Parish musician’s ‘Gift’ CD reflects collaborative effort
Written by Ann-Margaret Lambo, Special to the Exponent
Friday, 23 May 2014 08:41
CANTON – Years ago, Jeff Fricker, music minister at St. Michael Parish the Archangel Parish here, was on a quest to find just the right music for the parish LifeTeen Mass.
He never found what he wanted so he started writing his own, embarking on a journey to what eventually became his first CD project.
Conceived nearly 15 years ago, the new 11-song CD features original compositions and was released May 17.
The album, “The Gift,” showcases the creative contributions of more than 30 musicians and singers from St. Michael, along with the Children’s Choir, JuBELLation Choir, LifeTeen band and ensemble, and the LifeTeen lectors. Parishioner Joan Frank co-wrote the title track with Fricker.
Composition started in 2000 with the earliest recordings done in Fricker’s basement with fellow St. Michael musician Joe Smithberger on bass.
The late Father Bradford Helman, pastor of St. Michael at the time the project was taking shape, encouraged Fricker. All of the songs on “The Gift” were composed on Father Brad’s piano. He also gave his blessing to the first five psalms included on the CD just weeks before he died.
“I’ve composed psalms across the years – somewhere between 20 and 25,” Fricker said. “Mostly because I couldn’t find what I was looking for or just because I plain old thought I could come up with something better.”
“Music, to me, is worship, needs to be uplifting,” he continued. “Overall, my philosophy with the contemporary ensemble was to create a joyful song, just like it says in the [Book of] Psalms.
“The general population is [so] beat up … in day-to-day life that when they come to Mass at St. Michael’s we are going to give them light. We are going to give them something to be joyful about.”
With the encouragement of Father Helman, Fricker began to consider compiling the songs into a CD format as a gift to the parish and greater community.
Soon after, Father Helman was diagnosed with ALS. As his condition deteriorated, members of the parish stepped up to care for him around the clock. Fricker was one of those caregivers and made the most of his time with his pastor.
“We sat together one very special evening,” Fricker said. “He was a captive audience after all and listened to the first five psalms that Joe Smithberger and I recorded…. I will never forget that night as he nodded his approval, song after song.”
Father Helman wasn’t Fricker’s only cheerleader. His current pastor, Father Donald King, was very supportive, as was Bishop George V. Murry, S.J.
And so were Fricker’s fellow musicians in the St. Michael music ministry as well as high school students from the parish’s high school ministry, which Fricker also directs. Individuals from both groups contributed to the music, vocals and voice-over work.
“It was fun to sit at Father Brad’s piano and see where the Holy Spirit drove it,” said Fricker, a broad smile breaking over his face. “I was just a vehicle. The Holy Spirit was who drove this whole project.”
The choice of title for the album was a no-brainer, he said.
“This CD could have easily been called “Blessings,” but we settled on the name “The Gift,” because of the immeasurable gift of the love of God that flows from and through the gift of music, the gift of the Church and the gift of each other.
“Music allows us to connect with God, each other and the world in a way that nothing else can. Through music, we can worship, dance, sing, cry, celebrate, mourn, praise, heal, comfort and share an experience that changes us.”
“We are humbled by the opportunity to share our music and the proceeds of this special project with the community,” Fricker said, “and hope this will be the first of many more to come.”
A portion of all proceeds will benefit the parish’s High School Youth & Music Ministry and Community Harvest, Inc.Catholic Exponent Press Release