Traditional Catholic sacred music has been composed and rearranged by artists for hundreds of years, but the hymns still remain fresh when they’re penned by faithful hands. Today we are listening to a relatively new “Ave Maria” from contemporary composer Frank La Rocca.
The piece is a much more somber rendition of the Hail Mary prayer than Schubert’s popular arrangement. La Rocca exhibits masterful use of dynamics to build the piece and separate musical thoughts. The tactic brings more emotion to the piece and gives the singers more opportunity for expressive, flowing lines.
La Rocca is a New Jersey native who studied music at Yale and Berkeley. He has been composing sacred music since 1998 and his large songbook has been performed by choirs all over the world. In an article he wrote for the University of Notre Dame, he described himself as “an apologist for a distinctively Christian faith – not through direct persuasion, but through the beauty of music.”
This recording was released in the beginning of July. The choir comes from the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, an organization whose mission follows La Rocca’s own goals of celebrating the faith through performance of the most beautiful sacred songs. They contend that even with Catholicism’s vast catalog of hymns and art songs, “The greatest art, the greatest liturgy the Catholic Church has ever produced is yet to come.”