Sounds of spring: sacred music

By Julia Train 

THE Sacred Music Department of Westminster Choir College (WCC), in collaboration with the Kemp Church Music Symposium, features a different musician each week in their Sacred Music Series, and while not many may link Broadway music with religious music, guest speaker Father Ricky Manalo shared his unorthodox journey to finding a passion in Asian American liturgical music.

In order to put this series together, associate professor Tom T. Shelton Jr. and colleague Steve Pilkington discussed who they felt weren’t being represented enough on campus, designing their program and choosing musicians that could incorporate those groups. 

“We have a good Catholic population, and so we wanted to make sure that we were doing something that touched on Catholic music. Tonight we have Father Ricky Manalo, and I was given his name by one of our Catholic students,” said Shelton, chair of choral studies, music education and sacred music.

Manolo presented over Zoom on April 10 and represented the Asian community by sharing his view on composing Asian liturgical music. 

“I think sacred music is all-encompassing, in terms of anything that is religious in nature. So, that could be Jewish music. It could be Buddhism,” said Shelton. “I just thought it encompasses all even though most of the people in our program are church musicians, and when Westminster was founded, their biggest degrees when they first started were organ and church music.”

Shelton popped up on the screen and was seated in his office, which was converted from a dorm room in Omega House, and introduced Manalo with a few facts.

Manalo shared his screen and began his presentation about how sociology and cultural identity work together. 

He took seven minutes to give his overview, in which he revealed he originally wanted to get into composing for Broadway before he found his calling for liturgical music. 

Manalo also shared that he’s a Roman Catholic and how his Asian identity relates to his music.

“I was domestically brought up in an Asian household with Filipino and Chinese, but socially I was being brought up in the United States, which is mostly a European paradigm,” said Manalo.

He shared a handout and Spotify playlist with the five recordings he played.

He played each song and explained the story behind them in between the excerpts, by explaining the lyrics and music, from the notes to their ties to both Asian culture and Christianity. 

His songs featured flutes and choral singers from Oregon Catholic Press.

After he concluded his presentation, 20 minutes were allowed for questions about the creating process and his background from the audience.

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