You may be familiar with hymns such as Here I Am Lord, City of God and Holy Darkness. But did you know that they came from the same composer?
American Christian singer-songwriter Dan Schutte has written these and many other Catholic liturgical music pieces, and on Dec 13, he together with two Jesuit priests sang their own compositions.
Poems, Prayers and the Promise – the Concert, was held at the Church of St Mary of the Angels and saw Filipino Fr Manoling Francisco and Singapore-based Fr Mark Aloysius from the Church of St Ignatius also performing.
Between each of the 14 songs that spoke of praise, pain, joy and struggle, the performers explained their inspirations behind their compositions.
They were also joined by Franciscan Friar Derrick Yap and supported by three choirs from the Church of St Ignatius.
Fr Manoling shared that he wrote the song Your Heart Today as a “modern adaptation of St Francis’ prayer for peace”, and “we pray that we may be in God’s heart today”.
Fr Mark and Friar Derrick then sang this song which they had earlier sung during the West District Youth Rally.
Fr Mark, who composed some of his songs when studying in a school of theology, also presented his newest work that evening, Sensus Christi.
Schutte performed some of his all-time favourites such as Beyond the Moon and Stars, Here I am Lord and City of God.
He also introduced his composition, Holy Darkness, commonly heard during Lent and Easter. Fr Mark and Friar Derrick then sang a hauntingly captivating version of the song.
For an encore, Schutte sang Yahweh You are Near.
Speaking to CatholicNews after the concert, Schutte said that “it’s such an honour to be here, to work with these other talents” and added that he would “love to come back someday”.
Schutte, one of the best-known and most influential composers of Catholic music for liturgy in the English-speaking world, is currently a composer-in-residence at the University of San Francisco.
Members of the 1,000-strong audience had equally positive feedback.
Amanda Leo, 21, from the Church of Christ the King said that it “was nice to hear the hymns that we usually hear in Mass performed by the original composers”.
Church of St Francis Xavier parishioner Kenneth Ngo, 38, said that he feels there is currently “no platform for local Church music” but hopes that after this concert, he will see “more budding Catholic musicians come up with more music”.
The following day, Schutte, Fr Manoling and Fr Mark conducted a workshop at the Church of Divine Mercy, with each sharing their own compositions, as well as the thought processes behind them.
Mr Nicholas Lim, 39, from the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, said the workshop was a “very emotional experience” for him. “When writers give the context in which they wrote the songs, there is so much more meaning infused in them.”
He said he also learnt “how the songs we choose can affect how the congregation worships”.
The concert and workshop were jointly organised by CANA – The Catholic Centre and the Jesuit Mission Office.
By Clara Lai