St Louis Jesuits ready to record again

The 1970s liturgical music phenomenon the St Louis Jesuits plan to release their first album in more than 20 years later this year.

The US Jesuits' Company magazine reports that the new hymns will reflect the mature perspectives of the authors, in addition to their trademark lyrics based on Scripture and music that people can sing to connect with their faith.

Composers and musicians (pictured clockwise from top) Bob Dufford, SJ, Roc O'Connor, SJ, Dan Schutte, and John Foley, SJ, are often regarded as the "fathers" of contemporary liturgical music.

They recently spent three weeks at an Oregon retreat centre collaborating on new music and testing the merits of a reunion that has been three years in the making.

"The album will be worth the wait," said Paulette McCoy, manager of liturgical resources for Oregon Catholic Press, after having heard previews of about twenty songs.

"There are some wonderful songs for funerals, some for prayers, and some that are rock-sounding. There's something for everyone." Vocals will be handled by all four and a chorus; instrumentation will be mostly piano and guitar but augmented with some bass, flutes, drums, oboes, and strings.

The St. Louis Jesuits have been discussing the idea of a new album since 2000, when they sang "City of God" together at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians conference in Washington, D.C., said O'Connor, a theology professor and liturgist at Creighton University. It was the first time they had sung together in sixteen years, and something magical happened.

"People went wild, and that was very gratifying," he said. "But the experience of singing together was more profound. That in itself was saying something to us, and we need to listen to it." Organizing the reunion and coordinating schedules took more than two years.

In their heyday, the St. Louis Jesuits were a sort of religious equivalent of the Beatles, although they never toured or performed concerts. Instead, they conducted liturgical music workshops and spoke at conferences. This surprised some people.

Their most popular album, Earthen Vessels, has sold more than a million copies since its release in 1975. Group members said they stopped collaborating because their ministries took them in different directions.

At the reunion meeting in Portland, members said that the renewed collaboration felt risky.

"There was a rather long period when anything the St. Louis Jesuits released was widely used almost immediately," Foley said. "One reason was that we were one of the few sources of this kind of liturgical music.

"In the early days when we started, there were perhaps ten or fifteen composers total. Today, the Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University invites as many as 250 composers to the annual Composers Forum. There is so much diversity now."

A Family Album: The St Louis Jesuits are getting ready to record again (Company Magazine)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Centre for Liturgy at St Louis University
Dan Schutte - Composer, Musician, Liturgist, Lecturer

8 Jun 2005