Music is a gift from God that Claire wants to share
|Claire enjoys sharing her love of music with others and watching their talents develop. Photo: Virginia Knight|
Originally published in Catholic Outlook April 2014
By Virginia Knight
Music has always been a very special part of Claire Brown’s life. Earlier this year Claire was named Blue Mountains Young Citizen of the Year in recognition of her role in nurturing and developing the talents of young musicians in her parish and local community.
Her own talent and interest was born out of a deep love of God and a passion to share this love through the music of worship.
Reinforced by Christian teaching at home from her parents, Wendy and Steve, Claire said she had always been encouraged in loving God and living her life for Him.
Now she brings this life and vibrancy to worship through her involvement with the children’s choir and Youth Band at St Finbar’s Parish at Glenbrook.
“I truly believe that my musical ability is a gift from God and a passion He has instilled in me to learn music and then share that gift with other people,” Claire said.
Baptised a Catholic, Claire’s formative years were spent as part of the Pentecostal Church, influenced and inspired spiritually by the modern music and a vibrant, living liturgy.
However, with her return to the Catholic Church in 2008, Claire found new depth in her liturgical experience, with joy in the celebration of the Mass and feeling completed through participation in the sacraments.
One of her first experiences was joining the hundreds of thousands of young people for the final Mass with Pope Benedict XVI during World Youth Day in Sydney.
“It was a wonderful atmosphere, with all the people from other countries; to walk around and see them singing songs with guitars, all so excited to be there,” Claire said. “The different cultures and the music and songs were a real highlight.”
In 2011, Claire joined the Diocese of Parramatta’s pilgrimage to WYD in Madrid and said, once again, she felt the real unity of the Catholic Church with everyone celebrating the Mass together. “The Mass is essentially the Mass wherever you go in the world,” she said.
In Madrid, Claire and was one of 12 young people given the opportunity of a lifetime; sharing lunch with Pope Benedict. Claire said this was a fantastic experience and it was an honour and a privilege to be in the presence of the Holy Father with youth from around the world.
Each person had the opportunity to speak briefly to him and Claire said she found him a peaceful, lovely man. “He is also a musician. We had a cake shaped as a piano,” she reflected. “He called us all to bring back to our parishes and our nations the love of Jesus Christ to share with the world.”
Claire took his words to heart and translated them into action, engaging through music and involvement in youth ministry in her parish.
As the leader of the St Finbar’s Youth Band, with her brothers Greg and Peter, Claire brings her own brand of vibrancy to the liturgy with a relevant and modern program of music designed to encourage active participation from the assembly.
“Greg plays guitar and leads the singing of our band and Peter has arranged the Mass we do and often writes psalms and songs for the group,” she said.
She also coaches the children’s choir and finds great fulfilment when they progress to joining the Youth Band. “It is very exciting to see when they have genuinely loved being a part of the children’s choir and are looking forward to the next step, graduation to the Youth Band,” she said. “Seeing them excited to come to Mass is the thing that fulfils me most.”
Claire also contributes her expertise to assisting in the preparation of liturgical music programs at celebrations for St Columba’s High. “I see my role as important in instilling a love of faith in the students and helping to guide them to a personal relationship with Jesus by taking the liturgy seriously.”
Claire believes the sharing of faith and worshipping together leads to the forging of friendship bonds, which start with the high school students and develop into their young adult lives after school and beyond.
Long after she had taught herself to play by ear Claire began studying the piano formally in 2005. She is also proficient in violin and Celtic harp. “When I realised I wanted to pursue music as a career I began to study in order to sit music exams and become a music teacher,” she said.
Claire established her own music school with pupils ranging from age four to 45. She enjoys sharing her love of music with others and watching their talents develop.“Some students really put work into becoming good players and have a wonderful enthusiasm,” she said, clearly delighted to be spending her life discovering and nurturing musical talent in others.
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