November 30, 2007


Nuns sing songs of Christmas magic

Friday, November 30, 2007

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The set couldn't be simpler: Fifteen women in blue arrayed onstage. Their dress is modest, they wear no makeup.

And yet there is, in abundance, magic and beauty, grace and hope.

The nuns of the Daughters of St. Paul performed their 13th annual Christmas Concert last night for the benefit of 500 lucky people in the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.

Their angelic voices perfectly conveyed the message of peace and love.

"They are a great group of nuns and they really are our angels," said Lois Nicotra, who, along with her husband, Richard, co-chairs the event.

This year is extra-special, as it marks the order's diamond jubilee -- the 75th anniversary of their humble beginnings in New York.

The nuns presented a video montage, and Sister Donna W. Giaimo read a letter from Provincial Superior Sister Margaret Christopher marking the anniversary.

Sister Donna said she recognizes that the nuns' performance is both transcendent and transformative.

"Our music just brings something deeper out of the season and the meaning of it," she said, "not only of Christmas, but the meaning of faith, the meaning of love and what all of it is about."

Missing in action this year -- at least in the flesh -- was the honorary chairman, actor Chazz Palminteri. With the Broadway strike ended, Palminteri had to return to his one-man show, "A Bronx Tale."

But he was present via a video that included snippets from his show. And he offered a raffle of two tickets with backstage passes.

"I'll show you around the set. We'll meet in the dressing room and talk and take pictures and we will have a wonderful evening," promised the actor on tape before introducing those "wonderful singers and incredible angels, the Daughters of St. Paul."

Despite the dearth of props, the nuns had some tricks up their sleeves. They sprinkled the crowd with golden confetti as they performed "God Is With Us." They flipped on their trademark red scarves while singing "Sleigh Ride" and adopted a techno-beat with a slight Latin flavor as blue, magenta and white lights swirled around them on "Sing, Angels, Sing."

Sister Anne Joan Flanagan's heartfelt "You Are Loved" had the audience transfixed.

During intermission, Dr. Larry Arann, accompanied by Sister Nancy M. Usselmann, did his crowd-pleasing rabbi skit.

It's estimated that last night's show raised $80,000 to $90,000. Funded projects include upkeep of the order's media centers, as well as the education of postulants.

Kiawana Rich is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at

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