Livestreaming musical prayer concerts keep Good Shepherd Catholic Church connected during COVID-19 pandemic

Musicians at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Shawnee spread out across the sanctuary for their live musical prayer concert on Friday.

While religious services across Johnson County were shuttered due to COVID-19, members of Good Shepherd Catholic Church have broadcast live musical performances for their fellow parishioners to watch from home.

Small groups of Good Shepherd parishioners have gathered each Friday at church for the past month to share their talents in a series of musical prayer concerts.

Led by Raffaele Cipriano, the church’s music director, each concert ensemble comprises church members who sing or play piano or other instruments — all while spread across the sanctuary. These musicians typically perform during worship services, although worship and gatherings have been limited during the pandemic.

“We are all going through isolation during these times, and music can help us stay together as a community,” Cipriano said. “And this parish loves music; they’re all enthusiastic about the hymns, they participate a lot in singing during the celebration of Mass. It’s beautiful.”

Cipriano said the concert series is “a nice example” of how the church can stay connected as a community with musical expression, all while respecting physical distancing rules.

“It’s like being at the same event together, sharing comments and sharing a moment of prayer,” he added. “Everybody is in their own home, but it’s a community moment.”

The concerts are Livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube, the concert series features church songs and meditative music, with lyrics featured on screen when applicable so that viewers can sing along at home.

Jude Frank, violinist at Good Shepherd, performs alongside pianist Raffaele Cipriano, the church’s music director.

Maggie Masoner, a soprano vocalist and member of Rhythm of Christ, one of the ensembles for the musical prayer concerts, said she enjoys being a part of the remote worship experience.

“It’s definitely different and kind of weird, but at the same time, it’s really an amazing thing to participate in,” Masoner said. “It lifts my mood, and I’m glad that we can do it for other people as well.”

In-person church services resumed this week, although seating is limited and pews are taped off to allow physical distancing. Meanwhile, the musical prayer concert series continues this Friday.

The musical performances at Good Shepherd have also been an outlet for Cipriano, a native of Italy who has watched from abroad the outbreak in his home country. He is also conductor of Overland Park Orchestra, but the orchestra of about 50 musicians is postponed indefinitely due to the risk of infection with large gatherings.

Cipriano said it’s been “overwhelming” to watch the endless news cycle of updates on the global outbreak, both in Italy and the U.S.

“I’m blessed that my friends and family in Italy are all well, so that’s not been a concern, but I’ve struggled seeing my home country go through this, and then seeing America and many other countries too,” he said.

Like Cipriano, many Italians have dealt with the pandemic through musical expression, as seen on social media.

“It’s uplifting, because you can see that music helps us in this moment,” he said. “But it also poses a lot of questions about music in the future. In opera, you stand next to each other, and we are not sure when orchestras and opera productions can start again, anywhere. I look forward to seeing when we can re-open in safety, because I want to do music again, as soon as possible, but I don’t want to have my fellow musicians or the audience in danger. I don’t have an answer, I’m just struggling and trying to stay hopeful.”