Best-selling ‘Requiem’ album brings sacred music back to life
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter’s resurrection of Gregorian chant is widely appreciated
It contains the sung prayers for the Traditional Mass and burial of the dead, including the well-known tracks Requiem Aeternem, Dies Irae, and In Paradisum. Also included are two polyphonic tracks (those which blend simultaneous yet independent melodies, usually called “motets”).
The first motet is from the great Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and the second is from the great Baroque composer Giovanni Battista Martini, also a Franciscan friar and a teacher of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Requiem was recorded at the Chapel of Saints Peter and Paul at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Fr. Zachary Akers, FSSP, was the musical director and Fr. Garrick Huang, FSSP, was the assistant musical director.
Fr. Huang has pointed out that the album is not merely a performance, but a series of prayers: These longings of the human heart expressed in reverent song were deeply appreciated by Christopher Alder, producer of the album.
Alder said that the FSSP priests “know the material intimately, as it rolls out of them as if it were poetry that one has recited countless times. They know it by heart, in every sense of the term, because the text is being simultaneously believed and sung at the highest level.”
Requiem was No. 1 on the Billboard classical charts for three consecutive weeks in June 2017. The album was the FSSP’s first with De Montfort Music/Sony Classical, the same group that has produced best-sellers with the Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The extraordinary sales are impressive, especially for groups who do not go out on concert tours and who do not devote their lives to music specifically.
Although Requiem has been positively received, the personal responses have not followed a standard pattern.
Monica Fitzgibbons, executive producer at De Montfort Music, said the appreciative comments have “run the gamut” based on the differing experiences of individual listeners. Some have used the album to accompany the death of a loved one, others to prayerfully contemplate their own mortality, and still others to simply enjoy the tranquility provided by the beautiful music.
While not its primary focus, the FSSP has been associated with musical excellence since its founding in 1988.
One of their priests is former opera singer Michael Magiera, who recorded a different Requiem (Mozart’s “Sussmayr version”) for Fr. Scott Haynes of the Society of St. John Cantius in Chicago.
The FSSP seminary’s primary music instructor is Nicholas Lemme, who is devoted, not only to the use of sacred song, but to the study of its inherent qualities of beauty, holiness, universality — and how they affect the moral development of both singers and listeners.
The FSSP hopes to use its vast musical talents to record and release more albums with De Montfort Music in the future, but for now, they are enjoying the positive response to Requiem. The album is helping to bring sacred song back to life, and it is gaining more exposure for the traditional Latin Mass and other sacraments offered by the FSSP. The ever-growing fraternity started with 12 priests in 1988. As of July 2018, it has 112 priests in the United States and Canada and has a worldwide total of 305 priests with 120 seminarians and postulants.