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Celebrating a saint

Local musicians showcased in event marking 500 years since St. Teresa of Avila’s birth


Sister Claire Sokol
Through her music honoring St. Teresa of Avila, Discalced Carmelite Sister Claire Sokol hopes to introduce the words of the saint to a new generation. Photo: Alicia Santistevan


By Kim Haub

Discalced Carmelite Sister Claire Sokol is doing what best stirs her to love, as her order’s founder St. Teresa of Avila encouraged long ago.

Sister Claire, raised and musically trained in Seattle, has adapted psalms, Gospels and other writings into hymns inspired by St. Teresa’s wisdom and spirituality. Sister Claire’s 11 musical works, including an original hymn, “Teresa’s Way,” were recorded last fall by the Teresian Singers and Orchestra of St. James Cathedral. The musicians will perform the special hymns during two Masses and a concert Aug. 21-23 in San Jose, California.

“I’m truly thrilled and very excited about it,” said Sister Claire, prioress at Carmel of Reno and a former St. James parishioner who graduated from Holy Names Academy. “It’s not just because it is my music, but because it is music excerpted from the writings of St. Teresa herself — her own words.”

The hymns are being featured as part of “The Creative Spiritual Genius of St. Teresa of Avila Today,” the first in a yearlong series of events honoring the 500th anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila’s birth.

Sister Claire drew from her past to find musicians who would present her work to the world. “I know almost everybody in the orchestra because we grew up together,” she said. Most of them played in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra when her father, Vilem Sokol, was conductor. “We all share a common musical understanding,” Sister Claire added.

For the Teresian ensemble, 19 top Seattle-area choral artists were gathered by James Savage, the cathedral’s music director, and Stacey Sunde, its youth choral director. “I felt like a cook with all the best ingredients right before me to make something wonderful,” said Sunde, who is performing at the concert as well as serving as a cantor at Mass there.

The musicians’ trip to San Jose is being financed with a grant from the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council — thanks to Carl Anderson, a Seattle Youth Symphony alum who happens to be the supreme knight.


Teresian choir at recording session
Last fall at St. James Cathedral, the Teresian Singers and Orchestra of St. James recorded a CD of hymns in honor of St. Teresa of Avila. Most of the pieces were new arrangements by Discalced Carmelite Sister Claire Sokol, who grew up in Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Sister Claire Sokol


During their trip, the Teresian Singers will also don Carmelite costumes (some sewn in Seattle) and sing backup for New York Metropolitan Opera star Dolora Zajick. She will sing the role of St. Teresa in the Aug. 22 premiere of her opera composition, “Roads to Zion,” accompanied by St. James pianist Joseph Adam. (Zajick also performed on the CD recorded at St. James.)

Two of Sister Claire’s arrangements, “Nada te Turbe” and “Salve Regina,” will be presented in San Jose by worldwide virtual choirs produced by Kansas City musician Scott Haines and “conducted” by Savage. The choirs were created by combining 250 audio and video tracks of the hymns being sung by Discalced Carmelite nuns and friars and secular Carmelites from 23 countries.

“It’s extraordinary for me to think that nuns from this ancient order are doing something so technical and modern to celebrate the spirituality of St. Teresa,” Savage said.

Sister Claire, a member of the event’s planning committee, said she hopes the celebration will help people “take a step in their own life to be the light on the hill that will draw others to Christ. We want to pass the torch to the next generation.”

Listen to “Salve Regina” from the CD “Living Water.”

 Trouble listening? Head to our SoundCloud stream directly.


Experience the celebration

CD cover of


Learn more at the event site, www.stj500westernus.com.

Purchase “Living Water,” the CD including Sister Claire Sokol’s arrangements, at the St. James Cathedral Bookstore or from Carmel of Reno: 775-322-5006 or www.carmelofreno.com.

Hear the virtual choirs sing on YouTube (beginning Aug. 24).

Watch for a PBS documentary on the preparations and event this fall.

About St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila — also known as St. Teresa of Jesus — was a mystic, writer and the first woman to be named a doctor of the church.

While founding 15 monasteries of nuns throughout Spain, Teresa resolved innumerable intercommunity, financial, legal and spiritual problems — all while dealing with her own poor health.

After 20 years of intense service to the church, she died at the age of 67. Her teachings, wit and wisdom have transcended the centuries.

Source: www.stj500westernus.com


Aug. 7, 2014

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