CRANSTON — One of the most widely quoted lines from the 1980 comedy classic “The Blues Brothers” comes as John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd attempt to recruit their former trumpet player to join them for their band’s reunion tour. “We’re putting the band back together,” says Belushi (as Jake Blues), at which point Akyroyd (playing Jake’s brother Elwood) tells the reluctant trumpeter that “We’re on a mission from God.”
For Kyle Jameson, KHS, becoming the director of Sacred Music at Cranston’s St. Matthew Parish meant accepting a very similar mission from on high: getting the church’s music ministry back together. “When I came to St. Matthew’s, it had been years since they’d even had a choir,” Jameson explains. “So in a lot of ways, it felt like starting from scratch.”
The growth of the St. Matthew’s Music Ministry in the past five years has been remarkable, flourishing from a single organist in 2013 to a 22-member choir today. In addition to the singers, the ministry also includes a variety of instrumentalists who contribute their talents on major occasions — such as their upcoming trip to perform in New York City.
Jameson does not accept exclusive credit for the ministry’s success, however.
“None of this would have been possible without the talents of our volunteers, or the generous support we’ve had from the people in the pews,” he says.
One of those supporters is parishioner Carol Peterson — who considers her donation to have been “money well-invested.” Peterson says that although she is always impressed with the music the choir provides for Sunday Mass, she couldn’t believe how spectacular their most recent Christmas Concert was.
“It was honestly as good as going to the Rhode Island Philharmonic,” says Peterson.
“The week after the concert, I had friends come up to me at Dave’s Supermarket and they were still talking about how amazing the music was.”
Peterson’s comparison with the Philharmonic is appropriate — many of the artists that performed with the St. Matthew’s Choir in their Christmas Concert have also appeared at local orchestras in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Among these was Steve Toro, a clarinetist who performs with the Fall River Symphony in addition to volunteering at St. Matthew’s. It’s a bit of a drive from the Bay State to Cranston, but it’s well worth it to Toro.
“This is the church I went to growing up,” he says, “so it means a lot to be able to come back to play. I have really fond memories of my childhood here.”
Although Toro and the other guest instrumentalists provide an extra degree of professionalism to concerts at St. Matthew’s, the choir is still the backbone of the music ministry. Married singers Mike and Deb Giarusso have been amazed by how much the choir has grown under Jameson’s leadership — and not just in size.
“Kyle keeps challenging us to sing more and more complex pieces,” Deb says, “and our hard work is really starting to pay off. We’ve just started singing four-part harmonies, and I think everybody in the choir is really excited to see where we can go next.”
Bass singer Jesse Allen agrees, saying that the choir “feels like a family...which is really important, because we have to spend a lot of time with each other in practice and rehearsal.”
The warmth which the choristers feel for one another is even audible in their music.
“Their voices always just have so much energy and passion,” says Jennifer Bernard, a longtime member of the parish.
“It really edifies the entire Mass.”
Bernard finds it difficult to overstate just how much of an impact Jameson has had on the church.
“I think God is using him as an instrument,” she says.
Anyone who wishes to hear for themselves what all the excitement is about will hopefully get the chance this September: St. Matthew’s will be celebrating its 110th anniversary this year, and the parish is currently discussing the possibility of celebrating with another concert.