SHU Brass Quintet Plays at Historic Basilica in Pennsylvania

News Story: March 1, 2010
Front row, from left, are Msgr. Timothy Swope and Mark Lee. Back row, from left, are Ben Bradley, Zack Lane, Joe Brown, Andrew Natalizio

On Sunday, March 7, the Sacred Heart University Brass Quintet performed for the morning Mass at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in Loretto, PA. 

The ensemble, made up of freshmen Mark Lee of Naugatuck, CT and Andrew Natalizio of Washington, NJ, sophomore Ben Bradley of Torrington, CT, junior Zack Lane of Hicksville, NY, and graduate student Joe Brown of Norwalk, CT, were travelling with the SHU Pep Band who were in PA to support the women’s basketball team in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament.  They meet once a week for coaching sessions with Director of Bands Keith Johnston as part of the newly created Instrumental Chamber Music course, and then practice on their own several days each week.

The quintet provided prelude and postlude music to the service, in addition to accompanying the choir and congregation in the singing of hymns, offertory, and communion music.  The invitation to play came as a result of a conversation Johnston had with the Basilica’s Monsignor Swope, and organist Joe Meyers.  “The brass musicians have worked hard to play well as an ensemble, and since they were going to be with the band in PA for the weekend, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity if they could play at the Basilica.  I had heard of St. Michael’s and its’ founder, Prince Demetrius Gallitzin, but I had never been. It’s a beautiful and historic space and the parishioners were very friendly.”

“I wasn't aware of the Church's rich and deep history” said freshmen trumpet player Andrew Natalizio. “It was an honor, and a privilege to be able to participate in the Sunday Mass with them.”

“The church was beautiful, and everyone made us feel welcome,” added freshman trumpeter Mark Lee. “Learning about the history of it from Msgr. Swope made me very proud to have been able to contribute to the Mass.”   

Performing are, from left, Joe Brown, Ben Bradley and Andrew Natalizio.

The church, which was consecrated in 1901, was built by Loretto native, and U.S. Steel Corporation President Charles M. Schwab.  Andrew Carnegie provided the funds for the organ. It sits very near the site of the original church founded by Demetrius Gallitzin (1770-1840). Father Gallitzin was born a Russian aristocrat who gave up a privileged life to minister to the people in the wilderness of what is now the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. He became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies due to his more than 40 years of charitable works, housing of orphans, and his many writings including his well-known Defence of Catholic Principles published in 1816.  In 1996 the church was named a Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II. In 2007, the Basilica was the host to the Cause Canonization of Father Gallitzin, now referred to as Servant of God Gallitzin.

“I really enjoyed the experience,” said Natalizio. “It’s great to be able to be able to share what we [the brass ensemble] can do outside of the Sacred Heart community.
I was really inspired by this community. They brought a true love for their faith to the Mass. I felt right at home, and the Brass Ensemble was very welcomed by Monsignor Swope, and all of the parishioners of Saint Michael's.”