Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here
Start your mornings with the good, the beautiful, the true... Subscribe to Aleteia's free newsletter!
Sign me up!

Not Prepared to Donate?

Here are 5 ways you can still help Aleteia:

  1. Pray for our team and the success of our mission
  2. Talk about Aleteia in your parish
  3. Share Aleteia content with friends and family
  4. Turn off your ad blockers when you visit
  5. Subscribe to our free newsletter and read us daily
Thank you!
Team Aleteia

Subscribe

Aleteia

Sacred music is alive and well

Courtesy of Peter Kwasniewski
Choir singing
Share

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, cantor, conductor and composer, talks to Aleteia about the future of church music

NORCIA, ITALY — Recently in Norcia, Italy, during the summer theology program offered by the Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies, I was able to catch one of the tutors, Peter Kwasniewski, for an in-person interview. Dr. Kwasniewski is a Professor of Theology at Wyoming Catholic College and also a cantor, conductor, and composer of sacred music.

Peter Kwasniewski in Norcia (3)
Courtesy of Peter Kwasniewski

Dr. Kwasniewski, can you tell me something about your background in church music?

I’ve been composing music for about 25 years, mostly sacred choral music but also instrumental works and a few secular works. My first serious lessons in composition and conducting took place with a wonderful teacher, Roy Horton, now deceased, who was organist at Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey. I fell madly in love with music and threw myself at it more than at any other subject up until that point. When I arrived at Thomas Aquinas College, I had the good fortune to be asked by the main choir director, who lived quite a distance from the college, to be the assistant choir director. I started leading choir practices and even leading the choir at Mass on Sundays. It was a kind of total immersion experience, like being thrown into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim very well. But the four years in college of working intensively with the choir really fired my imagination.

Can you be more specific about what it was that fired your imagination?

What was appealing to me was Gregorian chant and classical polyphony. In college I was in the schola for four years and sang the proper chants of the Mass, Sunday after Sunday. We also sang polyphonic Mass ordinaries and motets. That was my first serious acquaintance with sacred music: singing Palestrina, Victoria, Byrd, the great Renaissance composers. I suppose you could say I had really good models to work with and I tried to imitate them in my own compositions, although they were clumsy at first. With trial and error, through study and hard work, I finally got to a point some time after I graduated where I was writing music choirs wanted to sing and I felt confident in putting it forward.

Someone could raise the objection: why don’t we just sing chant and Palestrina? The composers of this music, whether anonymous or named, are clearly geniuses and we can’t equal their work, so why bother?

Pages: 1 2 3

Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.
Aleteia offers you this space to comment on articles. This space should always reflect Aleteia values.
[See Comment Policy]
Readers like you contribute to Aleteia's Mission.

Since our inception in 2012, Aleteia’s readership has grown rapidly worldwide. Our team is committed to a mission of providing articles that enrich, inspire and inform a Catholic life. That's why we want our articles to be freely accessible to everyone, but we need your help to do that. Quality journalism has a cost (more than selling ads on Aleteia can cover). That's why readers like you make a major difference by donating as little as $3 a month.