Hess pens music to benefit scholarship for doctors

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Poster of the upcoming EP album release | COURTESY  LORRAINE HESS

Christian singer/songwriter Lorraine Hess, the new director of music ministry at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, has released a new album to benefit a memorial scholarship at the LSU Health Sciences Center honoring the late Dr. Keith A. Collins.

The Clarion Herald spoke with Hess about the album.

The new album, “See the Miracle,” is your sixth solo recording of original liturgical and sacred music, recorded in Memphis and produced by Kevin Paige. How did you name the album and create its seven songs?

The cover song, “See the Miracle” was inspired by Jennifer Collins’ Caring Bridge posts when her husband, Dr. Keith Collins (the father of six children), was dying in the summer of 2015. He was only 45 years old, and his illness was a short 3 ½ months. She reminded us to see miracles and God in everything and never gave up hope, despite his condition’s seriousness. Those who remember Keith’s brief illness saw the powerful witness of faith shown by Jennifer and the community that surrounded their family. I wrote the cover song from that experience. All the album’s songs are meant to minister to those who mourn, those who suffer, those who struggle to carry their crosses in some way. We are all going through something. However, this is not an album of lament; it is a message about hope and joy that is possible in our suffering, and the way we can evangelize during our trials so that we become stronger in faith and an inspiration to others who are going through their own trials.

Jen inspired me when my family suffered a house fire in December 2017. I made a choice, early in the ordeal,  that I wanted something good to come from it. It was an opportunity for evangelization and inspiration. One song on the album, “A Heart That’s Been Purified,” was the product of my experience during the rebuilding (spiritually) after the fire.

You collaborated on this project as you have in the past, singing duets with John Angotti and Jennifer Babin Collins, who is a St. Catherine choir member.  You co-wrote two songs with local musician Jamie Diliberto. What drove you to work with them?

I sang and spoke at the Mid Atlantic Congress in February 2019, and John Angotti was there. We collaborated there on two of the songs that are on this album: “Rejoice and Be Glad” (based on the beatitudes) and “Darkness Cannot Overcome the Light.” John was the first person to encourage me to write music. I am where I am today because of his encouragement. He also convinced me to get my master’s in pastoral studies, which I completed in May 2018. He will sing at the release concert Oct. 23.

Jamie and I have been writing together for years. We penned two songs for this album, “Prayer of Thanksgiving,” a song we wrote, but never recorded; and “Heal Us,” a song we struggled to finish over a long period of time. It was God’s providence, though, why we could not seem to finish it. We finally completed it right before the clergy sex scandal news broke in the summer of 2018, and we realized the words all along were meant for times such as these. It’s a communion song about healing through the body and blood of Christ. Jamie also will play and sing at the concert. He is like a brother to me.

How is this album different than the others? 

When I decided to record this album, I first asked Jen for permission, and she immediately said “yes!” But she asked if she could be present during the recording. I immediately knew she had to sing on the album. We sang together in high school at St. Mary’s Dominican and now sing together at St. Catherine. She came to Memphis with me, and I can’t imagine this album without her. This was her first recording experience, but you’d never know it from the recording. I think it was easy for her to sing it because she lived it. You can hear her voice on “See the Miracle” and “Song of Farewell.”

The album proceeds go to the LSUHSC Keith A. Collins Memorial Scholarship.

This was all the idea of the Holy Spirit. I originally planned to release only the single, “See the Miracle,” for the scholarship organized by Keith’s medical school friends. I was good to go with the recording, until one night, I woke up at midnight and was up for three hours, frustrated that I couldn’t return to sleep, so, I prayed. It seemed clear that God wanted more than one song for Keith; it had to be a whole project. I looked through a spreadsheet of songs I had written but not yet recorded, and they all had something to do with Keith’s and Jen’s story. I agreed (at 3 a.m.) to do the project, and then I begged God, “Can I now please get some sleep?!” That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up the next morning. I called Jen, who thought it was a great idea. I called Kevin Paige, who agreed to produce the project. Then, the Holy Spirit sent me dozens of angels to help me pay for the entire project through gofundme.

How has being involved with Christian music changed your life? 

One of the greatest blessings about a life in Christian music is that I am constantly surrounded by people of faith. People along the way tell me their stories, and the ministering is reciprocal. Writing music for the church and singing for the liturgy is a responsibility I take seriously. People listening to my music or sitting in the pews are all going through something. When they go to God, and the music helps them get there, it changes lives. There is no greater gift to me than to know something I wrote and sang was a bridge to someone’s relationship with God.

In what ways have your sons and husband, Rob, influenced your life, attitude about life, faith and music? 

As a Catholic wife and mother of four sons, there’s nothing I want more than their salvation … nothing. The love I have for them has drawn me deeper into understanding God’s love for me. Patience, forgiveness, (good) pride, unconditional love. I pray that the work I do for the body of Christ has planted good seeds of faith for them as they witness what I do.

When and where is the release concert?

The free release concert with a full band and Jennifer is Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Catherine of Siena Church. 105 Bonnabel Blvd. in Metairie. This would have been Keith’s 50th birthday. CDs and T-shirts will be sold. A sneak preview of a few songs from the album will be sung  at a prayer concert Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in the chapel of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center, 5500 St. Mary St. (off Avron Avenue) in Metairie.

To find out more, go to lorrainehess.com

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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