When Sister Jane Marie Perrot was a child, she asked her parents if she could take piano lessons. The ongoing Depression meant that her parents had to say, “no;’ they couldn’t afford them. When Sister mentioned this to Sister Loretta Larking, one of the Daughters of Charity who taught her at St. Joseph’s Academy in Portsmouth, Virginia, Sister Loretta made sure that the young child would have music in her life. Thus began a career and a vocation for Sister Jane Marie.
Sister began teaching music at her first mission at St. Ann’s School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. At nearly every school where she taught, Sister Jane Marie would, at least part of the time, be involved with children and their appreciation of the arts. In addition to her teaching duties, she studied organ at the Peabody Conservatory and received a Master of Arts from The Catholic University in 1952. She eventually became the music director at St. Joseph’s Central House and St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg in the mid-1960s.
When the reforms of Vatican II were introduced, Sister Jane Marie was not one to shy away from a new era of Church history. She used music and song to “open up” worship, and, in postulant formation, emotional and experiential forms of evangelization.
Among her evangelization projects was the Emmitsburg Community Chorus, which continues today more than 20 years after Sister Jane Marie’s death. The chorus began with amateur singers from parishes in Frederick and Carroll Counties in Maryland and Adams County in Pennsylvania. Known for its yearly Christmas concerts that take place in the Basilica of Saint Elizabeth Seton, it also performed around the Frederick, Western Maryland, and Gettysburg areas. Sister Jane Marie served as the director from 1968-1973.
In 1975, the world received news of the canonization of Elizabeth Seton, the founder of the Community in Emmitsburg and the first native-born North American saint. At the invitation of the Vatican, the Emmitsburg Community Chorus, 45 strong, traveled to Rome to sing alongside musicians from the U.S. Army bands stationed in Germany and the Sistine Chapel Choir in St. Peter’s Square for the assembled crowds and St. Pope Paul VI as part of the canonization ceremony. Sister Jane Marie took up the baton for the Chorus once again. She became the first woman to conduct a choir in St. Peter’s Square.
Sister Jane Marie was highly respected in the world of music education. In 1978, she co-founded with Father Virgil Funk the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, receiving the Association’s award for Educator of the Year in 1996. She was responsible for an arrangement of the Christmas Novena, performed by the American Daughters of Charity each year before Christmas, and she composed several other hymns.
In 1982, Sister Jane Marie was involved in an automobile accident, severely restricted use of her left arm after a car accident. Afterward, she was unable to conduct in her preferred vigorous, expressive style. This did not mean, however, that she could not compose or arrange music, and she continued to direct celebrations, liturgies, and arrange music at the Seton Shrine before her entry into the Ministry of Prayer in 1988. Sister died in December 1998.
One response to “The Emmitsburg Community Chorus and Sister Jane Marie Perrot”
Wonderful tribute to a magnanimous and humble Daughter of Charity. In the first photo of the Community Chorus, Sister Mary Louise Brown and Sister Theresa Buckley appear (left) and Sister Mary Phyllis Boyce peers at the crowd through binoculars (right). I believe that Sister Ana Mae Schaeben designed the cover of the Christmas Novena, which features the O Antiphons of the liturgical season. Congratulations on promoting a living interest in our heritage.