Oblate Jo Baim is the Director of Liturgical Music and Performing Arts at Trinity Episcopal Parish in Seattle. Among her duties is playing the church’s magnificent All Souls Memorial Organ. She also plays recorder and piano.
The church’s rich musical tradition has been a major influence in her life. Not only is most of the liturgy filled with music, but the church hosts a variety of sacred and classical music events.
“Music is an ancient voice of the church,” Jo explains. “St. Augustine said, ‘He who sings prays twice.’”
Jo began taking piano lessons in second grade and has been a church organist since the age of 16. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in musical performance at Walla Walla University and the University of Oregon, and received a doctorate in musicology from the University of Cincinnati. She performs with the Trinity Consort, which focuses on early music, and with the Silk Road Project, which performs music of many faiths and cultures.
“Music expresses what cannot be expressed in words,” she says. “When you can combine music and words the meaning comes together in new and beautiful ways.”
Jo has been finding new ways to combine words and music. While holding vigil for a sick loved one, she began praying the Psalms while listening to the Navajo flute music of Carlos Nakai and became inspired to set the texts to his music. A variety of interpretations of the joyful Psalms will be the focus of an upcoming concert at the Monastery on April 17.
Jo also enjoys swing music and has written a book on the Tango. “Having this other side to my musical life has helped open everything up.”
In addition to being an anchorite, a type of solitary monastic of ancient tradition — Jo has been an oblate of the Monastery of St. Gertrude since 1999. Besides the musical tradition at Trinity Parish, she credits the sisters of St. Gertrude as the other major influence in her life.
“I am inspired by their strength, joy, and courage to live a life apart and choose to be a community, standing together whatever bumps may arise. I am excited by how they balance reverence for tradition and openness toward change.”
Oblate Jo Baim and Marilyn McAdoo (soprano) will perform arrangements of the Psalms in a concert, “Sing to the Lord a New Song,” on Sunday, April 17 at 2:00 pm in the Monastery chapel.