Sarah Hart of OCP
Sarah Hart of OCP
You’re driving home from Mass one Sunday and a profound melody remains in your mind. It repeats, bathing your spirit, until you can’t ignore it. You wonder whence it came. Finally, you remember it was one of the hymns your parish’s musicians led you to sing.

The melody might have been born in the prayerful home studio of Sarah Hart in Nashville, Tenn. She has composed countless hymns and songs, performed for Pope Francis and led women’s conferences and missions around the world.

Hart is a prolific composer for Oregon Catholic Press. Some of her most recognizable works include “You Alone,” “Go in Peace,” “Hallelujah Is Our Song,” “God with Us” and the “Mass of St. Mary Magdalene.”

Tom Booth, another OCP composer of liturgical music, regularly has collaborated and performed with Hart. “Sarah has a smooth, contemporary, lyric-driven sound. Her thoughtful lyrics are carried by beautiful and intentional melodies. They are easy to sing because they are well-written for that purpose,” he says. And “her theology is sound and points to and confirms the universal faith that we profess.”

Originally from Lancaster, Ohio, Hart earned a degree in music from Ohio State University. It was in the late 1990s when Tom Tomaszek of OCP was searching for young composers like Hart to introduce to the non-profit company. At the time she was working with others in the contemporary Christian music industry and developing her own ministry, traveling to churches and conferences. Tomaszek met her at one of those conferences and invited her to submit songs, which launched a long and fruitful relationship with OCP that continues to this day. “As publishers go, OCP is much more of a family than a company,” Hart says.

“One of the attractive things for OCP was that she was really writing in the moment and responding to contemporary issues with a sense and spirituality that was coming out of her Catholic experience,” says Tomaszek. “She has beautiful writing style. Very melodic and over the years that has just increased tremendously. She has explored different styles and broadened her scope of writing. She has grown so amazingly.”

Hart says inspiration comes to her from many directions. “I'm a big believer that all of life is inspiration. Everything around us, the air, the way it moves, the water, the people we love, the places we go. I think everything in life can be inspiration if we're listening and paying attention.”

Her process varies, but she tries to remain open when she writes. “Sometimes I get up in the morning and I read the Scriptures. Sometimes it's in the evening with a candle or two lit. ... And just sitting down with the guitar or the piano and playing and letting the inspiration flow… you have to make sure the things around you are set up so that the songs and the ideas have an opportunity and a chance to flow through you.”

Rick Modlin, an OCP musician and composer who has worked with Hart on many projects, says she has an unmatched gift “to poetize theological and catechetical topics and to then set that poetic lyric to a sophisticated contemporary musical form.”

When Hart finished writing her first Mass, she struggled to come up with the right name. Modlin, who had given her the assignment, was helpful, she says. “I wanted to honor women in titling my Mass. It was extremely important to me honor women: strong women, the work of women, the work of women who serve the church and love the church and I could not think of a better person to exemplify that more highly than Mary Magdalene.”

Hart’s calendar is full of conferences and parish events supporting women of faith. “You know Jesus always, always listened to the voices of women. Always heard them. Always took them as counsel.”

Booth says Hart has made a lasting mark on liturgical music. “I am seeing the influence of Sarah’s music on the next generation of composers. Almost all of the young and younger composers I meet with or correspond with mention Sarah as someone they look up to.”

Hart treasures her relationship with OCP. “In a family like OCP we are truly in it for songs that lift up the Body of Christ and meet people where they are… I'm very, very grateful to be part of a family like that.”