Their harmonic strains can be heard on any given Sunday, echoing off stained glass or radiating across crowded churchyards in and near the heart of the Jefferson City diocese.
They are the Osage Angels, a string and voice ensemble that formed while three girls were students at St. Joseph School in Westphalia.
They mix their own songs with country, gospel and light-rock standards while performing at parish picnics and fall festivals, including this Sunday in Argyle.
They also lead and accompany hymns and provide an occasional contemporary prelude once a month at Sunday Mass in St. Joseph Church in Westphalia.
All three are tuned into the power of music to draw people into community and express some of the deepest longings of the soul.
“Every song has a different emotion,” Zoe Rehagen, the youngest of the three, said of performing on stage.
“You play a fast song and people are dancing, or a slow song and sometimes people are crying,” she said. “It’s interesting how each song means something different to each person.”
Zoe is a senior at Fatima High School in Westphalia. Her sister, Abby Rehagen, is a sophomore at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, and their friend, Allie Hale, is a sophomore at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
“When we’re out on stage,” said Allie, “I try to think about how God gave us this moment — that we’re performing this music for Him.”
“I think more than anything, we play well together and enjoy each other’s company,” Abby stated. “I find that playing with my little sister really helps us connect, and Allie has helped me find a closer relationship with God. Having this community of each other has been really great.”
In perfect harmony
Allie had dreamed of being a country music artist since she was little.
Her parents gave her a guitar for Christmas when she was 8, and she took piano lessons for a few years, but her passion for music merely simmered.
One day, Allie’s mother got a guitar and decided to learn to play it.
Hearing her mom practice awakened Allie’s dormant dreams. She set about learning chords on the guitar whenever her mom wasn’t using it.
“You can learn just about anything by watching YouTube videos,” Allie noted.
Before long, she was performing Taylor Swift’s “Our Song” for children in the neighborhood.
Then, she started writing her own songs.
Abby and Zoe started taking violin lessons when they were little. Allie invited Abby, one of her best friends, to join her in performing at a St. Joseph School assembly when they were in eighth grade.
The three girls began practicing together.
Abby’s and Zoe’s mother, Donna Rehagen, encouraged her daughters to branch out into other instruments.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you learn to play bass?’” Zoe recalled. “We just suddenly started acquiring these random instruments.”
Once the girls started developing a repertoire, Mrs. Rehagen encouraged them to perform at local nursing homes.
“That was such a profound experience for me,” said Allie. “To see the awe on the people’s faces was such a humbling experience. We were doing God’s work, and it was affecting them in a spiritual way.”
The residents would line up to greet the girls after each performance.
“They’d say, ‘This is the highlight of our day!’” Zoe recalled. “I loved it. I could have stayed there all day.”
Allie’s great-grandmother was living at one of the nursing homes the girls played at.
“She told me one of the last times before she died: ‘Your great-grandpa would love to play music with you one of these days,’” Allie recalled.
Allie’s great-grandfather, who enjoyed sitting on his porch and playing his harmonica, had died about 10 years before that.
“I felt very close to God in those moments,” said Allie. “He was trying to teach me something very important about the need for volunteering and sharing His gifts with others.”
By March of the following year, the girls had proven their ability and desire to entertain and connect with people.
Mrs. Rehagen helped them book their first gig for a wider audience. They played a couple of songs during karaoke night at The Mission, a music venue in Jefferson City.
Allie’s mother, who would refer lovingly to her daughters as “Hale’s Angels,” suggested that this new ensemble should be called the “Osage Angels.”
“It fits so well,” said Allie. “It fits our personality. We’re very hometown. And we do try to be angels. ... We do try.”
“Momma Don” — Mrs. Rehagen — became the group’s de facto manager and booking agent.
The girls’ voices became part of the summer soundtrack in nearby locales, as they performed at wedding receptions, local venues and church events.
