Jesus promises you two things,    1. Your life has Meaning,    2. You are going to live forever,    If you get a better offer - Take it.    - Creditd to Fr. Gene Waish (1911-1989)



Music Ministry

What people say about St. Joseph Church Music Ministry:

St. Joseph RC Church community is blessed with spiritual priests and deacons, active members, an associated school, and a comprehensive music program. If you want a worship experience that includes the traditional RC format, a spiritual homily, and inspiring music, visit this church.

– A Yahoo! Travel Contributor, 1/30/08 Link

Jean Degan is one of the best and inspiring Music Directors of the Archdiocese of Hartford. She is not only a great musician but also a true Catholic who applies her ministry prayerfully with compassion and love.
Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez, Director of Music, Cathedral of St. Joseph, Archdiocese of Hartford

All members of St. Joseph Church are invited to participate in the Ministry of Music. Whatever your talent may be–singing, ringing or playing an instrument–you are needed.

You do not need to be professionally trained and will be taught whatever skills are necessary for singing or ringing. Additional instruments always add beauty to our liturgies.

Tuesday’s are vocal choir rehearsal days at our parish.

If you are interested in any aspect of the Music Ministry, please contact Jean Degan at 860-583-1369 or by email at

Choirs – Vocal and Handbell

All vocal and handbell choirs sing/ring Sunday Masses and sometimes the Saturday Vigil. They also participate in ecumenical events or other concerts and services when the occasion arises.

Adult Choir

All types of music and levels of difficulty are sung by this 30 voice volunteer choir. The Adult choir sings primarily at the 9:00 am Sunday Mass and all Holy Week Services as well as special events or Masses. We enjoy singing a wide variety of liturgical music from our rich Catholic heritage of the past to the quality contemporary music available today.

Our goal is to make all music become a prayer which uplifts the assembly.  We participate in many ecumenical functions as well as singing weekly for Mass and special celebrations. All styles of music are used as well as a variety of vocal parts—unison through 8 part division and all levels of difficulty.

We have been featured on 3 CD’s to date. New members are ALWAYS welcome! The Adult Choir is open to everyone. Music reading is not required.  Rehearsal takes place in the parish center on Tuesday from 7:15-8:30 pm (except Summers).

Youth Choir

Youth Choir is made up of children between grades 6 through High School. They sing about twice a month at the 10:30 am Sunday Mass. Their schedule for Mass participation is planned around the Religious Education and Confirmation classes. Rehearsal takes place in the Parish Center on Tuesdays from 6:15 – 7:00 pm. Music Reading is not required.

Singing in this group provides Confirmation students with necessary service hours. The Youth Choir is an example of one of many Youth Ministry activities available at St. Joseph Church.

Children’s Choir

Children in Grades 1-5 make up the 20 voice children’s choir. It is preferred that the child is able to read but all are welcome. Children sing at Mass about once a month and on special occasions.

Their schedule for Mass participation is planned around the Religious Education classes. Rehearsal takes place in the Parish Center on Tuesdays from 4:00 – 4:45 pm. This group also participates in several community events.

Handbell Choirs

Handbell ringing is the ultimate team sport. All must work together for the beautiful music that this unique instrument provides. Anyone interested in joining is welcome, with or without previous experience. Music reading and handbell techniques will be taught to anyone who would like to try. New members are always welcome.

Handbells enhance our liturgies frequently. Children/Youth Handbell Choir meets on Tuesdays between Children and Youth vocal choirs from 5:00 – 5:45 pm in the Parish Center or Church. Adult Handbell Choir meets after the Adult Vocal Choir rehearsal from 8:30 – 9:30 pm.


Anyone who plays an instrument is encouraged to offer your talent at Mass. Whatever the instrument, there is always a place for solo offerings or accompanying the Choir’s anthem and Mass parts. No matter what level, we appreciate all who share their talent.

Resurrection Choir

The Resurrection Choir consists of adults who provide musical support to our funeral liturgies. This group is open to anyone who can carry a tune. Music reading is not required. Because most funerals are scheduled for weekday mornings, this ministry is ideally suited to retirees or those who do not normally work mornings. All who are available are encouraged to join this important ministry.

Summer Choir

Summer Choir is a minimal commitment group for people of all ages. If you enjoy singing and can not commit to being in a choir during the school year, this may be the group for you. During the months of June, July and August all are welcome to attend a rehearsal on Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM. You will learn an anthem as well as Mass parts and then sing them during the 10:30 AM Mass.

All music is on a fairly easy level and can be sung by all voices (SATB) and anyone who can read words. Music reading is not necessary. Come and join a group of people who love to sing praise to God and move others to a more prayerful worship experience.


Our parish is currently blessed with 15 volunteer women and men who actively serve the liturgy as cantors. The cantors experience ongoing training in the areas of singing, musicianship, liturgy, spirituality, and ministry. The cantors remain in service to the assembly as they lead the song of the worshipping community and uplift the prayer of the people.

The cantor ministry is open to anyone who can be trained in musical and spiritual leadership. Some of our cantors actively serve the ministry at other churches in our community. Our cantors have also assisted the spiritual and liturgical formation of fledgling cantor programs within area parishes.

