "The Pilgrim." The album is being sold for $10, and the agency will receive half of the proceeds from each album it sells, said Deacon Timothy Sullivan, executive director of the Wayne County agency.
"I love it when something beautiful and creative is utilized to help bring assistance to people who are disadvantaged, so I am very happy that the Bryans have shared their musical talent in a way that will touch the lives of people who hear the music and those who will be helped materially and spiritually through our assistance at Catholic Charities," Deacon Sullivan said.
The seed of the idea for "The Pilgrim" was planted while the Bryans were still working with Father Hewes on "Songs for the Promised Land," said Nancy Bryan, who along with her husband attends St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde. Father Hewes at the time was pastor of St. John the Evangelist and St. Patrick in Savannah, and the Bryans were inspired by the spiritual nature of the songs he brought to their collaboration, she said.
"I just felt like Father Jim’s music, his songs were more pointing to God than ours were," recalled Nancy Bryan, a Grammy-nominated musician.
Around that time the Bryans decided to put together a more inspirational album, and the resulting album was recorded over the course of two years. John Bryan produced the album and provided much of the music, and Nancy Bryan provided the vocals, with help on some tracks from Clyde and Lyons residents. Many of those backup vocalists sing in the choir at St. John the Evangelist, which the Bryans lead.
"Everyone on here, they’re all really excellent singers," Nancy Bryan said.
A picture of St. John the Evangelist graces the inside cover of the CD, and the album’s front cover features a photograph of Nancy Bryan’s aunt, Mercy Sister Mary Dominica Petocchi. The late Sister Petocchi was a tiny woman with a big reputation, and had gained friends throughout her years teaching in Elmira, Rochester, Irondequoit, Clyde, Corning and Owego.
"She taught for 57 years and she was just a wonderful person. She was so outgoing. Everyone knew her," Nancy Bryan said. "She was really an inspiration and we miss her a lot."
The album and especially the title track, "The Pilgrim," is dedicated in part to Sister Petocchi, who moved many times throughout her ministry before spending her final years at the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse in Brighton. The title track discusses leaving home and walking unfamiliar paths but being called home by love.
"That’s what life is. We’re all moving from one thing to another, but especially a nun. She gets up and leaves everything behind," Nancy Bryan said.
The new album features a blend of original songs and familiar hymns, and Nancy Bryan described the album as "pop with a little Celtic feel." Two of the tracks, "Be Thou My Vision" and "Kingdom," utilize centuries-old traditional Irish melodies, she added.
"The Irish really know how to write their melodies. They’re so plaintive. I wanted (the album) to be plaintive," Nancy Bryan said.
The album explores a wide range of human emotions, everything from feelings of dread and despair to the soaring highs that often accompany talking about God, she said. It’s impossible for humans to adequately describe God in words because we can’t visually see him, but music can make us feel him, she added.
"I want to do music that changes things, that makes people feel things," she said.
It’s rewarding to work on projects that stand to benefit others, like the poor in the Philippines and at home in Wayne County, she said. She’s glad Catholic Charities of Wayne County is able to benefit from her work, and said she’s open to talking to other parishes about the possibility of using "The Pilgrim" as a fundraiser for them, too.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about "The Pilgrim" or to obtain a copy, contact Nancy Bryan at 315-923-7498 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of the album also may be purchased by contacting Deacon Tim Sullivan at 315-331-4867 or e-mailing him at email@example.com.