Music & Choir

Music at St. John's

Music has been a central component to the Liturgy at St. John’s, of Somerville and its tradition of performing choral music continues to serve the parish and greater community. John Plesniarski, was recently called as the Organist and Choirmaster to replace Brent Miller, who served the parish as Organist and Choirmaster for 35 years.  Under John’s direction the choirs continue to strive for musical excellence by performing fine choral music.

The Adult Choir is open to anyone high school age or above. The choir rehearses on Thursdays, from 7:30 pm - 9:00pm and on Sundays, from 9:45 am - 10:05am in the Choir Room. Anyone who is interested  should see John Plesniarski after a Sunday service, or email him at  johnples82@gmail.com.

The Junior Choir, directed by Tracey Jameson, allows the opportunity for young children to praise God through the gift of song. Rehearsals are held from 9:15 am - 9:45 am on Sundays preceding the 10:15 am service. They perform one anthem each month during a Sunday Service. Any interested children should see Tracy or John after a Sunday Service.

Organist and Choirmaster

John A. Plesniarski  is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, where he received the Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education along with a major concentration in Organ. He has performed in numerous recitals in the central New Jersey area, as well as in Larchmont NY. He was also heard on the nationally syndicated radio program, Pipedreams. Upon graduation, Plesniarski was awarded the Elizabeth Wyckoff Durham Award for academic excellence and excellence in performance.

A church musician since he was a teenager, John has held positions in Bayonne, and most recently at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, South River, NJ, where he served for seven years.

St. Cecilia ~ Patron Saint ~ Musicians, Composers, Instrument Makers, Poets

Saint Cecilia is said to have heard heavenly music inside her heart when she was forced to marry the pagan, Valerian. A wealth of music, art and festivals in honor of St. Cecilia has grown from this little bit of information from her biography. She is the acclaimed patron saint of music, especially church music, as well as that of musicians, composers, instrument makers and poets. The name Cecilia means blind and so, although it is unknown if she herself was blind, she is also the Catholic patron saint of the blind.

Although the dates of her birth and martyrdom are unknown, iIt is believed that St. Cecilia was born in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., A religious romance telling the love story of Saint Cecilia and Valerian appeared in Greece during the 4th century A. D., and there is also a biography of St. Cecilia dating from the 5th century A. D.

She is purported to have been the daughter of a wealthy Roman family, a Christian from birth, who was promised in marriage to a pagan named Valerian Cecilia, however, had vowed her virginity to God, and wore sackcloth, fasted and prayed in hopes of keeping this promised.

Saint Cecilia disclosed her wishes to her husband on their wedding night. She told Valerian that an angel watched over her to guard her purity. He wanted to see the angel, so St. Cecilia sent him to Pope Urban (223-230). Accounts of how and when Valerian saw the angel vary, but one states that he was baptized by the Pope, and, upon his return to Saint Cecilia, they were both given heavenly crowns by an angel. Another version recounts that Tiberius, Valerian's brother, sees the crowns and he too is converted.

The two brothers then made it their mission to bury Christian martyrs put to death by the prefect of the city. In turn, they were brought in front of the prefect and sentenced to death by the sword.

Cecilia, in the meantime, continued to make many conversions, and prepared to have her home preserved as a church at her death.

Finally, she too was arrested and brought before the prefect. He ruled that she should die by suffocation in the baths. Saint Cecilia was locked into the bathhouse and the fires vigorously stoked. She remained there for a day and a night but was still alive when the soldiers opened the doors. She was then ordered beheaded, but the executioner, after striking three times without severing St. Cecilia's head, ran away, leaving her badly wounded.

St. Cecilia hung onto life for three days after the mortal blows, preaching all the while. She made many more conversions and people came to soak up her flowing blood with sponges and cloths. There exists in Rome a church in St. Cecilia's honor that dates from about the fifth century. Her relics were believed to have been found by Pope Paschal I in 821 A.D., in the cemetery of St. Celestas. These remains (said to be incorrupt) were exhumed in 1599, when Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati rebuilt the church of St. Cecilia.

St. Cecilia's following flourished during the middle Ages in Europe. Songs were sung in her name, poetry was written, paintings with St Cecilia as the subject were created (three are above), and her feast day, on November 22 was happily celebrated.

She continued to be a popular topic for the arts well into the 18th century. Hans Memling, in 1470, painted St. Cecilia playing the organ at the mystical marriage of Catherine of Alexandria. In 1584 she was named patroness of the academy of music founded in Rome. Raphael painted her at Bologna, Rubens at Berlin and Domenichino in Paris. Chaucer commemorates her in his Second Nun's Tale and Handel set John Dryden's "Ode to Saint Cecilia" to music in 1736.

Never was so much made of such a tiny bit of pseudo-biographical information. St. Cecilia, said to have heard heavenly music at one moment of her life, became the patroness of all western music. Even the Andrews Sisters, in 1941, recorded a song, "The Shrine of St. Cecilia.