Kairosingers: Of One Accord, and A Kairos Moment for Texas Catholics

Kairosingers
Of One Accord (1978)

Texas isn’t normally regarded as a “Catholic state,” but the Catholic Church has always had a lively presence there. (More about that below.) This group, from Port Arthur (the home of Janis Joplin) and down the road from Beaumont (the home of Johnny and Edgar Winter) produced one of the more interesting Catholic albums from the 1970’s amidst the oil refineries and chemical plants that dominate the “Golden Triangle.”

It’s a nice mix of folk and light pop, and its theological breadth (it has a distinctly Protestant bent in spots) is matched by a stylistic one. Similar in some ways to Corpus Christi produced Who Shall Spread the Good News, it’s livelier and less liturgical in some ways but more serious in others (especially “Cross of Shame.”) It can also be compared to the early Maranatha albums (especially Maranatha 2.)

Although it’s wasn’t the easiest album to adapt to worship and liturgy (which may explain its obscurity,) it’s a great album just to kick back, listen to, and be challenged by, which is more than can be said for a lot of post-Vatican II Catholic music.


In response to that review of the album, performer Charlie Balsam (now Director of the Jason’s Deli Leadership Institute)responded as follows:

I am from Houston, but went to Lamar University, where I got involved with campus ministry. That is where the group met each other….the core quintet: me, Debbie, Nancy, Russ and Peggy were originals: Pam came soon after; Debbie & Nancy were sisters, and later their other sister Lisa joined us for a while, as did a second flutist when Pam moved on. Russ (on the right side of the cover) died in 1993. Usually a sextet, sometimes seven voices…

WE only printed @ 1000 of the albums, sold all of them. I am not sure where the original master tapes are, but I and others have transferred the vinyl to CD I am sure.

The Kairosinger “sound” was partly shaped by the Kea sisters, who had sung from childhood, and whose dad was a solid Baptist. So that may be where a protestant flavor seeped in. But the group was 100% Catholic. However, the overarching sound was shaped by my fascination with the 60s rock/vocal group The Association. So the vocals always had a layered quality about them. You should have heard us do the Wedding Song. There are places on the album where you can “hear” James Taylor guitar-style influence (In the Spirit) and the Byrds/Dan Fogelberg (Living Water).

Another reason the album may have seemed protestant is that most of the songs are personal rather than congregational or liturgical; two exceptions – Praise & Thanks to Yahweh (a responsorial psalm) and His Love Endures Forever, with a strong refrain. Our concerts, similar again to the Association, were often an eclectic, versatile selection of songs, depending on the venue. One of our last concerts included a Peter Paul and Mary song (The Unicorn Song), the late John Stewart (Some Kind of Love), John Michael Talbot’s Holy Is His Name and Behold Now the Kingdom, and two Doc Watson arrangements: Summertime (from Porgy & Bess) and Any Old Time (Jimmy Rodgers ragtime tune). Both were enhanced by Debbie’s clarinet and Lisa’s sax. We also had a nice, a capella arrangement of How Great Thou Art. There are several other original pieces we performed as well…

Our sound was also shaped by Houston’s Keyhole singers (early 1970s), and a Christian folk music coffeehouse affiliated with the evangelical but still Anglican (at the time) Church of the Redeemer, off Telephone Rd in central east Houston. I believe Betty and Graham Pulkingham were involved at the time.

Catholic guitar-based praise/worship and liturgical music matured over the next 20 years with John M Talbot, the St. Louis Jesuits, and United Church of Christ musician Marty Haugen from Minnesota, and various other artists.

  • Other Credits
    • David Campbell: bass and percussion
    • Other musicians: Russ Mazzagate, Nancy Guarnieri, Peggy Risher
    • Floyd Badeaux: engineer
    • Beth Balsam: album design and photography (back cover can be seen here)
    • Recorded at the Musik Faktory in Port Arthur, TX

A Kairos Moment for Texas Catholics

The album cover defines the Greek word kairos as “a time when conditions were right for the accomplishment of a crucial action: the opportune and decisive moment.”  It’s used frequently by many of the newer thinkers in Evangelical Christianity (like Leonard Sweet.)  Catholicism in general in the 1970’s and Texas Catholicism in particular were facing a “kairos moment” in the wake of Vatican II.  In Texas there were three influences that impacted the life the the church and Catholics:

  1. The influence of Cursillo, the Spanish retreat movement.  The first Cursillo in the U.S. took place in Waco in 1959, and the first U.S. Cursillo in English took place in San Angelo in 1961.  Cursillo is the ancestor of just about all of the retreat systems in place today such as New Cor, Search, Tres Dias, the Encounter, etc.  It produced an introspective form of Christianity that challenged Catholic tendendies to regard their church life as a “business deal with God,” as my first parish priest put it.
  2. The influence of the Evangelical world around it.  Although Texas Catholicism was more substantial relative to the general population than in most other Southern states (Louisiana excepted,) the influence of Baptist and other like churches was strong on many Catholics.  This comes out on the album in places, especially regarding the second coming, making it an interesting Catholic/Protestant fusion.  It also resulted in incidents like this.
  3. The influence of the Charismatic Renewal, which is well documented on this site.

This “kairos moment” made being Catholic in Texas at the time an exciting proposition.

Today one out of ten Americans regard themselves as ex-Catholics.  It’s easy to say that this is because of the church’s dogmatism, but the reality is that many left Roman Catholicism because it could not harness the energy of the “kairos moment” it faced after Vatican II.  This is a reminder that it’s just as important to know how to harness the energy of spiritual success as it is to initiate it.

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