I posted about the comments made by Msgr. Miserachs-Grau about the state of sacred music. Now I would like to share something about a friend of mine Fr. Eduard Perrone at the great Assumption Grotto parish in Detroit. He is a music and composer. This is from the Freep:
Assumption Grotto: Pastor creates music for mass, lifts spirits at vulnerable parish
Dec. 28, 2011
The Rev. Eduard Perrone, while on vacation last summer at his mother’s home in Warren, awoke from an afternoon nap with a melody in his head. He scribbled it down before he forgot it.
Over the next few days, more musical ideas popped into his mind, often after he woke up.
That was the start of what has turned into a full orchestral piece for Catholic mass, a 30-minute composition being performed for the first time this holiday season. It’s rare for a full-time priest to compose his own music for mass, but for Perrone, 63, it fit well with his role as pastor at Assumption Grotto, a historic Detroit church with a rich musical history.
Called “Fountain of Beauty,” Perrone’s composition is dedicated to the mother of Jesus.
“It’s my belief that the Virgin Mary is the most beautiful of all God’s creatures,” Perrone said.
Divided into six parts, the piece is written for a 65-member choir and 38 musicians, some of whom are professionals with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Michigan Opera Theatre. On Dec. 21, it was performed for the first time with the full orchestra during a rehearsal under the neo-Gothic arches of the majestic church.
“That was stunning, Father,” Diane Korzeniewski, a choir member and member of the church, said after the rehearsal.
Unifying the parish
Born to parents who were both musicians, Perrone learned music at Cass Tech High School and at a now-closed school in the Detroit archdiocese that taught church music. He learned piano, organ and Gregorian chanting.
But his heart was set on a higher calling.
“I felt being a priest would be the greatest thing I could do in my life,” he said after practice inside the sacristy, the room where items used for services are kept.
For years, he said, “I dropped (music) entirely.”
But after becoming pastor at Assumption Grotto in 1994, Perrone was encouraged to renew his love of music. The church’s outstanding acoustics, its pipe organ and an eager choir were a good fit for his interests. He often conducted classical music and put together musical performances of popular Broadway shows like “My Fair Lady.”
“It was a great unifying thing for the parish,” Perrone said.
A couple of years ago, parishioners asked him: “Why don’t you write a mass?”
At first, Perrone dismissed the idea. But in July, while on vacation, the music came to him.
“I’m sleeping in bed, and then I hear a melody,” he said. “One after the other, the ideas came.”
A reason to keep going
Perrone’s efforts come at a time of change for historic churches such as his in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Started in 1830, Assumption Grotto is one of the oldest parishes in Detroit. It continues to attract a lot of Catholics, especially since it still offers the old, traditional Latin mass, also known as Tridentine mass. But it’s in a rough area on Detroit’s east side that doesn’t have too many remaining Catholics.
In November, a committee recommended it be merged with another church and closed down in the future if Perrone retires and a replacement is not found.
But to parishioners such as Korzeniewski, the orchestral mass Perrone composed is one of many reasons the church should be kept alive. Orchestral masses have a long history in Western classical music, with many noted composers — Mozart, Schubert and Haydn included — creating them.
“Where else do you get this — a Catholic pastor conducting a mass he created?” Korzeniewski asked.
Many Catholic churches have guitar and piano music, but few offer the classical musical tradition that Assumption does, with Gregorian chanting and orchestral music.
“We have to keep this going,” Korzeniewski said. “This is a place where the music lifts your soul to the heights.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792