Hymn composed by St. Matthew fourth grader puts accent on praise

Why may the people of the Earth sing a joyful song in praise?

’cause He loves you and He loves me and He loves everyone.

His name is written on our hearts. He was born on Christmas Day.

He died for you and He died for me and He died for everyone.

Alleluia, praise the Lord! Alleluia, praise the Lord!

Alleluia, praise the Lord! Alleluia, praise the Lord!

– “Song in Praise” by Sara Sciortino
     On the days she has yard duty, Celeste Thompson is used to having students come up to her to perform the songs and dances they have made up in their spare time.
     But last fall, one of those songs stopped Thompson, the music teacher at St. Matthew the Apostle School, in her tracks: a sweet and beautifully written hymn composed by Sara Sciortino, a fourth grader in Thompson’s choir of 62 students.
     “I was expecting a little baby tune, but I thought, ‘This is really pretty good!’” said Thompson, who constantly is on the lookout for ways to bring students’ musical talents into school liturgies and instantly saw the potential of Sara’s song as a Mass hymn.
     “The words had meaning and the tune was a little more complicated than you would have expected,” said Thompson of the piece, “Song in Praise,” which is now a staple at St. Matthew’s Thursday morning school Masses. Debuting last October as an entrance hymn, “Song in Praise” was removed from the Mass song sheet during the solemn season of Lent and reinserted after Easter.
     “It’s the first song I’ve ever composed about Jesus,” said Sara, 10, an altar server who is currently working on two additional hymns – themed after the Blessed Mother and God the Father. “I really like writing religious songs!” she said.
     Sara said her song-writing process involves either “hearing” the tune in her head and then filling in the lyrics or vice-versa. In the case of “Song in Praise,” the melody came to Sara first, as she was doing her homework one evening.
     “I couldn’t get the tune out of my head, so after I finished my homework I was like, ‘OK, I need to write a song with this tune,’” said Sara, who completed the hymn in less than 24 hours.

     Sara’s older sister, Katie, a gifted pianist, encouraged Sara to write spiritual lyrics after hearing Sara humming the melody. Katie transcribed the song into sheet music so Thompson could teach it to the choir and the rest of the student body. Hand motions were added and practiced during music classes.
     “I would teach (the hymn) to the fifth grade and then I would say, ‘Did you know a fourth grader here wrote that?’” Thompson said. “They would be like, ‘What?’”
     Sara, an aspiring doctor, said she “fits notes together better” since taking up piano last summer. She said one of her dreams is to perform “Song in Praise” for Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
     “It doesn’t happen very often that a good tune comes in my head. Unless I feel I can turn it into something really good, I won’t make it into a song,” said Sara, who feels right in her element in St. Matthew’s choir.
      “It makes me feel like I belong,” she said. “Singing just makes me happy. It’s a wonderful feeling when you know that you have a good singing voice and you really want to show it!”

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