All posts tagged: sacred music

The Church Life Journal “Carols of Christmas” Spotify Playlist

For my money, there is no better time for music than Christmastime. Whether sung by a choir of off-key, adorable preschoolers, or performed by a group of professionals, the carols of Christmas constitute some of the most beautiful, most profound music that has ever been written, all for the sake of helping us celebrate the moment when God definitively stepped in to human history with the birth of Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son, the Word-made-flesh. And so, as with our Advent playlist, once again I’ve turned to Spotify to assemble a playlist for the Christmas season. Even more so here than with the Advent playlist, I quickly discovered that it is impossible to include everything. The first version of this playlist was almost 6 hours long. It could have been longer. But after a great deal of thought and an even greater deal of exploring new-to-me recordings, I’ve whittled it down to a scant 47 songs, or 2 hours and 32 minutes worth of music. Again, as with the Advent list, this is a sampling which I …

The Church Life Journal “Sounds of Advent” Spotify Playlist

One of the greatest challenges of celebrating Advent is the fact that Christmas music seems to be everywhere beginning the day after Thanksgiving. It’s on the radio, in the department stores, in television commercials, you name it. As a musician, I’m often asked for Advent music recommendations, so this year, I’ve taken advantage of modern technology and curated an Advent playlist through Spotify which is by no means exhaustive, since it’s impossible to include everything. Instead, this is a sampling which I hope will inspire your own exploration of the music of this beautiful season of waiting in joyful hope. Below the playlist are “liner notes” for anyone curious about why a particular piece was included, which may be especially interesting with regard to pieces chosen for their relevance to a particular feast day. May this music create a space within your heart where Jesus may find a home on Christmas day. Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) The Westminster Choir Christmas with the Westminster Choir “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is, without doubt, the …

Catholic Conversations: What’s your favorite Christmas Carol?

Welcome back to Catholic Conversations, where we engage a varied group of Catholic voices around one question about Catholic life and practice.  What is your favorite Christmas carol? Most Reverend Daniel E. Flores, S.T.D. Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas Do You Hear What I Hear? Said the night wind to the little lamb. It starts simply, the whisper of grace rising through nature. The simplicity of his coming finds welcome in the poor and lowly: Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? From the lowly the sound is amplified to reach the mighty king: Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, do you know what I know? It’s a hearing, then a knowing. It’s a challenge: In your palace warm, mighty king, do you know what I know? A Child, a Child shivers in the cold. . .  And it is hope. The heart can be receptive, rich and poor, lowly and powerful: Said the king to the people everywhere, listen to what I say. Pray for …

Review: “O Emmanuel” by J.J. Wright

An album of Advent and Christmas music incorporating chant, hymnody, and jazz, performed by a children’s choir, a quartet of adult singers, traditional chamber instruments, and a jazz ensemble. On paper (or on screen), this combination is perhaps more suggestive of avant-garde performance art than reverent sacred music. But the new album O Emmanuel brings this unlikely ensemble together in a spiritually edifying and musically thrilling way. Featuring music written and performed by Grammy-winning composer, conductor, and pianist J.J. Wright (along with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir and Fifth House Ensemble), O Emmanuel is an exciting demonstration of the ways in which sacred music can bring together seemingly disparate styles not only from the Church’s long musical tradition but also from more recent developments in Western music, as Wright describes here in his interview with Church Life Journal. Like the Advent season itself, O Emmanuel is full of surprises. The album begins with “Gabriel’s Message,” an Advent hymn narrating the Annunciation event that deserves to be much more broadly known than it is. Here, Wright’s …

An Interview with Sacred Music Composer J.J. Wright

Following the release of the album O Emmanuel, GRAMMY-winning composer, conductor, and pianist J.J. Wright provided the following interview to Church Life Journal, where he described not only the experience of creating and recording this unique album for the Advent and Christmas seasons (which reached #1 on Billboard’s traditional classical album chart), but also the importance of children’s choirs and the future of sacred and liturgical music in the life of the Church. We are grateful to J.J. for sharing his thoughts as a complement the review of O Emmanuel featured here. CP: Throughout this piece there are moments when varied musical styles are heard side-by-side. For example, in one section, a chant melody is accompanied by a jazz trio. Can you describe your thought process when it comes to constructing passages like this? How do you fit these seemingly incongruous musical pieces together in such a complementary way? Why do you feel it’s important to fuse different kinds of music together in your writing? JJ: Music has an incredible way of stirring our emotions. When I composed this work, I wanted to create …