Music brings people together and after years of creating music and sharing it with others, Solon resident Christie Dilisio knows that so well. After all, it is music, she said, that has connected and bonded her to all those who listened to her and with whom she worked with over the years.
Mrs. Dilisio retired as director of music for the Church of the Holy Angels in Bainbridge during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To honor her years of service to Holy Angels and several other churches in the area, a special event is being planned for 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Cathedral of St. John’s the Evangelist in Cleveland.
There, she will unite with the choir members that she led for so many years at Holy Angels and they will sing at a Mass at the cathedral.
The event is being planned by the Rev. Daniel Schlegel, a former pastor at Holy Angels who now serves as Vicar for clergy and religious in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.
Father Dan was administrator at Holy Angels for eight years before becoming pastor in 2010. Altogether, he and Mrs. Dilisio worked and sang together for 15 years.
“The event at the cathedral will be a special and fun way to gather,” he said.
Among her many talents, Father Dan said, was the manner in which Mrs. Dilisio can change the key to a piece of music in order to make it easier for everyone to sing.
“She helps people with average voices become stellar,” he said. “She also wrote many pieces that were easy for me to sing. She has a unique gift.”
Twice during his career in the ministry, Mrs. Dilisio wrote original songs to help Father Dan celebrate including ”May God Bless Your Love,” which she wrote for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. She also wrote the song “All That I Am,” based on a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, in honor of him becoming pastor.
During their years working together, Father Dan said he traveled with the Holy Angels choir on their trips to sing abroad, including on trips to Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Ireland and Prague. They once sang at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
After originally working part-time at the church, Mrs. Dilisio became the full-time music director when the church moved into its present building. She served in that position for some 25 years.
Thinking back about her career in music, Mrs. Dilisio said she has fond memories of her time as the music teacher at St. Rita School in Solon – a position she had for 10 years – teaching music to students kindergarten through the eighth grade.
Some of those students have children of their own now and she said she can’t help but smile thinking about their time together.
“I’ve also done a lot of their weddings,” she said. “It has really been special.”
Before teaching in Solon, she was at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights for five years, serving as choir director right out of college.
“Music was the thing that tied us all together,” she said, recalling one particular time when she had 250 children from St. Rita’s on stage at one time.
“St. Rita’s only had a small gym so we were given permission by Solon High School to use the high school auditorium for dress rehearsals and performances,” she said. “We would walk over to the school from St. Rita’s. We did two concerts a year at Christmas and in the spring.”
Mrs. Dilisio said having the opportunity to teach those children from kindergarten all the way through the eighth grade was a special experience.
At Holy Angels, Mrs. Dilisio said she continued a tradition she began while at St. Rita writing stories for each her concerts and having the students narrate and dance as well as performing solos and ensembles.
“I love the community there. It always felt like home. I enjoyed everything about it.
Having so many people be supportive of her efforts in the music ministry made her years at Holy Angels even more special
“The music ministry was a community within a community,” she said.
During her time at the church, she released five albums including three that featured many of the favorite songs of the parish community. Another album featured holiday songs from the Christmas season and her final album entitled “Heart Song,” which featured her original songs.
She has written some 50 songs including “I Put My Life in Your Hands,” which she wrote for a parishioner, and “Angels Beside Me,” a song she wrote for her parents.
Mrs. Dilisio recalled the many trips the Holy Angels choir took Europe.
She said she recently received a note from a former choir member who pointed out that there were so many things to be thankful for during the years they sang together.
“We went on eight trips with the choir as well as their family members, friends, and other parish members. My husband Terry also went along,” she said. “There were waiting lists for those trips.”
While travelling abroad, the choir performed at a number of unique locations including La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and at Salisbury Cathedral in London.
Father Dan accompanied the choir on all the trips and would hold Masses in the church gardens.
Father G. Max Cole, now administrator at Holy Angels and who is to become the pastor at Holy Angels on Sept. 29, traveled to Greece with the choir in 2019.
Mrs. Dilisio recalled how as the choir performed at the various locations, they all felt like goodwill ambassadors from the United States.
“If anyone had presupposed feelings about the U.S., we showed them how music connected us. The bonding of the choir with people in Europe was special.”
Some of her very favorite memories include impromptu performances at various locations – even restaurants. Once, she led an impromptu performance at the Coliseum in Rome.
“We even sang on a cruise ship going to the islands in Greece,” she said.
Switzerland was a favorite trip with the choir members. They sang in a castle and it was breathtaking to be there in the mountains, she said. She also recalled that the choir participated in Irish dancing and did an impromptu concert at the Guinness Brewery in Ireland.
“We did a lot of out-reach in Cleveland as well,” Mrs. Dilisio said. “I always believed in bringing our music to the community.”
In addition to singing at dozens of Cleveland Indians games, her choirs performed at other sporting venues as well – including annual appearances at Cleveland Cavaliers games and also a Lake County Captains baseball game.
Other fond memories include singing at the Palace Theater in Cleveland, performing at Kenston School’s benefit for the American Cancer Society, and singing Christmas songs in July at Santa’s Hide-A-Way Hollow, a Geauga County-based non-profit organization that serves children in need.
Mrs. Dilisio retired in 2021 when her husband also retired.
“It seemed like a logical time,” she said. “I feel grateful for all the relations I have had with people. It’s priceless,” she said. “I am filled with gratitude for all those people. It was a positive culture and I loved being part of that culture. It is all good memories.
“Music does bring people together,” she said. It is a forever passion.
The Aug. 28 event at St. John’s Cathedral is an opportunity for her to thank everyone in person, Mrs. Dilisio said, including the choir members, members of the bell choir, parish members, and others.
And since many have not sung together since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, it will be a reunion as well. All are welcome to the event.