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Christmas performance is family tradition


The Rizzuto sisters of Mulberry Lane, (from left) Jaymie, Allie, Rachel and Heather, recently released a Christmas CD that features a medley recorded live during the group's prelude to last year's midnight Mass at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Omaha.
Photo by Mulberry Lane
By Brian Fuchser
The Catholic Voice

Christmas is a time for traditions, and some traditions are important to people no matter how much their lives change.

That's the case for Mulberry Lane, the internationally known music group from Omaha. Despite their success, the four sisters have had the same Christmas Eve booking for the past 15 years – a pre-Midnight Mass concert at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Omaha.

"We started singing a cappella at St. Mary Magdalene's midnight Mass when we were little kids," Allie, the youngest of Mulberry Lane's Rizzuto sisters, said. "We started singing at that parish because they asked us to sing there, and it soon became a tradition."

Allie said there wasn't any music at that Mass until the sisters started singing there.

"When we started singing, we sang about three songs before midnight Mass started, and there were only 20 people there," she said. "Now we do an hour a cappella concert before Mass starts, and it's packed."

Rachel, the second oldest sister, said the sisters enjoy sharing what has become their family tradition with others.

"It means so much to me when someone comes up and says that our midnight Mass performance has become a part of their family's Christmas tradition," she said.

A lot has changed for the sisters since they began this Christmas tradition, although singing has always been a part of their lives.

"We began singing together when we were little kids," Jaymie, the oldest, said. "Rachel and I started together as a duo. When Heather (the third oldest) was born, we became a trio. And when Allie was born, we became a quartet. You see, you have to be born into this group."

What has changed is the sisters' approach to music and the success that followed.

"Things became serious for our group in 1999, when we put together our first CD of original music under the name Mulberry Lane," Heather said.

Since releasing that first CD, "Don't Cry 'til You Get to the Car," the sisters of Mulberry Lane have sold more than 500,000 CDs. Their single "Harmless," which they wrote, climbed to number 25 on the U.S. pop charts and to number six in Japan. They have toured internationally and have performed on national and international television and radio.

This year the group released a CD of Christmas music entitled, "A Very Merry Mulberry Christmas," which includes a live recording from the 2003 midnight Mass concert.

"It's our favorite, favorite Christmas medley of the 'Coventry Carol,' 'O Holy Night' and 'Silent Night,'" Heather said.

The sisters recently wrapped up their 2004 holiday tour, "A Very Merry Mulberry Christmas Show," with a Dec. 11 concert in Sioux Falls, S.D. Other tour stops included Omaha, Lincoln, Kansas City, Mo. and Des Moines, Iowa.

Besides the traditional midnight Mass concert, one other thing has remained constant for the sisters through the years – the importance of their faith.

"Faith plays an important role in each of our lives," Jaymie said. "Singing every year at St. Mary Magdalene and recording our new Christmas CD has enabled us to sing about the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus."

Heather said singing at St. Mary Magdalene is her "favorite part of Christmas every year."

Allie agreed.

"I always feel a sense of peace when we begin singing at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve," she said. "I feel, in a way, that our a cappella concert each year is our Christmas gift to the baby Jesus."

While their faith is nourished by their hometown experience at St. Mary Magdalene, Allie said attending Mass in other countries also has been a faith-building experience.

"In our tours in Europe and Japan, it's been a nice experience to attend Mass in other countries," Allie said. "To be able to see the broad scope of believers and the comfort that comes from knowing that no matter where you are, you can attend the same Mass."

Jaymie summed up the importance of faith for the sisters.

"The music business is ever-changing and God is constant," she said.

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