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  • Answers Submitted by Linda Toia and Kathy Flaherty

Insights from Our Bell Choir and Folk Group Directors - A Q&A Session

Updated: 6 days ago

Kathy Flaherty, Bell Choir Director, and Linda Toia, Folk Group Director, share and answer questions about their work at St. Peter's and their musical passions in this special Q&A interview in honor of Music Appreciation Sunday.


Kathy Flaherty

Linda Toia


Q: What initially inspired you to pursue music ? How long have you been a director at St. Peter’s ? 

Kathy: While growing up, my parents listened to classical music on a daily basis and my mother was “babysitting “ a piano for a friend. The stage was set for my music education. I have been the Bell Choir Director since the Fall of 2016 and interim organist for 3 years.
Linda: I began studying cello in the fifth grade out of a deep desire to play a musical instrument. I transitioned to the string bass in eighth grade (the cello wasn’t quite big enough for me!) and majored in Music Performance at Oberlin College.
As a young adult in the Roman Catholic Church, I became interested in playing folk music after Vatican Two. I have been playing folk music in church ever since. I even played bass guitar for my wedding!
I have directed the folk group at St. Peter’s for 22 years.

Q: Can you share a memorable experience from your journey as a St. Peter’s music director that deeply impacted you?

Kathy: When St. Philip-in-the-Fields merged with St. Peter’s, the choir and bell ringers automatically embraced their mutual love of music and became one. The experienced ringers of St. Philip’s encouraged and coached the novice St. Peter’s ringers. The current Bell Choir is a testament to this wonderful joining.
Linda: The folk group has played for several memorial services, including my husband, Frank’s. I was deeply moved by these experiences and grateful that our folk group members could so profoundly share our lives through our common love of music and each other.

Q: What are your thoughts on music’s role in the church and greater society, and how do you strive to fulfill that role?

Kathy: Music can be the meeting point for widely diverse segments of society. Choosing music representative of the broad spectrum of humanity can enlighten and connect us on a global level.
Linda: I truly believe that music can be a positive way to bring people together. As we sing songs that reflect the theme of the service, we can connect with each other in a deep way and get in touch with the love that is present to all of us. I try to select music that will help us do this. I also open myself to the Spirit as I lead the folk group during rehearsals and folk group Sundays.

Q: How do you balance preserving traditional pieces while also exploring new and innovative musical avenues?

Kathy: I search for “good” music, well composed with inspiring lyrics and melodies. I have no preconceived bias for or against any particular genre or style.
Linda: One way of describing folk music is to say that it is the music of the people. I welcome the opportunity to offer music of this genre and give thanks that we have a variety of musical styles at St. Peter’s.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a performance truly exceptional or memorable?

Kathy: This type of musical moment has the power to draw both listeners and performers into a state of oneness with the music. All outer distractions fade away and the mind and body become one with the musical meditation.
Linda: I thoroughly enjoy realizing, when home, that I am humming a song that we have recently sung at church! It is a gift to have this connection between the liturgy and my life when I leave the church community.

Q: Are there any upcoming projects or performances that you're particularly excited about this upcoming year (doesn’t have to be St. Peter’s related)?

Kathy: Tim and I will be traveling to Minneapolis in May 2025 to sing in a mass choir performance of “Weather: Stand the Storm” a social justice oratorio inspired by the death of George Floyd. The composer is our dear friend, Rollo Dilworth and the singers will come from Singing City Choir, Temple University Choir and choirs of Minneapolis, to commemorate the 5th anniversary of this tragic event.
Linda: I am excited about collaborating with Carol Cei and Rev. Barb as we look towards next year. This will be our first opportunity to plan a full year together and I trust it will be a very creative and positive experience.

Q: Finally, on Music Appreciation Day, what message would you like to share with listeners and music enthusiasts about the power and beauty of music?

Kathy: Sing like no one is listening, dance like no one is watching, embrace the power of music to live like it’s heaven on earth - para. Mark Twain
Linda: God has given us this remarkable gift of music, and I invite each of us to open ourselves to making joyful sounds together!

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