NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 7, 2013

Church organist celebrates 36 years on the keyboard

Patricia McDonough and her late husband, John, were among the early active members of St. Mary’s Parish in Rowley.

Eager to get away from city life in Somerville, the couple moved to Rowley about 55 years ago. Shortly after purchasing their house on Fenno Drive, they donated a piano to the Roman Catholic church — a move that helped launch the church’s liturgical music program.

And as the church continued to grow and flourish, the music program did as well. In 1976, as the church added more Masses and the number of parishioners increased, McDonough was approached by her close friend, Alice MacDonald, was was the organist at St. Mary’s. She was in need of some help.

“She could only do so much,” McDonough said. Another set of hands was needed to help play the organ for Masses, weddings and funerals. So McDonough, who first began studying piano at age 7, found herself taking lessons on how to play the organ.

“I became very interested in learning more about the Liturgy and the parts of the Mass,” McDonough added. “(Alice) was my mentor.”

Within a matter of time, the music director retired, and McDonough was asked to assume the role. Her responsibilities included directing the choir and choosing the hymns that would be sung at each Mass, playing the organ for weddings and funerals, and also continuing to play the organ at two of the weekend Masses: Saturday evening at 5 p.m. and Sunday morning at 11.

Earlier this summer, McDonough finally concluded her 36-year career as the church’s music director. She just celebrated her 80th birthday on Dec. 15.

“They were all very enthusiastic,” McDonough said of the choir that she led for decades. In addition to performing together at Mass, the group would gather each year for a Christmas party, meet for lunch or take outings to museums. She would joke with them about her “horrible” singing voice, while still joining them on hymns and praising their talents and beautiful sound.

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