St. Bridget's choir records CD - Catholic Courier

St. Bridget’s choir records CD

It’s not even Sunday morning, and yet Marilyn Bellamy is putting her heart into the gospel music she is singing.

At times, her eyes are closed, her face is uplifted and her hands are outstretched. During other gospel songs, she is up on her feet, vigorously shaking a tambourine in time, giving a jingle to emphasize each phrase.

Later, as she sits down and runs through songs for Mass at Rochester’s St. Bridget Church, Bellamy has one hand resting on her cane and her other hand in the air. When the song ends, she concludes with a spoken “Amen. Thank you, Lord.”

Soon people will be able to listen to Bellamy and her fellow choir members sing gospel songs all week long. The nine-member St. Bridget Catholic Church Gospel Choir has recently released a self-titled CD. The choir will host a free concert at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at St. Bridget Church, 14 Mark St., off of Hudson Avenue.

The idea for the CD evolved after the choir sang for the funeral of social-justice activist Mary Dwelley, who was a member of St. Bridget. A person attending the funeral heard the choir and suggested that members record a CD.

Members liked the idea and recorded the CD in two sessions at St. Luke Tabernacle Community Church on Dewey Avenue in Rochester. The choir also hopes to release another CD in the future, and is working to get permission to record some of the other songs in its repertoire.

Choir Director Julius Dicks of Rochester explained that while traditional Catholic music is somewhat reserved, gospel music is not.

“It’s inspirational,” said Dicks, who has been choir director at St. Bridget since 2000. “It inspires people. It moves you. If you are down, it will lift you up. If you are feeling low, it will take that away.”

Gospel songs often include fewer words than traditional hymns. Dicks said most gospel music is learned by ear, and many songs include a vamp at the end, which is a portion of the song that can be repeated indefinitely, as choir members put their personal touches on it.

“That’s when it gets to be hot,” Dicks said. “That’s when the inspiration flies.”

Several choir members said gospel music is an important part of the ministry at St. Bridget.

“I think it teaches people in a different way than traditional Catholic music,” said choir member Deborah Brooks of Rochester.

Choir member and youth minister Jackie Campbell said she enjoys gospel music because it speaks to a person’s interior and can touch hearts. She said the choir also sings many spirituals.

“These, for us as African-Americans, speak to our journey and really are the root of where gospel music comes from,” Campbell said.

Bellamy, who has been singing gospel music at St. Bridget’s for 43 years, calls it double-time prayer. She said the music provides both inspiration and strength.

“That spirit keeps them going on for their work,” Bellamy said. “I know it blesses me.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: To purchase St. Bridget Catholic Church Gospel Choir’s new CD, call Tracy Jordan, St. Bridget’s secretary, at 585/454-4236. Proceeds from each of the $10 CDs will support the church.

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