GLENDALE — In a year packed with tragedy, shock, and sorrow, the Parishioners at St. Pancras Church welcomed a salve of music to celebrate Advent but also boost the mending of broken hearts.
“A Concert for Healing” features performances of classic liturgical music that conveys the healing power of Jesus Christ and the enduring love of his mother, Mary. The 55-minute event showcases the talents of the parish’s volunteer cantors, accompanied by other members of the music ministry and pastoral staff.
Cantors reflect St. Pancras’ diverse cultures, singing in Spanish, Latin, Italian, and Polish.
The concert premiered on Dec. 6, but it is available for continuous viewing on the St. Pancras YouTube channel or Facebook page.
Reception of the performance has been great, said Robert Buonaspina, director of music, organist, and one of the managers of the parish’s social media accounts.
“We’re at almost 3.5-thousand views just from a Facebook live stream,” he said. “That is unusual, I believe, for a church concert.”
Msgr. Steven Aguggia, the parish’s new pastor, expressed his pride in Buonaspina, the cantors, and the production staff.
“There was a lot of work and preparation that went into it, but it was well worth it,” Msgr. Aguggia said. “I think the concert was a sign of hope and healing. The parishioners were happy that something good like that was happening at the parish. It also did a lot to raise spirits.”
The planning began in September after the new pastor’s arrival to St. Pancras. Msgr. Aguggia, who is the Chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn, was sent by the diocese to replace the previous pastor who, in July, was arrested by the FBI on allegations of sharing pornography with a minor.
The parish already had been contending with the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic on its Glendale neighborhood of Queens.
But the pastor’s arrest added more shock, confusion, and sorrow, according to Buonaspina, who was hired in February just before the pandemic hit.
“We shared this idea [for a concert] at one of our pastoral council meetings in September,” he said. “We wanted to have some sort of event that instantiated a feeling of hope and healing in our parishioners after, of course, a year of tragic events within and without our community.
“(But) in this time when we cannot gather as a community, I wanted something that would function both as a live-stream concert and also as a very welcomed keepsake for both parishioners and the volunteer cantors.”
Buonaspina said the “thematic arc” of the program allows “one to experience fully Christ’s power of redemption.”
He further explained that the first portion focuses on the relationship one has with Christ: “pleading for his guidance where one would otherwise be led astray.”
This part features cantors Patrick Fahy, Juan Pérez (the parish’s pastoral assistant, director of religious education), and Klaudia Morelowska. Selections include “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and “Pescador de hombres” (Fisher of Men).
“Ave Maria” is in the second section, which pays tribute and venerates Mary. Cantors performing here were Teresa Heuser, Teresa Donahue, and Mary Ellen Stebbins Slutskiy, who also played violin throughout the concert.
Buonaspina handled the organ in all selections.
He said the final portion “transitions into a moment of triumph where we fully realize this unabashed celebration of having Jesus fully present to protect us in our lives.”
Included are “very grandiose organ works” intended to elevate “a sense of triumph,” Buonaspina said.
“One of them,” he noted, “was an improvisation of mine on the hymn tune “Eventide.” The second one was Widor’s “Toccata” from his “Symphony Number 5.” The third one is an impromptu from a suite by Louis Vierne, a very prominent French composer.”
Buonaspina praised the dedication of the cantors and the two production staffers — Rafe Tangorra, video, and Austin Zhang, audio.
“What happened,” he said, “was we took a Monday and Tuesday, we locked the church, and we got some great footage and audio.
“I had individual appointments with each vocalist, and we just recorded and compiled the pre-recorded concert into a live stream afterward.”
As a result, the viewer experiences a fluid concert performed in the choir loft, with juxtaposed imagery of the church’s ornate interior.
“It’s a beautiful work praising God and uplifting the community, but everyone is welcome to watch and enjoy,” Msgr. Aguggia said. “I have heard from many people who did and were happy that they did!”
To experience “A Concert for Healing,” visit youtu.be/YFB4Yj9eR04.