Bishop O’Connell shares warm wishes in this screenshot from the Diocese’s Video Christmas Card.
Bishop O’Connell shares warm wishes in this screenshot from the Diocese’s Video Christmas Card.

Musicians ordinarily spend months rehearsing Christmas songs together for their annual winter concerts, but in light of the pandemic, gathering in person has been a challenge.

In the Diocese of Trenton, however, there is the promise of a new kind of Christmas concert this year. A virtual mini-concert, with an introduction by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., is serving as the Diocese’s Video Christmas Card.

The virtual card was produced by the diocesan Department of Multimedia Production. Marianne Hartman, department director, said that when the Bishop learned of the project, he “loved the idea and decided to record on the spot.”

She continued, “Though the video card is not the same as a live Christmas concert, or a Christmas Mass with a choir, hopefully, it will help us to forget, if even for a moment, all that we lost in this pandemic … and maybe the beautiful music will help remind us of what we can never lose – the gift of faith and everlasting life.”

The idea for the video, which is sponsored by the diocesan Office of Worship, came about from conversations between Shawn Mack, director of both the diocesan Festival Choir and St. Anthony of Padua Parish choir, Red Bank; Paul Bergin, diocesan organist, and Andrew Macirowski, music director in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck.

“We had been kicking around the idea of doing some sort of virtual choir for Christmas, since it was looking more and more likely that we wouldn’t be able to have our annual Christmas concert,” said Mack, who explained that he brought the idea to both the diocesan Festival Choir and his parish choir.  “They were all for it. Between both choirs, we have about 30 to 40 singers. The more the merrier!”

Mack shared the idea with Father Michael Hall, director of the diocesan Office of Worship, and Carolyn Norbut, associate director. Father Hall is also pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.

“We were all too eager to make this happen,” Norbut said. “This is a group of extremely talented men and women from around the Diocese. I can’t wait to see this project come together.”

Helping produce the video were Ryan Larason, videographer and editor with the Department of Multimedia Production, and freelance partner Frank Lettieri, who worked on the final mixing/editing of audio and video. 

Images of Christmas from around the Diocese and liturgical art are included in the video. “This year has been unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, and we were hoping to spread a little Christmas cheer and bring some happiness in these difficult times,” Mack said.

Two pieces are sung – “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which is accompanied, and “Silent Night,” which is a cappella. Each choir member recorded [him/herself] singing an individual part to a prerecorded track, which was edited to make each song complete.

“I’m hoping that this video message shows that although we’re apart right now, we are all still a community of the faithful. That we’re all missing the ‘normal’ of the Advent and Christmas seasons but that technology can bring us together in a unique way,” Norbut said. “Through the gift of song, and most especially prayer, that we’re all a lot more connected than we think.”