Cantors are independently trained and meet as needed to prepare for the music that is being used for the upcoming Liturgies. Anyone wishing to become a cantor in our parish should contact Jean Degan (below) for specific information about the program and commitment.

For further information or to join any of these groups, fill out the form below and return it to the parish center or send a note to Jean Degan at or call (860) 583-1369 (ext. 19)

[contact-form-7 id=”989″ title=”group-joining-form”]

St. Joseph Handbell Choirs

Our handbell choirs are in great demand around New England. The youth group has participated in regional festivals as well as local ecumenical rings and of course at Church services. The adult group and individual members have rung throughout New England, New York, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

There are many local performances throughout the city as well as a yearly performance at Faneuil Hall in Boston. We have had groups ringing for the children’s parade in town, the Christian Women’s Club in Farmington, at the public library and local retirement and nursing homes. Other performances have been in schools for demonstrations, AARP meeting and on CD’s for the Archdiocese.

The bell groups have been asked to participate in many diocesan workshop and prayer services. The most important part of the handbell ministry is to ring prayerfully at parish Masses. It is truly an honor to bring beautiful and prayerful music out into the community as well as sharing it here with our parish family.

There are three parish groups at present: children (training), youth (middle and high school age) and adults (some high school students through adults.) If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a handbell ringer, contact Jean Degan at 860-583-1369 regarding commitment availability and rehearsal times.

Adult Handbell Choir

The Adult Handbell Choir consists of 11 bell players. To ring in a handbell choir, a person must be willing to learn music reading and ringing techniques. A strong dedication and commitment to rehearsal time is essential. Most of our members never rang bells before joining. Some did not read music before joining.

We offer our ministry to the assembly at special liturgies such as Christmas and Easter as well as other festive or contemplative times. We also participate in regional and national festivals as well as prayer services and ecumenical events throughout the archdiocese.

The Adult Handbell Choir was first organized in 1993 under the direction of Mrs. Jean Degan. Since its inception, members of the group have performed in all of the six New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Sometimes the whole group performs.

Other times it may be a quartet, duet or even solo ringers. A quartet of ringers has performed in the Bristol Children’s Parade since the beginning of this yearly event.

Children’s Handbell Choir

The Children’s Handbell Choir consists of  young bell ringers from Grade 3 to Grade 6. A person interested in joining this choir must be willing to learn how to read music and learn beginning bell ringing techniques. Depending on accomplishments, this group will ring two or three times a year at parish functions.

Eighth Grade Bells

The Eighth Grade Bell Choir consists of 11 bell players who are in eighth grade attending St. Joseph School. This group meets during the school day as part of their music curriculum.

Handbell News 2007 

10 people from our parish went to the University of Rhode Island from June 28-July 1, 2007 to attend a Festival Conference sponsored the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. We joined with 750 other handbell enthusiasts from around the country to attend classes and ring handbell music all together! Imagine 750 people ringing bells all together and making incredible music.

Janet Chamberland, our newest ringer was also chaperone along with me and Paul Contrastano who were teaching several classes. The other 7 people were between the ages of 14 and 20. The these young people attended classes, worship services, ringing sessions, concerts and then as a treat, went to the beach on Saturday evening. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun!

We are always looking for others to join us in ringing here at the parish and at outside events such as the Festival Conference. I will again be offering absolute beginner bell sessions this summer. If you are interested in finding out how these things work, either call me at the parish center (583-1369) to set up a personal demonstration time or come to one of the (always free) rehearsals. Coming to these sessions does not make you obligated to do anymore than just find out what it’s about. It’s not as hard as you think and you don’t need to have music background. I’ll teach you anything you need to know.

There are two “check it out” sessions scheduled for July 16 and July 23 at 7 PM. Join the fun and feel good working with others in music ministry.

Adult Handbells perform for the third consecutive year at
Faneuil Hall in Boston on
Saturday, November 18, 2000

Pipe Organ Addition Completed at St. Joseph Church

“Praise God with trumpet blasts, with lute and harp. Praise God with timbrel and dance, with strings and pipes.”
– Psalm 150

The psalmist probably wasn’t referring to organ pipes, but his message is certainly appropriate to our parish music ministry. A number of years ago, there was a dream to install additional pipes to enhance the versatility of our organ. Now, after many years of planning, praying, and making the most of opportunities, the dream of enhancing music in our sacred space is about to be realized!

New Organ Pipes

When the organ console was installed at the front of our church, the primary purpose was convenience for the organist. With the placement of this second console, Masses were less likely to be disrupted by an accompanist moving back and forth between choir loft and nave (the main body of the church). We hoped that someday we also would have the opportunity to install additional pipes near the new console, resulting in a more pleasing sound and experience overall.

The installation of a second set of pipes behind the altar will provide a number of improvements. First, these pipes will produce a softer sound to aid both cantor and celebrant with musical pitches from behind them. Second, the choir (which has outgrown the choir loft in recent years and moved down front) will also benefit by being able to hear more clearly accompaniment from behind.

