August 2020 – Public worship continues and the celebration of St Lawrence Feast Day

It is now clear that Covid-19 is no ‘flash in the pan’. We have seen a spike in the number of infections in Florida and some of the data has been most alarming. We continue to offer our musical skills to the worshiping community whether it be celebrating via live-stream or in person. It has been great to see familiar faces once again returning to the church and to be able to reboot ‘in person’ relationships. In UK, churches have only just re-opened for worship and there is no singing allowed. There is scientific evidence that choirs and singing in general can spread the infection more easily. Whilst this is undoubtedly the case here in America we have refrained from inviting choirs back but have enabled singing during Mass. We have relocated the Cantor to a ‘safe’ distance nearer to the piano. The congregation continues to sing but wears masks. Hymn books have been removed from the church but we are fortunate that the use of screens enables folk to sing the selected texts.

It has been a difficult time for our Elect who went to the cathedral at the beginning of Lent for the Rite of Election but who had to wait months beyond the Easter Vigil for the completion of their initiation. First Communions were also affected. Rather than have all the children make their ‘First Communion’ during one Mass in May they were re-scheduled over several Masses during the last few months.

During the weekend of 8/9 August we celebrated the Patronal Feast of St Lawrence. The specially composed Patronal Hymn with music by Philip Jakob was used at the start of each Mass. You can listen to this hymn elsewhere on the website.In past years we have enhanced the celebration of Mass with a Parish barbecue after the late morning Mass. This year we were not able to offer a bbq for obvious health reasons.

May 2020 – Pentecost and the re-opening of St Lawrence Church for public worship

During the last 2 days of May the Bishop decided that any church prepared to re-open could do so. So on Saturday 30 May we celebrated two Confirmation Masses in the morning and rolled out a new program for Sunday Masses. For the Confirmations we live-streamed the celebrations to Higgins Hall where parents were gathered while the confirmandi remained in the church.

The new Mass schedule for Sundays meant there would be a reduction from seven Masses (4pm – Vigil, 7.30am, 9.30am, 11am, 12.30pm, 5pm – Spanish and 7pm) to five (4pm – Vigil, 8am, 10am, 12pm and 5pm – Spanish). Restrictions were in place to ensure safe-distancing and all parishioners would be required to wear masks.

There was no great tidal surge back to Mass. Many parishioners were understandably reluctant to return since there was still some health risk in gathering again regardless of whatever restrictions we had in place.

Musically we were now able to invite more of our Cantors to return to their ministry.

April 2020 – the onset of Covid-19 and Holy Week

In the middle of Lent 2020 with the onset of Covid-19 the church was closed for public worship. However at St Lawrence we were able to offer a live-streamed Sunday Mass at 10am and 5pm (Spanish) from the beginning of the crisis. Fortunately there was agreement to include music in these Masses so that the experience of listening to the live-streams could be as close as possible to what went before. Many activities were suspended as soon as we became aware of the risk to parishioners’ health and this included the regular weekly meetings of the choir for rehearsal and then the Sunday Mass itself. However we have so many talented and generous Cantors that it was clear that we would be able to maintain a music program with their help. Initially I made the difficult decision to select only Sarah and Dianne (from the 7pm Mass) as Cantors for the live-stream. They maintained the program for the remaining weeks of Lent and through the Triduum.

You can never under-estimate the additional strain and stress experienced by our musicians when their offerings are being recorded for transmission. Singers who were very competent were exhibiting signs of nervous tension. As the weeks passed the stress diminished but whenever the music was more demanding it showed itself again. Because we are human we all make mistakes. Some slips, we can cover up so that the listener barely notices but others can be all too obvious. These are embarrassing moments for the musicians and the knowledge that they can be replayed over and over again by anyone who visits the website can be tough to endure! Due to the good work of Neil Kennedy we were ahead of most parishes in getting the live-streamed Masses going. We were attracting a very high number of views, particularly over the Triduum, and from all over USA and beyond!

