Nancy Krebs

July 06 2019 | by

HOW did you first become interested in music?

It all started during Mass when I was 3 years old. This was in the pre-Vatican II days, when the priest faced the altar. My parents took me to Mass every Sunday as the first of seven children. I had just gotten a pair of patent leather shoes and I was standing in the pew behind everyone who were kneeling. During the very-quiet Consecration, I started singing repeatedly at the top of my lungs: “Nancy Krebs is in church” while tap dancing along the pew behind all those kneeling adults. Of course my parents were horrified. They eventually managed to get me under control, but that was my musical debut.

I started to take violin lessons at the age of 11, picked up the guitar at 13, and the mandolin when I was 25. So I’ve been playing string instruments for most of my life.

I became interested in liturgical music while attending Seton High School in Baltimore, Maryland, when the first Folk Masses started in our region. I became a singer/musician for the Folk or contemporary Mass at my high school, and then later brought it to my parish, and from then it just continued to grow within me.


From its very beginning the Church has used music in the liturgy. Do you find that Church singing and Church music in general help raise the spirit to God?

Absolutely. Music is the handmaiden of the liturgy; and this means that song choices need to dovetail with the readings. When you have that synergy with the music, the readings and the homily, the liturgy becomes a much more spiritually satisfying experience for the congregation. I have been at the Shrine of St Anthony in Ellicott City as a cantor and music provider since 2004. Invariably people will come up to me after a Mass and say something like, “Thank you so much for your music. It’s one of the reasons I come here. I love the sound, the feel and the spirituality of the music.” So when I am choosing songs, I feel a great responsibility to make sure that they fit in with the rest of the liturgy.


You compose meditational songs of a spiritual nature. What do you hope people can take away from your songs?

My music is usually lyrically dense. It isn’t like a praise and worship song that just repeats the same lyric over and over again. That type of music certainly has great value, but simple repetition is not what I strive for in my music. I would like to believe that my lyrics are inspired by the Holy Spirit to deepen awareness of the presence of God in listeners. The lyrics tend to be meditational in nature; they ask the listeners to be more reflective, so that they can eventually find that presence of God within themselves. My late husband Pete, who ran the technical side, the lights and sound, for my concerts, often watched the audience while I was performing, and he would mention to me that people were absolutely mesmerized; they were not moving; their eyes were either closed or watching very intently. They were taking in the music, and hopefully receiving the messages contained within the songs.


Is there a particular song or piece of music, composed by yourself or by someone else, that gives you the feeling of being particularly close to God?

That’s a tough question, because having written about 300 songs, some of which are contained in the seven albums I have produced so far; asking me to choose my favorite from among them is like asking me to choose from among my children!

However, there are two songs which I know emotionally have a great impact on people. One is called Eyes; this is the story of the crucifixion as seen through the eyes of the wife of a Roman soldier who escorted Jesus to Calvary. This song is written from a first-person perspective. People often openly sob when they hear that song, or at least ‘tear up’. I am convinced that it is not because of what I wrote, but the power of the story itself.  This song is always featured on Good Friday.

The second is called Mary Knew. This is a song about the Blessed Mother and her relationship with Her Divine Son. I always sing it on Christmas Eve, and it prompts an emotional response.

Mary Knew was composed at a moment when I felt the Blessed Mother spiritually at my side. I feel that she dictated the song, and it was written in 10 minutes while I was waiting to board a plane in Fargo, North Dakota. The first verse is about Jesus at His birth; the second concerns Him as a little boy; and the third reveals Him as a grown man. Finally, the song describes Mary watching her son being crucified.

But Mary Knew is actually an ‘answer song’ to another written by Mark Lowry & Buddy Greene that I dearly love, Mary Did You Know?, a very popular Christmas song about the questions that are asked of Mary.


Do you remember any stories or ideas that inspired you to write particular lyrics to some of your songs?

I have written songs inspired by various sources: sermons, homilies, books, articles or even personal encounters that I’ve had. One episode comes to mind that is Franciscan in nature. I was reading a book called Francis: the Journey and the Dream by Murray Bodo, OFM while on the tour bus during a pilgrimage to Greccio in Italy. While reading it, one passage inspired me to compose Someone to Love. The chapter described how God could have come to save us in so many different ways, but He chose to come as an innocent little baby, and who can’t love a baby?  By the time our bus arrived in Greccio the song had been written. I sing it every Christmas Eve for the Vigil Mass at the Shrine of St Anthony.

I have countless songs that I often share with the Shrine and other venues, but I haven’t had the opportunity to record them yet, despite repeated requests from friends and supporters. That is because when my husband passed away in 2012, the desire to record died with him. He was my partner and technical director, and I haven’t found anyone who can replace him in the role he played in my concertizing and recording. But that’s alright, because when God closes a door, he opens a window, so the saying goes. Since Pete passed away, more liturgical opportunities have been given to me; so much so that every weekend I serve as a music minister in at least two or three different church venues. It’s possible that the concert phase of my life has passed, but you never know...


You are also a voice instructor, and have been teaching the Lessac Kinesenic Training for about 40 years. Can you explain the purposes of this innovative voice and body training to our readers?

Arthur Lessac created Kinesensics, a sensory-based voice and body training, and continued to develop it over decades. He was 101 years old when he passed away in 2011, still teaching in Croatia two weeks before he died. We all want to be him when we ‘grow up’! The work itself is designed to be a self-teaching approach in order to achieve ideal production of one’s voice, as well as flexibility and strength for the body. Arthur wrote extensively; but two of his books we constantly use: The Use and Training of the Human Voice, and Body Wisdom. I’ve been teaching this kind of training for almost 40 years at the School for the Arts in Baltimore, Maryland, privately in my own studio, The Voiceworks, and world-wide for the Lessac Training Institute, which is based in New York. This was Arthur’s dream, to spread the work throughout the world in order to empower the voices of many languages and cultures.


In your different activities, teaching, writing music, concerts, etc., do you find time to meet God in prayer?

I pray constantly. Of course when I sing, I pray twice, as St Augustine tells us. However, usually in the morning or at the end of the day, I find some quiet time to do nothing other than simply conversing and listening to God. Throughout the day as I am working, teaching, composing – my prayer is that God will guide me in whatever activity I am involved with at the time. So my whole day becomes like a prayer – either when engaged in work or just sitting quietly.


What aspect of Jesus strikes you most?

Jesus is infinite in all His virtues and attributes, but if I could isolate one of the aspects that most strikes me, that would be His compassion. Even at the moment of death on the cross He was forgiving, asking the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. The most difficult thing for us humans to do is to forgive, to let go, but Our Lord was able to submerge His ego into that of the Father.


Who is God for you?

God is everywhere and in everything. I composed a song called God in All Things, found on my second album. This song was inspired by St Vincent Pallotti, the 19th century founder of the Society (and the Union) of the Catholic Apostolate. Some of the lyrics are: “Not the mind but God, not the will but God, not the heart or the soul, not the aim or the goal, but You, my God.”

For me God is in all things, and all things are in God. This song is a litany of all the experiences that we have in life – all can be found in God and vice versa.


How do you regard the Eucharist and going to Mass?

I’m a cradle Catholic. My parents were staunch Roman Catholics who raised all seven of us to go to Mass every Sunday. Later, in my twenties, I decided that I didn’t want to attend Mass anymore, that I could worship God elsewhere, so I searched out Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Baptist churches, and many other different denominations; seeking a different way of worshipping, and this continued for several years. Invariably people there would invite me to sing or play during their services. Music, for many denominations, is more the center of attention, like the sermon, but I kept missing something, and wasn’t sure what it was.

In 1994 I came back to my home parish of Ascension in Halethorpe, outside of Baltimore, Maryland. My parents were still living there, and as I went to Mass with them one Sunday, something miraculous happened: I re-discovered the Eucharist. I found myself saying, “Oh, this is what’s been missing!” That Sunday I finally recognized that Our Lord was truly present for us in the Mass. Of course I had been taught that the Host and the Chalice contained His Body and Blood as a child, but it became a reality for me that day. I had missed the most integral part of the Mass, and from that day I came back to the Church with a new energy and commitment. After that experience, the more I attended Mass regularly, the more deeply God began to speak to me internally. I started to read more spiritual books and articles, and to listen to homilies more intently; I found myself a spiritual director, and the songs that I now wrote began to have deeper and more thought-provoking lyrics, not the immature themes of earlier efforts. The Eucharist is now the central focus of my life – I wouldn’t miss Mass for a million dollars!


Which saint or saints do you feel particularly close to?

The first is the Blessed Mother. My second is St. Anthony of Padua. He finds everything for me, not just things; he also finds lost ideas, lost focus, lost desire to serve, among others. I also have a devotion to St. Joseph, who is the patron of my music ministry, and St.Vincent Pallotti, who I mentioned before, who has inspired at least sixty songs since I discovered him some years ago.


BORN in Baltimore, Maryland, Nancy Krebs has been a professional actor/singer/musician since 1975 and is a member of all three performance unions as well as VASTA, the international voice professional association. She is also a singer/songwriter/musician and recording artist, having released seven albums of critically acclaimed original Christian meditational music.

Nancy is a certified Lessac Master Teacher, and has been both director and co-director of the Lessac Summer Intensives since 2006, taught with Arthur Lessac and Senior Master Teacher Sue Ann Park from 1995-2005, and continues to lead the flagship Intensive both in the United States and abroad. She also has led and developed numerous shorter Lessac-based workshops throughout the years since 1995.

She has worked as a vocal/dialect coach for more than 250+ professional and university productions in the Baltimore-Washington region since 1994. She taught a four-year Lessac-based voice curriculum in the Theatre Department of the Baltimore School for the Arts for 39 years; and operates her own private studio: The Voiceworks, located in Severn, Maryland.

Updated on July 06 2019