Third, these pipes will enable the organist to overcome the problem of acoustical “delay.” This is the phenomenon that occurs between the time the sound leaves the pipes at the rear of the church and the time it reaches the ears of those in front, which can be disorienting for even the most accomplished musician. Finally, the softer “voicing” of a second set of pipes will provide a more intimate sound–a benefit for smaller gatherings of people when the grandeur of the upstairs instrument proves overwhelming.

This is especially true for many weddings and funerals, as well as those Masses with fewer in attendance. This will in no way detract from the fuller sound that is needed for larger assemblies. When combined with the pipes in the loft, the new sound will be truly majestic.

A Little History

Though it has been a while, you may recall that in the summer of 1997 we acquired an old pipe organ from a church in Watertown, Conn. When we learned they planned to replace it, we made arrangements to “save” their 1929 Möller pipe organ from an uncertain fate.

A dedicated group of volunteers spent many hours carefully and meticulously dismantling, removing, transporting and storing each and every piece of this grand old instrument. For the past seven years it rested safely on the third floor of our Parish Center.

Coincidentally, not long after, a church in Springfield, Mass. decided to demolish its 1930 Austin organ as part of a larger renovation project. Hartford’s Austin Organ Co. (builder of our choir loft instrument) was notified only one day prior to demolition that the organ was threatened! A crew was assembled and the organ removed to storage the next day. Though we knew nothing of this occurrence, it was to play an important part in our own plans.

Costs and Logistics

Since we first acquired the Möller organ in 1997, we have consulted with many companies in matters of costs and logistics. We discovered that purchasing a completely new organ could easily cost twice as much as refurbishing an older instrument. At today’s prices, that could mean an expense of $250,000 or more! Needless to say, we found that we were already well ahead of the game on that count.

Through the years, we received gifts and bequests for music ministry that were set aside with the organ project in mind. Also, Father Leary (an ardent supporter of our music ministry) earmarked the proceeds from the sale of some Church property for this same purpose.

Last March, following a lengthy period of consultation and discussion, Father Leary received approval from Archbishop Mansell to sign a contract with the Austin Organ Company. They are enthusiastically undertaking to refurbish both the Möller organ from Watertown and the 1930 Austin organ from Springfield, creatively combining the best of both.

The finished instrument will be presented to St. Joseph Church early in 2005. The pipes will be fitted in refurbished “chests” and mounted on the right and left side walls in the Eucharistic Shrine area.

The contracted cost of this project is $97,900, due in a series of installment payments that has already begun. We anticipate that there may be additional costs related to the construction and installation of the chests. Father Joe shares the excitement Father Leary brought to this project and is looking forward to working with everyone to make this a successful undertaking.

While Father Leary ensured that the funds would be available to keep pace with the contract payment schedule, we hope to be able to cover any additional costs through gifts, donations or bequests.

We have overcome several obstacles. The original Austin Organ Company needed to close their doors after three generations of the Austin family running the business. On a snowy cold day in March of 2005, all of the parts were in process to becoming our new organ were removed from the factory and put into storage. Several months later, under new ownership, the Austin Company contacted us to see if they would be able to finish the project.

With the blessing of Archbishop Mansell, we entered into a new contract and the work is nearly complete. Most of the new pipes were installed and working for Palm Sunday 2007. The rest of work, including the case and facade pipes should be complete by the end of July. Watch this web-site and the parish bulletin for a dedication concert in the fall of 2007.

May 15, 2007
Over the past few weeks everyone has noticed the new organ pipes that are being installed. We are pleased that this work is progressing well. The new organ was used for Easter. There is a different tone and quality in these new pipes that is different from the organ loft pipes. Some people have wondered if the pipes are going to remain the way they look now.

The answer is “NO”. There will be a casing around what you now see. The casing will have front façade pipes that will look similar to the organ pipes in the choir loft. Unfortunately, that will not be completed for a few weeks. For now, we will be seeing all of the inner workings of the new pipes. This whole project should be completed before the Fall.

August 23, 2007
The final ranks of pipes have been installed and the casework is almost complete. The color of the new pipes and the color of the cabinet wood blends nicely with the existing colors in our church. Over the next few weeks the technicians will be completing the final tasks such as tuning, voicing and validating functionality and features.

Pipe organs are build by human hands using skilled technicians. Each organ is unique. Each one is manually integrated into the existing church structure taking advantage only of available space in the church. Even if the organ fits in the space, there must be room inside the organ for a person to “climb in” and perform tasks such as tuning and repair.

The Austin Organ Company accomplished a masterful job of creating a beautiful instrument that fit well into our worship space and is easily serviceable. Finally, the sound they created is magnificent and highly complimentary to the existing pipes in the loft and the acoustics of our church. Artistry, musicianship and engineering come together as human people, God’s creations, built this instrument to glorify the Creator in sung prayer.

We truly are blessed to be able to make these improvements to our pipe organ. Music is an integral part of our Catholic Liturgy. Music is prayer. We hope that by enhancing the presentation of music, all who worship with us will feel closer to God.

Click Here to read more about the new completed organ.

Jean Degan
Director of Music Ministry