Singer-songwriter shares 'motivating,' 'honest' messages with musicians

Cary Ashby • Feb 6, 2019 at 6:00 PM

The lyrics of Sarah Hart’s music connects with Kathleen Sigsworth’s soul. The composer’s work inspired the Milan woman to seek a grant for Hart to come to St. Paul Catholic Church.

“Her lyrics speak to us; they are down to earth. She just reaches out and touches your heart. Bringing her here has been a dream of mine for several years,” said Sigsworth, who plays bass in the St. Paul praise band.

Hart led a workshop for area musicians Saturday at the Joan C. Camp Auditorium in the St. Paul Convocation Center. The singer-songwriter performed during a free concert at the St. Paul church that night. One of those songs she sang was “Better Than a Hallejuah,” which Hart wrote and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Song for Amy Grant's recording in the 2010 album “Somewhere Down the Road.”

“(Hart’s) music is in the hymnals that we use at the 5 o’clock Mass … ‘Spirit and Song’ out of Oregon Catholic Press and that’s the grant that we received,” Sigsworth said. “I noticed her being the composer of many things that reach me.”

Sarah Fries, who has cantored at St. Paul every other week for about three years, attended Hart’s workshop.

“I just want to provide nice music for the congregation and encourage them to sing along and participate in the Mass,” Fries said, referring to her role as a singer in church. “The biggest thing she talked about today was invitation. … I never thought of it as my job to do that, so I think that’s pretty motivating.”

Hart, during the workshop, encouraged the musicians to seek out people who may be new to attending church after the service, especially since they sit in the sanctuary and can see the parishioners. 

“You are an integral part of hospitality,” Hart said.

Also, the singer-songwriter reminded the workshop attendees that “the congregation can see you,” so the way the choir or praise band members present themselves and interact are important.

“Get right with each other because we need to get right with the body (of Christ),” Hart added.

Sigsworth, during the mid-morning break, said she appreciates Hart’s honesty.

“I love that she’s not afraid to say what a lot of people are thinking. She’s very honest and that’s something that speaks to me as well,” Sigsworth said.

Since musicians often think their performances are “about you,” Hart said it’s important to remember the focus should be “about our team” and “our church.” She shared a short prayer she often says before she leads a workshop or performs.

“Lord, move me out of the way. Amen,” said Hart, who has led musician’s workshops and been a professional musician for about 28 years.

Hart lives in Nashville, Tenn. and grew up in Lancaster, Ohio. She enjoyed returning to the Buckeye State.

“I love it; I love it so much. I miss it terribly. I would move up here in a heartbeat if it weren’t snowing because I’m so used to the nice weather,” she said with a laugh.

Hart had the musicians sing many times during the workshop. She shared “Christ the Lord,” which she wrote with Robert Feduccia and is in the “Spirit and Song” hymnal used at St. Paul. Hart said it’s easy for a congregation to learn and while it’s a relatively new song, it feels like it has a much older history.

The Rev. Dr. Brian Oglesbee, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Norwalk, said he enjoyed hearing Hart’s message about “bringing (in) the ancient, or the old music, in a new way for the younger people (who) are coming into the church.” 

“We get the same kind of doctrine or theology to these young people, but it’s just in a different way,” Oglesbee added.

Hart, during the break, said she wants the musicians in her workshop to know “they are loved as well” and are doing “a great job doing the hard work of a musician in the church, which is really a thankless job.”

“We know it’s not about us; it’s about the body (of Christ) and welcoming the body into praising God. It’s a serious task. I hope they know they’re loved in that task and are appreciated,” she added.

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