August 2019

A Hymn for St. Lawrence Parish

Music is used the world over to unite the citizens of a particular country in a single song often known as the national anthem. Regardless of ethnic difference citizens of that country stand to sing enthusiastically or listen attentively to that song which unites the people. (read more)

August 2017

Sunday 13 August – Patronal Feast of St Lawrence

On the evening of Saturday, August 12th, about 45 parishioners came together for the first rehearsal of One Voice, Many Cultures, a new choir formed to support the singing at major bilingual celebrations of the Parish. It comprised members of both the English and Spanish-speaking choirs as well as other members of the parish who just love singing!

We were more than ably supported by Elizabeth and Maria on the violin and Jessica on flute. Our music directors Leo and Philip provided further support on guitar and piano respectively.

In the two hours of rehearsal, we learned all the music for the 11 am Patronal Feast Day Mass the following day. For all, it meant singing in a language other than their mother tongue. It was good to learn pronunciation from each other.


The Mass was a great parish celebration of praise to God. The music was as follows:

Opening Song:Come to the Feast/Ven al Banquete (Hurd)
Glory to God:Mass of Creation – bilingual setting (Marty Haugen/Tony Alonso)
Psalm 112:bilingual setting by Leo Tellado
Gospel Greeting:Celtic Alleluia with bilingual verses
Intercessions:Trilingual Intercessions (Michael Hay)
Preparation of Gifts:Every single thing/Todas nuestras vidas (Jaime Cortez)
Acclamations & Lamb: Mass of Creation – bilingual setting (Marty Haugen/Tony Alonso)
Communion:Eat this bread – bilingual (Taize)
I am the bread of life – bilingual (Toolan)
Amen. El cuerpo de Cristo (John Schiavone)
Recessional:Themba Amen (South African traditional)

July 2017

National Pastoral Musicians Convention – Cincinatti – July 11-15, 2017

I had been to the NPM Convention on two previous occasions in Grand Rapids (2015) and Houston (2016). This year the Convention took place in Cincinnati and it was wonderful that St Lawrence sent two delegates, Spanish Music Director Leo Tellado and myself.

The Convention began with a grand opening Mass and continued with a series of Plenary Addresses about liturgy, showcases at which the main Catholic music publishers presented a selection from their latest catalogs, and workshops in which you got to hear from composers and liturgists on a variety of topics.

There was also an exhibition of resources from several publishers and liturgical bodies.

The new President of NPM gave a very upbeat address on the future of NPM. Most impressive was the enhanced internet presence.

Most memorable for me was the session led by Jaime Cortez and Bob Hurd on bilingual music. They laid down some ground rules for bilingual celebrations and introduced us to great resources.

Two workshops were led by the Liturgical Composers Forum of which I am a member. A number of attendees had offered unpublished music to a panel of composers who were able to offer helpful comments and suggestions in return.

My membership in the Composers’ Forum has meant that I have got to know a number of composers quite well. So when we arrived I think Leo was just a little impressed that I was being welcomed by the like of Bob Hurd, Marty Haugen, Christopher Walker, and Jaime Cortez. Leo decided to retaliate by taking advantage of every opportunity to get me to take his picture with notable composers!

Beyond the events of the Convention, there was an opportunity for Leo and myself to get to know each other better. Of necessity, we only pass like ships in the night as the Sunday Spanish Mass ends and the Sunday evening Mass starts so we were able to have some great conversations about a strategic approach to bilingual celebrations within St Lawrence. The celebration of St Lawrence Patronal Feast Day on 13 August was the product of that deepening conversation.

On the return flight intent on getting a bit of ‘shut-eye’, we found ourselves sat with Alec the boss of GIA Publications. It was a great chance to share opinions with one of the publishers who really form liturgical thought in the USA and beyond.
-Philip Jakob
Director of Music

June 2017

Liturgical Composers Forum

In January 2017 our Music Director Philip Jakob was invited to join the Liturgical Composers Forum (LCF) at their 5-day meeting in St Louis, Missouri. He had a few days vacation to use up so he accepted the invitation.

