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In perfect harmony

Mother of Divine Grace, Nativity and St. George parishes form joint church choir.

Hitting all the right notes: Brian Padla leads the newly formed choir during a Tuesday evening rehearsal. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

It’s a Tuesday evening, and harmonious hymns can be heard streaming down the stairs from the choir loft as the church bells chime at St. George Parish.

Brian Padla is seated at the organ and a half-dozen choir singers sit facing him, sheet music and church hymnals balanced on their laps.

It’s a rehearsal, the last one remaining prior to their debut at a Sunday Mass.

What appears to be a group of parishioners gathered in song is much more.

The choir represents three congregations: Mother of Divine Grace, Nativity B.V.M. and St. George.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced in January 2016 the three parishes would enter a partnership by June 2017 as part of its pastoral planning initiative.

Each parish is now served by one pastor and one staff.

And, as of September, parishioners have the opportunity to participate in a joint adult choir.

Padla is the music director and teacher at St. George and teaches and sings at Mother of Divine Grace.

During Holy Week last year, the choirs at MDG and St. George merged to perform as one.

“And Angie and I said, ‘Why don’t we continue this next year?,’ ” said Padla, who serves as co-director of the choir. “When the two parishes partnered, they would get together during Holy Week to sing together, but it wasn’t on a regular basis. The more things we do together, the better it is.”

“Angie” is Angelina Clair, the music director at MDG. She is the accompanist and co-director of the newly formed choir.

After serving as a fill-in organist at the parish, Padla became music director at St. George in July 2017, and the choir at St. George picked back up as normal in September.

“The first time the choirs merged together was a year before I came for Holy Week,” he said.

“Right now, we plan to alternate once a month and then on Holy Days and Easter and Christmas, we’ll try to perform at each one during the season,” Padla said. “We want to do one Mass at each church each month if possible. If not, we’ll alternate.”

And, while the choir will alternate Masses, the hope is to bring unity to the merged parishes.

“The goal ultimately is to have more of a community between the parishes since they are partnered,” Padla said. “It’s about community. We could have just kept things the way they were. But, we thought it was something nice and would make us feel more together as one unit.”

While the immediate plan is to focus on Mass, a larger performance may be on the horizon.

“We’d like to have a concert, maybe sometime later on next year once we’re established,” Padla said, “and include the children’s choirs in that as well.”

There are 13 members of the choir, and new members are always welcome. Rehearsal is held on Tuesdays at 6:45 p.m. at St. George.

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