Although last Sunday night’s temperatures dipped into the low 30s, there was a wonderful and warm feeling during the 20th annual Highland Memorial Park Cemetery Christmas Remembrance …
Although last Sunday night’s temperatures dipped into the low 30s, there was a wonderful and warm feeling during the 20th annual Highland Memorial Park Cemetery Christmas Remembrance Ceremony.
There was what Joseph Swift, who doubles as President of the well-maintained and spacious cemetery and Johnston Lions Club, called: “A warm and heartfelt speech about the ‘Meaning of Christmas’ from Rev. Father Albert D. Ranallo of St. Ann’s Church in Providence.”
Moreover, as Swift told an overflow audience inside Highland Memorial Park’s impressive Chapel Mausoleum: “There is nothing better than to hear children singing Christmas songs.”
Add to that the lighting of three trees — which were adorned with approximately 800 pewter ornaments with the name of the person in memory of written on the back, hot chocolate and cookies and a classic conclusion featuring the sound of “Silent Night” filling the chilly air — that’s why people like Johnston Town Councilman and Swift’s brother Lion Robert Civetti who came with his wife Carol, observed: “This is always a special evening.”
It was Highland Park’s 20th Annual Christmas Remembrance Ceremony that as Swift explained “actually started 21 years ago but did not happen in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
He started the event “because Christmas is a time of mixed feelings and emotions so we wanted people to remember the good times, the fun times and to leave our event with warm feelings and a smile on their face.”
That was always accomplished every year and last Sunday night was no exception per Father Ranallo’s impressive presentation and a stunning performance by the national award-winning Johnston High School Concert Choir under the direction of Matt Gingras.
Gingras’ group, in fact, created a first for the ceremony by leading people in the singing of “Silent Night” during the tree lighting.
“We received so many compliments tonight,” Swift noted. “People love this tradition and first-timers said it made their loss this year a little easier knowing that the cemetery does these types of events including the Easter Sunrise Service.”
As many people were leaving the cemetery, there were statements like, “We all loved the singing and hope this tradition will continue,” while other folks noted “it would be nice to know that one day this service will also be held in their memory; perhaps that says it all.”
Likewise, Swift said “many people were impressed with the (JHS) Concert Chorus for two reasons; first because of the group’s singing which featured accompanist Jan Navarro on the keyboard and perhaps even more impressive that 40 or so undergrad gave up a Sunday evening to participate in a beautiful event that recognized people’s loved ones lost during 2021.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of our students,” said Gingras. “They believe in what we are doing and it reflects in their music.”
The JHS Concert Chorus performed five pieces, including Veni Veni Emmanuel by John Trotta featuring student percussionist Johnathan Guilmette.
There was also “Glow” by Eric Whitacre, a peaceful song about the beauty of wintertime the treble chorus followed by followed by Mozart’s “Veni Sancte Spiritus,” then “Where the Light Begins,” a piece that Gingras noted “captures the feeling of peace that is always present during the holiday season but not directly about the holiday season that he said speaks to the light inside of us all.”
The final selection was “That’s Christmas to Me” featuring Madison DaCosta, a soloist with the JHS Concert Chorus.
After the Concert Chorus’ final song, Gingras invited everyone to join in the singing of “O Holy Night.” People sang from a sheet that was handed out by Julie Jefferies, Swift’s granddaughter, as they entered the mausoleum. It was the second time the talented JHS troupe performed at Highland Memorial Park Cemetery.
“We hope to return in the coming years and we hope to see our group grow,” Gingras said.
“These kids (Johnston High Concert Chorus) have a special sound,” said Joseph Swift, during Sunday’s Highland Memorial Park Cemetery Christmas Remembrance Ceremony.
Imagine if they weren’t wearing masks.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here