Priest Graduates of Catholic Colleges Release Chant Album
Ordained graduates of Newman Guide-colleges are involved in a new project that will bring ancient sacred music to a new generation.
Three graduates of Christendom College and Thomas Aquinas College, all ordained priests in The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter are among the singers on an album of Gregorian chant that will be released in May.
The album, entitled REQUIEM, will feature music usually sung during funeral Masses. Fr. Gerard Saguto, the North American Superior of the Fraternity, explained that the new recording of the Requiem is “a way to share some of what we do on a wider scale, to put something beautiful and sacred out into the world.”
The singing priests credit the faithful Catholic education they received at the two colleges with instilling in them a love of the liturgy and sacred music like Gregorian Chant.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a Catholic community of priests dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the Tridentine Mass, specialize in Gregorian chant and require “intense musical training” in seminary, according to Fr. Zachary Akers, music director for THE REQUIEM album and former intern at The Cardinal Newman Society.
Started in 1988, the Fraternity has priests – who are, on average, only 35 years old – located in missions throughout the world.
Three of its priests are graduates of the Newman Guide–recommended colleges in Front Royal, Va. and Santa Paula, Calif.
Fr. Saguto graduated from Christendom College in 1998 with a BA in Theology. He told the Newman Society, “Having sensed a vocation to the priesthood, I was able to take advantage of the trusted academic and liturgical formation the college offered. My education in the field of sacred music courtesy of the dedicated work of the chaplain of the college at that time continues to impact me greatly and has been influential in the parish work I have done.”
The Christendom-provided education in philosophy and theology gave Fr. Saguto “a very sound basis” for the studies he completed in the seminary.
For Fr. Joseph Lee, canon lawyer and academic dean of the Fraternity’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) offered “the unique opportunity to read and learn and spend time with some of the greatest minds responsible for Western Civilization,” he explained to the Newman Society.
At TAC, Fr. Lee found himself immersed in an atmosphere that was “unabashedly Catholic, with multiple daily Masses scheduled (including the Extraordinary Form!) every day.” Fr. Lee cited the “always reverent” liturgical and devotional practices offered daily on the campus in addition to the example of the faculty as experiences which contributed to his priestly vocation.
Fr. Akers, music director for the album, credits his education from Christendom College with setting the stage for his priestly discernment.
“I was deeply impacted by the liturgical music as a freshman at Christendom College,” Fr. Akers told the Newman Society, “which inspired me to join the choir, and to subsequently learn more about our great liturgical heritage as Catholics. This was the way that I was introduced to the ancient liturgy, and I quickly became drawn to this older form of the Mass (Extraordinary Form).”
While still a junior at Christendom and already loving Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, Fr. Akers attended a Vocations Weekend where he met a representative of the Fraternity who provided him with a CD of Gregorian chant sung by the FSSP seminarians. The music “opened the door” for Fr. Aker’s discernment of a priestly vocation.
Fr. Akers believes that this new recording can be “a great education” for people who are interested in Gregorian chant which is fundamental to the history of the Church.
“I think that every Catholic institution should place a great importance in the passing on of this most important treasure of our faith – our music,” Fr. Akers told the Newman Society. “It is our hope that this REQUIEM recording can help to preserve this ancient music.”
Catholic schools “must protect and promote Catholic culture,” Fr. Lee agreed. “Every Catholic school would do well to imitate the Early Church Fathers.”
Monica Fitzgibbons, executive producer for the album, told the Newman Society that all the participants in the project are confident the ancient sacred music can be a beneficial addition to Catholic education.
“There have been many studies proving that classical music stimulates the brain towards heightened learning but specifically an experience of calm learning,” Fitzgibbons said.
The priests assured the Newman Society that the recording “demonstrates that Gregorian chant can be learned by just about anyone” because, with one exception, none of the priests who sang on the album were professional musicians.
The importance of the Requiem Mass music goes beyond its text.
Fr. Garrick Huang, co-music director of the album, explained, “It’s not enough that we recite the text; we have to sing them because it’s part of human nature to express beauty, love, all the emotions in song.”
Fr. Huang pointed out that for monks down through the centuries, it was never enough to simply recite the sacred texts: “We sing them, because it has always been part of human nature to express love and joy, despair and sadness – the gamut of emotions – in song. That said, the Requiem chant is not a performance for us. We say that we ‘sing’ the Requiem, but it’s more that we’re praying the Requiem.”
The album was recorded at the Fraternity’s seminary in Nebraska by two Grammy Award-winners: producer Christopher Alder and engineer Brad Michel. Alder praised the hardworking priests saying, “They know this material intimately, as it rolls out of them as if it were poetry that one has recited countless times. They know it by heart, in every sense of the term because the text is being simultaneously believed and sung at the highest level.”
Monica Fitzgibbons of De Montfort Music, executive produced the album with her husband Kevin, aiming to cultivate a new audience for the ancient choral music. She told the Newman Society that the motivation for the album was “to gain the widest distribution possible for what we believe are some of the greatest treasures on this earth.”
The album, REQUIEM, will be released by De Montfort Music and Sony Classical on May 12, 2017.
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