Riley retires after 30 musical years

Columbia—Teresa Sturcken Riley, who recently retired after 30 years as director of music at St. Joseph Church, was honored with a Mass of Thanksgiving on June 15.

Msgr. Richard D. Harris, pastor, celebrated the liturgy, which was attended by parishioners, friends and former choir members.

Music included a choral prelude and other selected hymns, plus sacred music performed by both current and former St. Joseph choir members, with Riley leading many of the selections.

During his homily, Msgr. Harris congratulated Riley for creating a strong program that will be her lasting legacy at the parish and made her name known around the state.

“Teresa Riley is a rather unassuming lady who conducts her choirs with vigor and passion,” he said. “She has a passion for sacred liturgy which allows her to lead the people of God into prayer, praise and reverence while always focusing on the holy sacrifice of the Mass. The seeds of her labor have blossomed and filled these walls with songs of glory and praise to our God.”

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful 30 years, and a very fulfilling job because I could serve the Lord and the people of the congregation,” Riley said after Mass. “I love St. Joseph and it will always be in my heart. I feel grateful to all the priests I worked with and to the people of St. Joseph. We didn’t do what we did for ourselves, but for the glory of God.”

A native of Charleston, Riley earned a master’s in voice performance from Converse College and taught music in public schools in New York and Atlanta before coming to Columbia in 1981.

She put together strong adult and youth choirs that performed around the United States and internationally.

The adult choirs performed twice at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, toured Ireland in 2004, made concert tours of Europe, appeared at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, and sang for Pope John Paul II at a weekly audience in Rome and during his 1987 visit to Columbia.

Bel Canto Choirs, comprised of youth ages 3 to 6, appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New Orleans, Disney World, and at events around South Carolina.

Riley organized the popular “Festival of Lessons and Carols,” an annual Christmas program at the church that was featured on South Carolina Educational Television and National Public Radio in 2001.

The choirs also made several recordings, including “Sundays at St. Joseph Catholic Church,” “Season of Wonder” and “Season of Triumph.”