I feel so excited and blessed to be at Nativity of Mary. So far, I have had such a warm and genuine welcome from everybody and I'm really looking forward to getting to know everyone. I was born and raised in Saint Louis Park, so after a few years up in North Saint Paul at the Church of Saint Peter, I'm really pleased to be on the west side of town again— much closer to my parents and extended family! I grew up attending Holy Family Church, and it was there that I began my path with church music. I started out playing flute for the adult choir there along with my two older siblings, who are also musicians (horn and violin). We are all pianists as well since my mother is a piano teacher, so eventually, we also began to play organ for the liturgies. My primary instrument then was the flute, and the orchestra was my first great love. I pursued a career in an orchestra, first in an undergraduate degree at Boston University, then a Masters from Boston Conservatory.
After graduation, I was auditioning for orchestral jobs, but continued to play at Holy Family...and the organ grew on me. I fell in love with the relationship the organ has with the congregation in the prayer of the Mass. Eventually, I had to acknowledge the path God was laying out before me, and I began to formally study the organ and also to develop my singing abilities. My pursuits lead me to study liturgy at St. John’s University at the School of Theology. The more I learn about theology and the relationship between how we pray and what we believe, the deeper I fall in love with the beauty and wisdom of our Holy Mother Church.
Outside of the church, I’m blessed to have a wonderful family, both near and far. I’m a proud “Auntie” to my godson, niece, and another nephew in Denver. Thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to get out to Denver to make many elaborate birthday cakes for my godson (he gets to pick the theme!). I love to bake, and tend to do so for important people in my life—generally the more extravagant or experimental, the better! (I may or may not have a photo album dedicated exclusively to my baking creations….) This coming year is very special because my niece Kate will be confirmed in May, and my godson Timothy will be confirmed in November—and he has asked me to be his confirmation sponsor! I also have two nephews in Innsbruck, Austria. My father is actually from Austria, so half of my family lives there. Having grown up with lots of exposure to my Austrian heritage, I developed a strong interest in languages and all things linguistic. I speak German fluently (preferably in the Austrian dialect of my father!), but have also dabbled in a number of other languages. When I get the chance, I love to travel and have spent quite a bit of time in Europe. I also have two birds--Indian ring neck parakeets--whom I find to be pretty hilarious. They are both named after French Catholic organists and composers: "Marcel" after Marcel Dupré and "Ollie" after Olivier Messiaen. Alas, they haven't learned to whistle any works by their namesakes just yet, but there is still time...!
So far at Nativity, I've really enjoyed how well you all sing! It’s so wonderful to hear a congregation lift up their voices together with full voice in song, and it’s such a beautiful expression of our unity as a Church. I mentioned earlier that the orchestra was my first love, but the organ has surpassed that in many ways: I have a veritable orchestra at my fingertips, and the best part is when all of your voices join in with the organ. Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke about the theology of the pipe organ and how it so beautifully reflects the Body of Christ: the organ has many pipes that make many different types of sounds, and yet together it can create this majestic sound. And so it is with the voices of all the people of God: we are all unique and have our own voices, but united in mind and heart in song, we offer our glorious sacrifice of praise to our Lord.
Please feel free to come up and introduce yourself after Mass! I look forward to getting you know all of you!
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl