Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
The musical Briare family: Maureen, Natalie, Gabriel, Mikayla, Isaac, Caitlin, Raina and Tim.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
The musical Briare family: Maureen, Natalie, Gabriel, Mikayla, Isaac, Caitlin, Raina and Tim.
The Briare family radiates joy — both by smiles and prolific music-making.

Members of Holy Cross Parish in North Portland, Tim and Maureen Briare and their six children sing and play dozens of instruments, almost all for worship and church events.  

For Holy Cross School variety shows, Christmas Masses, festivals, weddings and funerals — someone from the clan is there to provide just the right music.  

"The Briare family sings and plays at every event in our parish," says Holy Names Sister Mary Ryan, development director for Holy Cross Church and School. "Our parish and school couldn't have more dedicated or talented parishioners. They make every event a class act."

Maureen's start in music began in 1979 at age 10, when St. Mary Sister Rebecca Mary Bonnell taught her to play guitar for school Masses at Holy Cross. She's been playing music for Masses ever since, even when she was practicing as a nurse.

She's a natural, who can pick up instruments quickly.  

Tim grew up in a musical family in Nevada, attending a church called Our Lady of Las Vegas. He then attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. In the early 1990s, he packed up a small car with his conga drums and drove to Portland, where his brothers lived.

The pair met in 1992 at the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, better known as the Grotto. Each was playing with a different band in a benefit concert. By 1993, they were married.  

Maureen has been campus ministry music director at the University of Portland for 12 years. To take the post, she left a good job as a nurse.

"I saw it as the next call," she says.

She earned a master's degree in music and began composing. Some of her work has been published by OCP: "Lead, Kindly Light," "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns on High," and "Laudate Dominum, Alleluia." OCP has also published a CD of her harp music called 'Peaceful Prayer,' recorded by Tim in their North Portland home. A sequel to the popular album is in the planning.  

Playing harp, an instrument synonymous with peace, keeps Maureen centered as the mother of six active children.

"Music is transforming and healing. I think it's necessary for life," she says, noting that often the most oppressed people — Africans, for example — produce the most joyful music.

Mention of Africa primes Tim's musical pump. He pulls out a collection of drums, gourds and sticks he can beat, shake and rattle, all but guaranteed to make people dance. For his day job, Tim is a representative for a maker and distributor of baking ingredients. He's been in the job for 15 years and in the baking business for 22 years.

Tim says the family together embodies a nice blend of his musical forte — percussion — with Maureen's strength — melody. Tim has a passion for West African and Brazilian rhythms, while Maureen spins tunes not only on guitar and harp, but on piano, flute and organ.

First-born daughter Raina will begin at the University of Portland in the fall. In addition to being part of the prestigious St. Mary's Academy Marian Singers in high school, she plays ukulele, piano, cello, saxophone and violin.  

Mikayla, who will be a junior at St. Mary's, is a Marian Singer. The group travels and sings all over the region. Mikayla also plays piano, ukulele, clarinet and violin.
Natalie, who will start at St. Mary's in the fall, will join the Marian Singers and concert choir. She plays flute and piano.  

Caitlin, who will be a seventh grader, sings in the Holy Cross School choir and is a member of the school's band. She plays violin, piano, drums and the glockenspiel.

Gabriel, to be a Holy Cross 4th grader, plays drums, piano and violin and sings.

Isaac, who will enter first grade, already has made notable progress on piano.
Here's the family rule: No television or computers until homework and music practice are completed.  

The Briare children are creative in ways beyond music. This summer, they organized a Harry Potter Camp for their young cousins, complete with butter beer, pumpkin hand pies and a game of earthbound Quidditch.

The family bread and butter, musically, is the Catholic liturgy. But musical tastes vary among the Briares. Tim likes world beat, while Isaac favors the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Caitlin is keen on the British boy band One Direction.

Even with diverse preferences, music brings the family together. Often, the whole clan will sit in the living room or kitchen for birthdays or holidays and song will just break out, harmonized with plenty of laughter.