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FEATURES | carlow choir

Singing for the Lord



Vicki Priebe was just looking for a relaxing

evening when she decided to attend a 2007
concert in Hattiesburg by classical guitarist
John DeChiaro. She had no idea the concert
would change her life.
After his performance, DeChiaro brought
out members of the Carlow Choir, a nonde-
nominational ensemble he had founded in
2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, to
bring hope to residents of storm-ravaged
South Mississippi and Louisiana.
“He was recruiting,” Priebe said. Touched
cert for EWTN, the Catholic television chan-
“It was a very rigorous process we had to
go through to get this,” DeChiaro said. “I’ve
been trying for two years to get this. This
will give us international exposure because
EWTN airs around the world.”
DeChiaro, a retired professor at the
University of Southern Mississippi, named the
choir after the seminary in Ireland where
many of South Mississippi’s priests were edu-
cated, so members are especially excited
by their brief performance, she decided to about headlining a choir festival next October
join. at Carlow College. They will also perform at
“It gave me a new direction in my life,” St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The tour
Priebe said. “My husband had passed away a came about after two women wearing Carlow
few years earlier.” Choir T-shirts were stopped in Assisi, Italy, on
The choir has accomplished a great deal in their 2008 tour, by a man who was from
the four short years since its founding. Last Carlow, Ireland. One thing led to another, and
October, the choir traveled to Italy to per- they were eventually invited to perform at
form for Pope Benedict XIV at the Vatican. In the college.
September it recorded a concert for A CD, “Reflections for the Heart: Sacred
Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, Anthems for Choir,” was released this autumn
and there will be a concert at Carnegie Hall by Centaur Records. It was recorded in August
in 2011. In November, the choir taped a con- 2008 at Southwest Mississippi Community

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College in Summit. as McComb, the Mississippi them,” he said.
“The music on this disk is Gulf Coast and New Orleans DeChiaro, who had per-
sacred anthems,” DeChiaro each Monday night for rehears- formed on guitar for Pope John
said. “It’s what I call the best al at River of Life Church on Paul II twice at the Vatican,
of the Bible. There are verses U.S. 98 West. said he decided to submit a
of the Bible that people set to “We love it, we love John,” demo tape of the choir to the
music, such as the 23rd Psalm. said Mary Ellen Lestrade, who Vatican on a whim. After a
The song ‘Weep, Mother Mary,’ drives up from Escatawpa with lengthy acceptance process,
describes what she must have her husband, Oscar. “We first Carlow Choir was invited to
felt when she saw Jesus dying started singing with John perform for Benedict XIV.
on the cross. We sang these about 10 years ago (when he There’s a big difference
songs on our tour of Italy.” was choir director) at another between performing a solo gui-
The approximately 150- church on the Coast. It means tar concert for the pope and
member choir is divided into too much to us, we missed it. conducting a large choir,
two groups, one that is based Around Christmas time, we DeChiaro said.
in Hattiesburg and one that is came back.” “When you’re doing it by
based in Alexandria, La., Alan Butner joined the tenor yourself, you just have to
where DeChiaro is currently section a few months ago. “One worry about you, not 140 peo-
employed as director of the of the ladies recruited me,” he ple,” he said.
string music program for the said. “I thought I could sing for Priebe said God has His hand
Alexandria public school sys- the Lord.” on the Carlow Choir and is
tem. He makes the four-hour DeChiaro said part of the blessing it.
drive from Alexandria to reason for the choir’s success “It’s just wonderful to see
Hattiesburg each week to work is that it “becomes the voice how God has brought people
with the Hattiesburg choir. of God” during performances. together from all denomina-
The members are equally as “Whenever we give con- tions,” Priebe said. “When we
dedicated. Some drive to certs, people are always crying sing, we’re singing from our
Hattiesburg from as far away because the music touches hearts and our experience.”

Rehearsals are held at 7 p.m. Monday
at River of Life Church on U.S. 98
West. Anyone interested in joining
Carlow Choir can attend.

For more information, go to

The CD is $15 and is available at

Doherty’s Furniture, Lil Butcher
Shoppe, Lovie’s and Westgate
Cleaners, and from
and iTunes.

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