By Ryan Blessing
When he’s not playing organ and directing the choir at Mass, Michael Lianos is busy preparing for several upcoming performances at the Cathedral of St. Patrick.
The new Director of Music and Organist at the cathedral, Lianos started on August 1 and has been settling into his new role for the past three months. “There’s always a learning curve with a community this large,” he said. “I’ve worked with communities as large, and these are wonderful people.”
Lianos is readying for the November 17 Candlelight Concert and Compline. He’s enlivened the program a bit, he said. “It was more of a concert and somewhat of a compline in the past,” he said. He added things such as a penitential rite and certain Catholic antiphons, or short chants, he said.
It’s the first large performance event here in the Diocese of Norwich for Lianos, 34, who took over from former music director Doug Green, who retired in August. In his music room in the basement of the cathedral are tables holding handbells of various sizes, along with sheet music. “That’s me getting our children’s choir ready,” he said. He had four children when he arrived and has grown that to 14, all from St. Patrick School. “They ring and sing every other weekend,” he said. “And also at the school Masses. It’s a pretty vigorous schedule and they’re very smart children.”
He also merged handbell rehearsals held Tuesday through Thursday into one Wednesday rehearsal for St. Patrick School children. He plans to open up a Tuesday evening rehearsal slot for children from other schools. Lianos said that one of his biggest challenges is navigating the multi-level function of the cathedral.
“You have the local parish, but you also have the diocese,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge, I think, playing both roles.” Working in the cathedral for a few months, Lianos said he’s struck by the organ. “The organ is particularly lovely, and the room,” he said. “Many organ builders will say the most important stop in the organ is the room … the room sort of adds to the beauty of the instrument.”
Lianos previously served at St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. He grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire and studied organ performance, and took vocal training as well at Oberlin Conservatory. Lianos said he’s passionate about liturgy, and that it’s very important. He compared it to the Road to Emmaus, the Bible story where the resurrected Jesus is walking with two disciples who don’t recognize Him until He reveals Himself to them during the breaking of bread together.
“That’s very much how I see Mass play out,” he said. “We have the procession in and the Liturgy of the Word, both journeys, and then consecration, where Jesus reveals Himself to us in the breaking of bread. But it doesn’t stop there, we go out into the world to share with others. So, I try to build music around liturgical practice.” Lianos also praised the leadership in the diocese as excellent to work with and tipped his hat to his longtime predecessor. “This music program is in great shape,” he said. “Doug did a fantastic job training the musicians, and the people here are just wonderful.”