David Haas recent concerts were a spiritual experience, says Anthony Siow

Liturgical music composer David Haas at his concert in Church of Divine Mercy.

Three-quarters into his first concert in Singapore, David Haas had the audience singing and swaying to the music. The American liturgical music composer was leading the crowd in an African Zulu song entitled Jikelele, which means “God is everywhere”.

One may not have heard of Jikelele, but many would have heard and sung Blest Are They, We Will Rise Again and You are Mine – all of which featured in two recent concerts here by Haas.

The audience certainly enjoyed a spiritual experience during the concerts held at the Church of Divine Mercy on Nov 4 and Church of St Vincent de Paul on Nov 5. Ably supporting him were choirs from these two parishes and another from the Church of St Mary of the Angels.

Psalms are special to writers of liturgical music as they express the gamut of human emotions. So it came as no surprise that they featured prominently in the repertoire of the preeminent composer, who has produced more than 50 collections of original music, much of it sung and prayed in many parts of the world including Singapore.

He set the tone for his concerts with a song inspired by Psalm 89 titled Throughout All Time: “I will sing forever to you my God, throughout all time I will sing to you.”

The songs, As Water To The Thirsty and I Will Live On, were dedicated to his parents, who apparently helped him see God as unconditionally loving.

Throughout the evening, Haas was always pointing out God in His many guises. He shared that after open-heart surgery nine years ago, he was ready to return home from the hospital when he suddenly fainted.

He was to suffer two more attacks in the hours that followed. Reflecting on how circumstances would have taken a dire turn had he in fact gone home, Haas wrote The God of Second Chances in gratitude to “the God who doesn’t give up on us”.

Haas had the audience singing and swaying to the music. Photos: GERARD GOH

In another song, Deep Within, Haas suggested that if we cannot find Christ in one another, we won’t find him in the bread and wine.

Through 20 songs, personal anecdotes and several digs at lectors, music ministers and altar boys, Haas helped the audience to pray through music.

Mr Stephen Lee, 60, said he felt that Haas “is a contemporary Christian whom we can relate to, down-to-earth yet spiritual.”

“I like that Haas’ compositions draw inspiration from Scripture,” said another audience member, Ms Diana Tan, 59.

Fr Valerian Cheong, who joined Haas on several songs together with Carmelite Fr Edward Lim, Redemptorist Fr Eugene Lee and Fr Luke Fong, said he appreciates Haas’ music because “they are scripturally rich and draws into our spiritual selves.”

Haas has authored more than 30 books on areas such as liturgy, youth ministry, prayer and spirituality. He was nominated for a Grammy award in 1991 for his recording, I Shall See God.

His book, The Ministry and Mission of Sung Prayer, received the Outstanding Professional Book Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States & Canada in 2003.

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