The summer concert series in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, was not cancelled this year because of all the rules and regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Instead, the pandemic served as a motivator for Andrew Macirowski, the parish’s pastoral coordinator for worship and music, to think outside the box and find a way to do things differently. 

His end result was a modified offering that was done all online.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the arts community to hit pause, but artists do not live in a bubble. Rather, they are part of the communities in which they live or work,” he said. “Virtual projects allow artists to be continue to be creative and to share that with the world in a time when doing so in person is difficult or impossible.”  

Macirowski said he started the summer concert series two years ago as a way to share the musical arts with both the parish community and the greater local community. He noted that church buildings often make “great venues” for holding classical concerts because of the seating, acoustics and other special and necessary aspects needed. His decision to hold the concerts during the summer was based largely on the fact that there are not a lot of liturgical feasts or solemnities that are celebrated in the Church that would otherwise occupy the focus of a parish musician. The summertime would also allow for greater participation, he said. 

Of the past two years, Macirowski noted the concert repertoires have been a mix of sacred and secular music, for choir, orchestra and organ. The performers have been members of the parish choir and other local parish choirs as well as a few professional musicians and instrumentalists. The first concert, he said,  was “bookended” by larger works by Gustav Holst (St. Paul’s Suite & Two Psalms, respectively) with lighter modern classical works in-between. Last summer’s concert featured the works of mostly living, active composers. 

For the 2020 virtual concert, Macirowski composed an arrangement of the Ave Maria, which he said, “has always been an important prayer for Catholics. 

“I find that its beauty is enhanced when added to well-written music, of which there are many examples.  He noted that his latest composition is the second setting that he has composed. The first setting was composed about seven years ago was written for a three-part a cappella choir and sung for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at the parish where he was employed at the time. 

As many forms of art offerings were being cancelled because of the pandemic, Macirowski said he had the opportunity to participate in several virtual ensembles, including one in which the participants recorded an original work. “I felt like it was a good time to be creative,” he said, and decided that the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary would be an appropriate time to compose a work. 

“I turned to the prayer, sat at the piano and began to write. As the process progressed, I arrived at the final setting for an eight-part choir and orchestra,” he said. 

Macirowski said he has found the overall virtual ensemble experience to be challenging but positive. “There is definitely a learning curve to the technological aspect, but being able to make music with others, albeit in a less-than-ideal setting, is refreshing, heartwarming and of course, fun.”