GRAND FORKS — Mary Anne Tupa has rarely skipped a beat in six decades of playing piano and organ during Sunday Mass at Grand Forks' Holy Family Catholic Church.
The only time Tupa, 94, has taken a break from playing was when she retired from the music ministry in the winter of 1988 so she could travel with her husband. A few months without accompanying the cantor and congregation on the organ or piano was enough for her, and she was back on the bench by summer.
Each Sunday morning before and after that, for a total of 59 years, Tupa has played at Mass at Holy Family.
“If I’ve got talent, I should use it,” Tupa said. “I enjoy playing. It’s relaxing.”
Tupa is an ideal musician, said Roxanne Hurley, Holy Family music coordinator.
“She's just this beautiful person who plays the music for the love of the Lord, in and out, every week. I never worry about the Masses when Mary Anne is the leader," Hurley said. "She selects songs that go with the readings, to help the congregation have an engaging experience during the Mass."
Though she has many years of experience, Tupa still faithfully practices the songs, Hurley said.
“She works with the cantors. They come to her house and practice for Mass for an hour sometime during the week,” she said.
Over the years, Tupa hasn’t been fazed by working with several generations of cantors and playing a wide variety of songs from traditional to contemporary.
“She’s been able to adjust to the changes in the music ministry,” Hurley said.
Tupa has had a piano in her home for most of her life, except for the first 12 years of her marriage. Her husband, Herman Tupa, bought her a brown Story and Clark piano as a gift for Christmas in 1959.
Tupa still practices Sunday hymns and entertains her family on the Story and Clark, which sits in the study of her Grand Forks home.
Tupa took piano lessons as a child, but taught herself to play organ, beginning in 1962, spending many evenings at Holy Family Catholic Church practicing.
Sharing her piano and organ playing talent has not been limited to only 7:30 a.m. on Sundays or to her own church’s music ministry. During the past six decades, she’s played at other Holy Family Sunday services and for weddings and funerals there and at other churches in Grand Forks.
Tupa also plays piano for her grandchildren at holiday gatherings.
“That’s not something a lot of grandchildren have a chance to do — hear their grandparent play Christmas carols while they sing,” she said.
Hurley doesn’t believe there are many music leaders who work with someone as “dependable, dedicated and easy to work with” as Tupa.
“The strength of her faith comes out in her playing and her dedication to the parish and the people she serves. It’s everything you want in someone who's going to take on this kind of leadership in your music ministry,” Hurley said.