Deborah and Joseph Mello's serve as choir directors at Christ Church and on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, their 40 years of service will be celebrated. (Photo provided).
By Laurie Gordon NEWTON- There's a twinkle in Joseph Mello's eye when he lifts his conductor's baton each Sunday at Christ Episcopal Church. As the choir's voices resonate from the rafters, he pays meticulous attention to each note and appreciates each vocalist. Each week, his wife, Deborah Mello, conducts the children's choir with that same level of intensity. The musical Mellos have led the church's musical productions for 40 years, and on Jan. 19, this magnanimous landmark will be celebrated. In a society brimming with stress, cell phones and technology seemingly everywhere, the Mellos exude calm, positive emotions, and an appreciation of the way notes come together to create anthems and choral compositions. The Mellos met in college and were wed in 1975 near Deborah's parents' home in Wayne. That same year that Kittatinny Regional High School opened, Joe became its first music director. In addition to teaching, Joe Mello was looking for a choir director's job when one became available at Christ Episcopal Church. Joe became the Music Director and Deborah the Children's Choir Director in 1979, and thus began a journey of music and creativity. “Joe had a great sense of humor,” Deborah Mello said. “The quality of what we do each week is because we and the choir members work hard, yet there is that sense of levity as well.” Deborah Mello is also the Founder/Artistic Director of the Children's Choir of Sussex County. “Our church Children's Choir sings every week which is rare at churches as many are monthly.” One year, the choir was invited to the Episcopal Convention at Fairleigh Dickenson University. “Singing in the choir gives the children a great sense of self confidence,” she said. Early in their tenure at Christ Church, the Mellos established Christ Church as a musical mecca. One of their favorite annual events is called “Lessons and Carols,” and it draws people from all over the area. “Lessons and Carols is the official start of Christmas for me,” Deborah Mello said. “One couple who came from Essex County each year to the event has now moved here.” Father Robert Griner is the Reverend Cannon at Christ Church. He said, “Countless lives have been touched by their commitment to excellence, grounded in our faith tradition. Rarely mentioned is both Joe and Debbie's deep Christian faith. Their sacrificial offerings are made to an audience larger than the one in the pews.” The choir has a life of its own, and the Mellos view it as a family. “The choir is always a joy,” Deborah Mello said. “We have seen ups and downs and experienced births, weddings and wakes together.” Lisa Pachmos has had opportunity to observe Deborah and Joe. "As a parent of three children in the choir under Deborah's direction, and also as a member of the Senior Choir under the direction of Joe Mello, I have had a unique opportunity to witness their impact on our entire family,” said Lisa Pachnos. “Their professionalism, faith, humor and joy is evident in everything they touch, and I have been honored to be a part of it.” Mark Hoyer is a member and singer at Christ Church. He is also the church's former Vestryman and Warden. He said, “It's really difficult to measure the impact of Joe and Debbie's positive influence on the life of Christ Church. Under their leadership, the church has developed and maintained a reputation throughout the diocese and in the Sussex County Community for its rich and vibrant music. One can hardly think of Christ Church without thinking of the Mellos.” The Mellos have three children. Scott Mello, their eldest, is a Music Booking Agent at Opus 3 Artists. He is also a Festival Artist at Staunton Music Festival and performs as a tenor. He is also working with fellow Christ Church member, Diana Greene, to create a three-day music festival in Newton this August. The Mello's daughter, Jenny, works in New York City at a financial company. She sings in two professional choirs. Their daughter, Allison, lives on Long Island and is the Managerial and Executive Assistant for Columbia Arts. The musical ministry of the Mellos will be celebrated this Saturday, Jan. 19, with a festive gathering in their honor at Christ Church, 62 Main Street in Newton, at 6 p.m. Cost is $25 per person, which includes a dinner catered by Krave, drinks and entertainment. The snow date is Sunday, Jan. 20, at 4 pm. Tickets can be purchased on the Christ Church website at www.christchurchnewton.org. Since this is a catered event, those who have not registered in advance will not be allowed to attend. If the cost is prohibitive, speak with Father Griner. People are encouraged to share their special "Mello Memory" on the Christ Church website. “The clergy-musician relationship can sometimes be tricky to negotiate,” Father Griner said. “Not so with the Mellos. I have found them to be a dream to work with and a joy to have on our staff.”