After 40 years, OLV music director plays his coda

by Patrick J. Buechi
Thu, Sep 12th 2019 03:00 pm

The three most important aspects of a vital church faith community are hospitality, preaching and music. When those elements come together, they really make a parish a wonderful place where people want to gather.

For 40 years, David Nease has been doing his part to make Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica a wonderful place to gather. As music director, he picks the hymns, directs the choir, and plays the organ in such a manner that the people who do gather for Mass are inspired to participate.

"I think that music for everyone has to be uplifting, has to be inspiring, otherwise it falls on its face in a way," Nease said. "That's why most of the music that should be at a liturgy is not what we would call a pop genre, but move people out of the everyday kinds of sound that they hear, and let them be, hopefully, uplifted by things that are particular to the liturgy, particular to worship, relationship with God, that sort of thing."

Now, at the age of 76, Nease plans to, in musical terms, rest.

Music has been a part of Nease through his whole life. He began taking piano lessons at 4 years old. While in his junior high years at Fourteen Holy Helpers School in West Seneca, the class would sing with the daily Mass.
"Eventually I got very interested in playing the organ," he said. "The organist there was very supportive, as well as the Church Musicians Guild, a lot of support from the veteran musicians."

He became a church musician as a teen and now figures he has spent 60 years in the field. Even his day job was as music teacher at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs.

  "The thing is being a music minister isn't really a job, it's a calling," he said. "You're involved with all sorts of concerns for the people. My concern, or course, is primarily liturgy and music. The liturgy is the lifeblood of the Church and music is an integral part of that."

Nease played the organ at St. Rose of Lima in North Buffalo, but lived in the Southtowns and found the drive to be rather long, especially early on a Sunday morning. When the position of music director for OLV opened up, he applied and was accepted, making him only the second music director for the landmark Lackawanna parish. The first served for 50 year after being hired by Father Nelson Baker himself. Nease was hired by Msgr. Robert Murphy, and served under him, Msgr. Robert Wurtz, Msgr. Paul Burkard, and now Msgr. David LiPuma.

"I've been very lucky in this particular instance of working with wonderful clergy. That's why, I suppose, I stayed so long," he said.

At Our Lady of Victory, the contemporary ensemble plans and executes the 10 a.m. Sunday liturgy. Nease handles the others, looking at the readings for each Mass and choosing appropriate music and hymns. A good music minister studies a lot of theology and Scripture that will influence what music is chosen for the celebration.

"There's always the bigger picture, especially in a building like this. You want to make a connection to the universal Church," he said. "I think you want to hear music that matches, at least to some degree, the place that you are in."

His favorite traditional pieces include "All Creatures of Our God and King," "A Life Beyond all Praising," and "Holy God we Praise thy Name." For more contemporary likes, he names, "You are Mine" and "Here I am Lord," which is requested for almost every funeral.

"That's another thing that (music ministers) do, meeting with the families that are bereaved, meeting with couples who are planning to get married to help them plan their music," he said. "At the same time, I guess I'm an inveterate teacher, those teaching moments are real important to me, especially with the wedding couples because you are able to open their eyes to things about liturgy and having their wedding in the context of liturgy."

As a way of giving back, he has joined the Church Musicians Guild of Buffalo, which assists pastoral musicians in improving their musical and leadership skills, serving as president on occasion. He also chaired the national convention in Buffalo in 1988 for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

"I've always tried to mentor. I have a number of students who are church musicians themselves as a result of working for me," he said. "So, they were motivated to get into that themselves. In fact, a couple of them have applied for the position here."

Those students now play at Our Lady of Charity, Long Island, SS. Peter and Paul, Hamburg, St. Andrew's in Kenmore.

He retired from teaching 10 years ago.

"You reach a time when you know you're no longer doing the job you want to do. This is very bittersweet for me leaving here because it's my parish first of all. I spent over half my life being music director here, and I greatly enjoyed it. When you enjoy what you do, it's not really a job."

He won't stop completely. He still plans to help out when needed at the parish.

Msgr. LiPuma, who was reunited with Nease after being named pastor of OLV, has known the music director for over 25 years. They met when Msgr. LiPuma was director of the Office of Worship.

 "I have known David Nease since 1993. David was then on the Church Musicians Guild. He was also on the diocesan Liturgical Commission. "From the get-go, I saw him as a man of great competence and of great passion for Church and church music," Msgr.  LiPuma said. "I think it's a real testament to him of 40 years of faithful dedicated service here at Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica. He's built a wonderful choir, a great reputation. People come here because of what David has done."  

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