By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
The music program at Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park has been one of the church’s most successful programs over the past 12 years, church officials said.
The church, which was down to about 50 parishioners when Diane Caruso took over as music director, has thrived over the past dozen years and become a force for good in the community.
Caruso, an organist, was the impetus for starting a children’s choir which started out with youngsters who have remained in the program and are now in college and still singing with the choir.
She established the program by bringing disadvantaged children from the area into the church twice a week for rehearsals, while at the same time helping them with homework and providing a meal.
Choir volunteer, Robert Berglund, a former professional colleague of Caruso’s, has been singing in the program for nine years.
“Parents thought ‘this is a safe place to send my child.’ They are now in college, I have seen how much they’ve grown,” Berglund said.
Caruso has taken the choir on many trips to perform including a week long trip to Guilford Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Guildford, England.
Caruso had established a rapport with a music director at the cathedral and had been working with church members to raise the money to bring the choir there.
She explained that the one week trip is called a residency with seven of the teenage choir members along with about 23 others, singing daily at the cathedral, which is one of England’s biggest.
It was the first time Caruso had done a residency and said it was a highlight of her long career as an organist.
“We had to come up to their high standard, it was quite difficult,” she said. “It was amazing, a time of great personal and musical growth,” she said.
Four paid choir soloists, two paid by private donors, were also on the trip.
Caruso said the financial needs of Trinity parish have changed and the choir will no longer have paid soloists after December.
“The funds are being redirected,” she said.
Caruso, who attended Westminster Choir College, and Berglund previously were paid choir members in churches in the Princeton area.
Berglund grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts and earned several music degrees from Amherst College.
He has been a professional choir singer for many years.
“My voice has taken me around the world, I’ve taken 15 trips,” he says.
Caruso said the choir welcomes new volunteer members. Choir members do not have to be parishioners or have any religious affiliation to join.
“I would love to have them,” she said.