Composer Tony Alonso hopes that the music will "make people move."
A professor from Emory University has composed an album of Catholic hymns that has been nominated for a Latin Grammy Award in the category of Best Christian Album. The work, Caminemos con Jesús (Let Us Walk with Jesus), injects traditional Cuban elements into Catholic hymns in a style that melds Spanish and English lyrics, known as “son Cubano.”
The Catholic Herald reports that Tony Alonso, 40, has more than 20 collections of Catholic hymns to his name, but this is his first Grammy Award nomination. The Atlanta-based composer said that he wrote the new album to honor his own Cuban roots, which have shaped his Catholic faith.
The 11 songs of the album are marked by acoustic guitars, choirs, pianos, flutes, and traditional Cuban percussion. The rhythms they produce show that “son Cubano” is an extension of the very danceable salsa music style. Alonso surrounded himself with exceptional musicians for the album’s recording, and we would be remiss if we did not mention his out-of-this-world piano solos scattered throughout the work.
In an interview with the Georgia Bulletin, provided by the Catholic Herald, Alonso said of Caminemos con Jesús:
“Scripture is filled with biblical commands to sing. And those commands don’t come with any caveats. I see my work fulfilling that mandate.” The composer added, “I hope to simply offer another way to praise God in song alongside many others. I am convinced that God loves variety. This album is a different way of expressing prayer than others.”
Alonso is a life-long musician who studied music at Northwestern University. While earning his master’s degree in liturgical theology at Loyola Marymount University, he served as music director of the school chapel, and later earned his doctorate from Emory. He said that studying at Emory has given him the opportunity to work alongside Christians of various denominations and he tries to bring these cultural influences to his music.
“Part of the joy of this project was imagining new ways of expressing ancient texts,” said Alonso. “I believe God speaks through son [Cubano] and salsa as much as anything else. I hope this makes people want to move.”
The Latin Grammy Awards are set to take place November 19.