The LCF was formed by John Foley SJ (of ‘Be not afraid’ fame) who directs a Liturgical Institute in St Louis. There were two other English composers at the meeting, Christopher Walker and Paul Inwood. Christopher has spent the last 20 years working in California and Paul continues to work in England. Joining us were forty other composers, some being shining luminaries others being lesser stars in the ascent.

Over the next few days, we critiqued each other’s music, heard Plenary talks given by Cyprian Consiglio and attended liturgies. There was plenty of time for getting to know each other over a glass or two of wine and on a penultimate evening after a celebratory Mass at which Cyprian was the celebrant we were transported to the Hilton Hotel for a wonderful banquet sponsored by various publishing companies. On the final evening, we gave a concert of published music by composers present. My setting of ‘Blessed are the Clean of heart’ was directed by Laurence Rosania, with yours truly at the piano.

June 2017

The Choir of St Lawrence Church has begun its annual summer break. Some members will gather to support the music at the 11 am mass throughout the summer but there will be no Wednesday evening rehearsals until September.

It has been a busy final week for us. For the last few weeks we had been working hard to learn ‘I shall be living’ by Dutch composer, Antoine Oomen. We broke the back of it in one hour of rehearsal time and then in successive weeks were able to concentrate on the detail. On the Wednesday before Pentecost it was clear that it was ready to offer to God and God’s people.

On Friday the choir met at the house of the Aggen family who are all members of the choir. We had a great evening enhanced by the presence of Marty Purtell on piano leading a more secular sing-along!

On Pentecost Sunday during a Mass at which Fr Keating was chief celebrant the choir sang ‘I shall be living’ for the first time outside a rehearsal and later offered Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from ‘Messiah’.

It was a fitting end to the season tinged with the sadness at saying farewell to Bob Niemoeller, one of our basses, who left Tampa the following day to take up a new job in Chicago. We wish him well.

On Wednesday 7 June the choir gathered again for an evening of appreciation for their loyalty and hard work. We were joined by Fr Mike, Deacon Cris and staff member Sarah Williford. Philip was unable to let the choir go without singing for their supper so he led them in the singing of several songs from Africa. It was clear that whilst the choir could cope with many challenges singing in Swahili was just going too far!

June 2017

Putting A Face To The Name!

​It is often helpful to put a face to familiar names.
Here is a picture of three composers whose music often features at St Lawrence.

Left to right it shows Marty Haugen from America and, from England, our own Philip Jakob and Bernadette Farrell. They were presenting at the National Network of Pastoral Musicians Conference in Birmingham, UK in July 1998. Several years later I, for one, have considerably more grey hairs!

March 2017

On Wednesday, March 8, 2017, our Music Director’s organ professor, Stephen Hicks, visited St Lawrence to give an organ recital in the evening. About 120 people attended what was a magnificent performance by this Master. Stephen himself numbered the musical greats among his teachers. In Paris, he was taught by Nadia Boulanger, Marcel Dupre, and Andre Marchal. He completed his studies at the start of the 1970s and embarked on a heavy series of concerts. In 1973 he was also teaching piano and organ at St George’s College, Weybridge, UK where Philip Jakob was a student.
For the last 30 years Stephen has been organist at the historic church of Roros in Norway. Once acclaimed as an icon for British organists his reputation is now worldwide.

Stephen Hicks at the organ with Philip Jakob and Fr. Mike Muhr looking thrilled! We were!

January 2016

On 31 January 2016, the English liturgical composer Paul Inwood visited St Lawrence.


Paul was doing some work elsewhere in Florida and drove over to visit his fellow countryman Philip Jakob. 2016 was a big year for Paul as his submission to a Vatican committee was chosen to be the official Song for the Holy Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church. You will have heard our Parish Choir singing the piece throughout the Holy Year.

Here is a recording of his winning song:

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