Detroit: New orchestral Mass premiered at Assumption Grotto, composed by the parish priest!

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: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Detroit: New orchestral Mass premiered at Assumption Grotto, composed by the parish priest!

  1. thefeds says:

    Great article, but the repeated use of the phrase “Gregorian Chanting” was a little odd, no? [Could there have been a translation quirk here?]

  2. AvantiBev says:

    “Where else do you get this — a Catholic pastor conducting a mass he created?” Korzeniewski asked.

    At St. John Cantius, Chicago, IL where associate pastor Father Scott Haynes has conducted and composed his own sacred music for Mass for choir and our orchestra. Kudos to Father Perrone but also God’s continued blessing on an extraordinary pastor, Father Frank Phillips of St. John Cantius who has brought so many of us back to the richness of our heritage.

    Midnight Mass at St. John’s in Chicago New Year’s Eve, 825 North Carpenter, Chicago, IL

    Also there is a memorial mass for the anniversary of Father John Hardon’s death tomorrow, Friday at noon at St. John Cantius. I believe Assumption Grotto was where in his later years he sought refuge from his fellow Jesuits persecution of his traditional preaching.

  3. Thanks Father Z.

    I just read that address by the Monsignor and it was spot on.

    thefeds,

    If we really want secular reporters to not bother spending the kind of time that this one did at Assumption Grotto, just keep straining for gnats.

  4. JSArt867 says:

    A priest writing and performing his own composition — SO freakin’ cool. I can connect with Fr. Perrone since – although I’m still a seminarian – I dropped art as a career choice to pursue the Priesthood. I now pursue figurative art and portraiture when my studies permit. If you’re interested, my website is: http://jamessmithart.net/

    James Smith

  5. Ed the Roman says:

    Diane, you have a point, but I’ll be a wee bit surprised if the reporter comes here.

  6. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Is it possible for one to get a recording of that Mass? I would love to hear it.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Me, too, and this is great news.

  8. Andreas says:

    The Catholic Church has, throughout the ages, been blessed with a wealth of Priests who were composers of serious sacred music for Mass. There were many throughout Europe who flourished during the 17th to 19th centuries, especially here in Austria and nearby Bavaria. These included Edmund Angerer OSB, Stefan Paluselli OCist., Gregor Schreyer OSB, Cajetan Kolberer OSB and a host of others. Their work has been recorded on several labels uncluding the splendid ‘Musica Bavarica’. Francis Burkley wrote a fascinating contribution on this topic entitled “PRIEST-COMPOSERS OF THE BAROQUE: A SACRED-SECULAR CONFLICT” that can be found in the journal ‘Musical Quarterly’, Volume LIV, Issue2Pp. 169-184.

  9. jcr says:

    I’m all for priests conducting choirs and composing music. Just so long as they don’t try to combine it with celebrating the Mass.

    I say this because just today, I heard about a concelebrating priest who conducted the choir and came to the altar just for the consecration.

  10. Mary Jane says:

    I wish I could have heard this Mass; it sounds like it was amazing!

    I was at an EF wedding a couple years ago where the groom had composed a 5-part polyphonic mass *just* for the occasion!

  11. New Sister says:

    I donated money to the Assumption Grotto Church, as I’m given to understand the main reason for which the diocese justifies closing it is finances. http://assumptiongrotto.com/

    I’ll probably never go there but do not want to see it close — it brings me hope just knowing of it, and of its pastor, Father Perrone. God bless him.

  12. Precentrix says:

    jcr –

    That’s symptomatic of the idea that all priests present anywhere near the church at any time during the Mass seem to have to concelebrate. There’s no reason why he couldn’t have offered his own Mass at some other time, which would have been far more sensible.

    Andreas,

    I need to read that. But it is more interesting if you look further back – Okheghem managed to put an entire Christmas sermon in a motet! :)

  13. jfm says:

    >>“Where else do you get this — a Catholic pastor conducting a mass he created?” Korzeniewski asked.

    Perhaps the St. Louis Jesuits… (wink, wink)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_Jesuits

  14. Supertradmum says:

    jfm,

    Puhleeze, can’t we forget some things, already?

  15. Seems to me the SLJ style have a monopoly at most American parishes.

    I was once in a parish folk-group in my 20’s. Admittedly, I had a deep interior desire for serious polyphony and chant. I was always drawn to this, but it was no where to be found. Some parishes locally still have some kind of choir, but they are singing mostly contemporary tunes.

    What is interesting is that I am running into more young priests and seminarians who themselves seem to feel as I do, with their musical preferences leaning towards sacred polyphony and chant.

    Sadly, this is being suppressed by another generation of priests who feel there is something wrong with this kind of music. I won’t question their intentions. In fact, I know all too well how good my intentions were when I played in the parish folk-band.

    It’s a gradual process and one that needs to play out on brick at a time, as Father Z so often emphasizes.

    Add to this the fact that there is a crop of music majors rising up from the ashes longing to bring polyphony back into parishes.

    I really think it is the Holy Spirit trying to shift things because our desires for this kind of music are supported by Church documents and the Holy Father. The problem is getting past those in positions of power at the parish and diocesan level to not suppress these legitimate desires. Some who dare to say anything about wanting greater availability of these things in the parish are met with hostility. I suppose by asking for one Mass per week of this kind in parish where there is no guitar and no piano, and centuries worth of good hymns chosen from, it is considered somehow threatening.

    I believe there are even struggles within seminaries as those who love their folk-music at Mass try feel threatened by those who simply want more availability of Masses with sacred polyphony and chant (and devoid of piano and guitar music). You get some young priests in their parish assignments enduring music at every single Mass that is totally the opposite.

    “40 years I endured that generation….”