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Meet the 15-year-old who is composing music for the Catholic Church

J-P Mauro - published on 12/30/19

Continuing the great tradition of liturgical Mass settings.

For hundreds of years the musical traditions developed in Vienna, Austria, have shaped the tonal styles of the Church, as well as the Western World, with composers like Beethoven, Mozart, and Hayden producing innovative Church music celebrated even to this day. With such a storied musical history, it seems almost too fitting that a Virginia town named for the Austrian capital would produce the latest musical sensation to arise in the Catholic Church.

Matthew Brown, just 15 years old, has composed a completely original setting of the Mass, which has just been approved by the USCCB for use in Church services. The work, entitled “Mass of the Resurrection,” is a four-part Mass setting intended to be used in the Easter Season.

In an interview with the Catholic Herald, Brown said of the work:

“I had to really get myself to slow down and take a little more time to work, to have a product I’m happy with in the end,” Brown said. “These are powerful words. This is a prayer the entire church is going to be saying.”

Once completed, Brown submitted the music to the USCCB for approval, which was promptly granted by the Bishops organization with only a few grammatical corrections in the notes. Now, churches all over the world can select Brown’s composition to perform at their celebrations.

Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship, explained that the primary concern when considering new music is the accuracy of the text. He said:

“We don’t want someone to start singing a ‘Holy Holy’ at Mass where the words have been rearranged or paraphrased or changed in any way that would undermine the text of the Mass, which people have a right to have in (its) integrity.”

Brown’s composition is marked by a continuous shifting between major and minor keys, as well as a considerable exploration of modes. In a video interview with the Catholic Herald, Brown explains that he has been playing piano since he was four, but it was only in recent years that his studies turned more towards theory and composition.

He went on to describe his artistic choices and we were impressed with the attention to theology that this fledgling composer put into his work. He described the pieces to the Catholic Herald:

“Individually, each setting from the Mass has a different tone. The ‘Amen’, we’re saying ‘I believe’ to the greatest moment that we have each week. Yes, we believe that this is the body of Christ, so that had to be really happy going in. “But then ‘We proclaim your death’, for example, when the voices come in it starts on a minor chord. Going through to ‘death’, death is minor still, but when we get to ‘Lord’ it turns major and the rest of the piece from there is major… That really shows that he died for us, but he did that so he could save us all from our sins…”
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Catholic MusicYouth
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