“It’s fun to see people who come repeatedly to our performances,” said Zoe. “You really do build bonds with them.”
Zoe especially enjoys playing at church picnics.
“It just reminds me of where I grew up and what I’ve been taught to be grateful for,” she said. “And when someone tells you that you just played their favorite song, you feel like you really did something for them.”
Allie smiles whenever she looks out from the stage across a crowded picnic ground, and contrasts what she sees with what she used to dream about.
“We’re not standing on some stage that’s as big as a house,” she noted. “We’re standing on the back of a truck!
“And it’s where we’re supposed to be,” she said. “If I were up on a giant stage, I wouldn’t be able to see my family. This way, I can see the people who have made me who I am.
“For me, it’s a lesson in community and friendship,” she said. “Especially when you’re there on stage with your best friends.”
Between the notes
Abby didn’t know anybody when she arrived at LSU as a freshman last fall.
That changed when she went to her first Sunday Mass at Christ the King Parish and Student Center on campus.
“One thing I’ve always had in my life is my Catholic faith,” she said. “I went over there and found my community of friends.”
Fellow students welcomed her and invited her to a Bible study, a volleyball night and other events throughout the week.
She started attending a prayer and formation group for parish musicians and music ministers.
She became part of a sacred music ensemble that leads the singing once a month during communal Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Although energized by music, she often seeks out the stillness of the Adoration Chapel.
“It’s super-quiet in there,” she said. “I like to sit in the silence and think about the day and talk to God.”
“We’re in heaven”
Allie thought hard about going away to college and diving deeper into music after graduating from high school in 2021.
“I prayed and prayed and prayed all through my junior year,” she said. “After praying, I knew Lincoln was the place for me. It’s close to home, and I can still do all the things I want to do in my community and church.”
Everything fell into place for her after she made that decision.
“I feel that God has led me to where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “I can’t imagine being in a better place. I feel perfectly at home.”
Allie and Zoe play guitar and sing together with Sarah Groene, who plays piano, one Sunday a month at Mass in Westphalia.
“I really enjoy singing in church,” said Zoe. “I feel very reverent when I get to sing those songs with Allie. I get to share my faith. I feel closer to people when I do that. It feels purposeful. It helps me get closer to God.”
Allie remembers being struck with a thought one Sunday while singing with Zoe during Holy Communion: “We’re in heaven now!”
“When you give of yourself and give of your gifts in church, and after you receive Jesus, you’re in heaven,” she said. “Time doesn’t even exist. I was there, playing in heaven with my friend.”
One of Abby’s favorite songs that the Osage Angels perform is called “Give Thanks,” written by Allie.
“It’s a song about Thanksgiving,” Abby noted. “She felt that Thanksgiving doesn’t get enough recognition as a holiday.”
Speaking of thanks, Zoe believes this is a time she and her fellow Osage Angels will look back on with gratitude for the rest of their lives.
“I’m very thankful to my parents for helping get me into this,” she said. “It’s definitely a gift we’ve been given.”
Allie is grateful that her parents sent her to a Catholic grade school, which helped her find the peace she now experiences in college.
“I learned so many things that I still carry with me,” she said. “Even things that I learned in kindergarten, first and second grade — I remember things that resonate so deeply with me, that I will continue using throughout my life.”
All three girls talked about the kindness and selfless gift of time that the Hale and the Rehagen parents have bestowed, allowing the Osage Angels not just to sing but to soar.
They noted how their parents spend time with them, listening to them practice and perform.
Looking ahead, Abby asked for prayers for the Osage Angels to bridge the distance and make time to get together and play more music.
Allie requested prayers for help finding where God wants her and each of her friends to be — “and that we always share our gifts and never give up on doing what we can do.”
Zoe asked for prayers for guidance.
“There’s a mission for each of us, something greater for us to achieve,” she stated. “And we will get there if we focus on what God is telling us to do.”
Follow the Osage Angels at facebook.com/OsageAngels.