By Beth Donze
The Daughters of St. Paul will take their nationally acclaimed Christmas concert of religious sister-performed songs to New Orleans for the first time, on two dates in December.
The sisters’ energetic repertoire of 17 solo and ensemble pieces will flow over one hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.
“We are women religious, so I think the concert reflects everything that makes us sisters – it’s a window into the joy that we really have being consecrated to God,” said Sister Tracey Dugas, a Metairie-based Daughter of St. Paul who will be one of the nine performers in the Sisters’ three-week concert tour covering six states.
Not just some pretty voices
“This live performance is not just a show, but a real work of evangelization,” Sister Tracey said. “Interspersed between the songs we will be giving witness to what it means to be a sister, what it means to love the Lord, what it means that Jesus came and saved us. It’s not just a show; it’s really a sharing. The joy of the sisters comes across in the music, but also (through) us just being ourselves on stage.”
Songs will range from sacred pieces such as “We Three Kings” and “O Holy Night” to crowd pleasers such as “Jingle Bells.”
“There will also be some fun-type mash-ups that are mixes of two songs,” Sister Tracey said. “We also make fun of ourselves, too, so there might be one or two little surprises.”
The group will be supported by a pre-recorded backup track, but a couple of the pieces will be accompanied by live harp music played by one of the sisters. As the energy builds, the sisters will incorporate their signature dance moves.
In a special lagniappe offering featured only on the two New Orleans dates, Sister Tracey and Father Tim Hedrick, parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, will reprise their “Dancing with the Stars, The Good Shepherd Way” dance number, which earned “Fan Favorite” accolades in 2016.
The choir hails from the congregation’s 13 communities in the United States. They design their concert over a week in August at their Boston motherhouse, creating the choreography and doing all of the stage blocking.
“We have these big full-length mirrors that help us a lot,” Sister Tracey smiled.
The tour, which begins after Thanksgiving, will also have the performers stopping in Boston, New York, New Jersey, Cleveland, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Sister Tracey said the New Orleans leg of the tour will be especially poignant for the local community of four Daughters of St. Paul, who will be marking their congregation’s 50th year in the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2018.
The concert is also important for another reason: it is the community’s single fundraiser – proceeds from the two New Orleans concerts will stay with the local community and support it in its main mission of evangelization – through books, CDs, DVDs and other media, as well as sales of religious articles.
Recent fundraising efforts have gone toward the resurfacing of the sisters’ bookstore/residence parking lot at 4403 Veterans Boulevard, and the purchase of a new “evangelization van,” which enables the sisters to take their traveling Catholic book fairs from Texas to Florida.
Current fundraising efforts are focusing on an expansion of their bookstore’s chapel, which hosts as many as 65 faithful at daily Masses celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays at noon.
The sisters, who self-supportively cover their living and housing expenses, are also available to bring their lively book fairs to local parishes and schools.
Sister Tracey said the concert, which traditionally sells out across the country in its more than 20 years of existence, has many first-timers saying it would become their family’s “new Christmas tradition.” The appeal, she said, is down to the sisters themselves, a community with whom Sister Tracey fell in love when she was exploring a vocation to the religious life.
“When I first visited them, I was struck by their humanity – that sense of ‘what you see is what you get,’ a realness, an authenticity. I think that’s refreshing in today’s world,” Sister Tracey said.
“We don’t wear makeup; we all wear the same thing, but yet our individuality really shines through – the individual personalities of each sister,” she added. “If you live that truth, you sort of shimmer!”
Tickets are $35 for general admission and $50 for priority seating. Sponsorships are still available. For information, call 887-7631 or go to pauline.org/nolaconcert.