Pauline Books starts a new chapter with Piccolo concerts

Winnie Wong plays the guzheng accompanied by Listen for Life founder Donna Stoering on piano during one of the concerts held at Pauline Books and Media during Piccolo Spoleto. (Photo provided)

CHARLESTON—The Daughters of St. Paul at Pauline Books and Media opened their doors to a group of musicians during Piccolo Spoleto and drew a crowd of 700 people over the week.

The event, “Notes for Nourishment: Concerts at Piccolo Spoleto Festival”, was presented by Listen for Life Productions/Network founded by Donna Stoering, a classical musician who also performs jazz, Broadway musicals, and folk and Gospel traditions. The global nonprofit organization is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of music culture worldwide. Stoering also invited the Levoná ensemble, a Gusheng professional Winnie Wong, harpist Anna Maria Mendieta, and singer Stephen Guggenheim.

Volunteers served coffee and tea, scones, Irish soda bread with clotted cream, and raspberry preserves in the garden after the concerts, each of which drew 45-50 people to hear the lovely music. So many people in attendance said they did not know about the bookcenter that we, the Paulines, began calling the concerts “the back door” because so many in attendance had not come in the front door first.

Sister Margaret Kerry of the Daughters of St. Paul poses with Anna Maria Mendieta in front of her harp after a Piccolo concert.

The concerts were opened by the Levoná ensemble, who perform Jewish and Middle Eastern music. Two families from Pittsburgh, who were among the attendees, said they were from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting in 2018. They said they chose to attend the  Levoná concert for healing, and that sitting in a Catholic venue while listening to an Israeli group gave them great hope.

The Piccolo event featured 14 concerts and a host of artists, and attendees called the music healing and nourishing. The gatherings in the garden after the concerts allowed attendees to to meet each other and our sisters, forming new friends and neighbors.

As a form of outreach, offerings for various charities (including the Paulines) were put in baskets by the doors. The non-profits in Charleston included:

  • I Heart Hungry Kids, founded by a youth when he was 7 years old, has shared over 300,000 meals with children. The young founder, now 12, was present with his parents and two “co-founding” younger brothers. He spoke to the group with amazing maturity.
  • I Got Legs, which provides mobility for people who lost their legs.
  • Jewish Family Services was promoted during the Levoná concert.
  • Another group, Courageous Kidz — whose founder came to every concert and assisted by driving musicians to the house where they stayed, and to and from the airport — helps families of children with cancer.
  • The Daughters of St. Paul will also receive a percentage from all the concerts.

We, the Paulines, received many benefits, the first of which was meeting new people and having new people discover the bookcenter. We also realized how an event using our tea room and garden can be a fundraiser without too much work. Our volunteers want to continue baking for the tea room and invite bookcenter guests to enjoy the baked goods and drinks in our garden for a donation.

Thank you for praying for this event. Fourteen concerts in a week seems daunting but the sisters came together to make this happen while keeping the bookcenter open — even at odd hours. We were all exhilarated by the enjoyment of attendees who kept saying thank you for providing these “free” concerts. Next year we hope some of our own musical sisters may be able to attend and even give a performance!

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The Pauline Sisters of Charleston