By Emilie Ng
GREGORIAN chant, for several young Australian Catholic musicians in vocal group Prima Luce, is more than just an aural souvenir from the ninth century.
The humble young Catholics with angelic voices have made it their mission to “resurrect sacred music” in the modern Church.
Their latest revival lies in the group’s second album, a mix of popular Christmas hymns like Away in a Manger, to Gregorian chants and four original compositions.
Prima Luce vocalist Ronan O’Reilly, of Sydney, said the Christmas CD’s wide range of musical styles captured the “ever-‘ancientness’ but the ever-newness” of sacred music, a quality that he believed has been forgotten.
“I think that’s something that can be forgotten if you’re on either extremity (of Catholicism),” Ronan said.
“You might think it has to be of this era, but no, the Church approaches and incorporates the whole of time, the whole of history.
“It’s awesome to be seeing things from the 9th, 10th century, right through to now – literally compositions written a couple months ago – but all in the same tradition.”
All tracks on the Christmas CD were recorded in St Mary’s Cathedral Crypt, Sydney, over two days in October.
With little funds and endless car troubles, Prima Luce’s creator Sydney musician James Doig said the CD doubled as a personal soundtrack of struggle, hardship and the pains of each musician.
“My family’s suffered a lot (last) year, and I prayed (the music) for my family, that there be some sort of joy and reunification, healing,” James said.
A car-full of struggling musicians also made for a powerful energy to bring into the music.
“It’s been a crazy three years and we’ve been so poor but we’ve done this,” James said.
“Even when it’s just to survive, we’ve all stuck at our music.
“Even if we’re on the streets, we’re all going to be singing.”
Brisbane musician Xavier Piat found an outlet for his own composition work with Prima Luce.
He lent an “archaic” piece titled Christus Natus Est, which aired on ABC Classic FM on December 16 last year.
But rather than make the CD a platform for showcasing his musical talents, Xavier hoped his music would “expose people to the beauty of Christ and His Church”.
“It’s about a love of the Church,” he said.
“That’s the whole endeavour with whatever means we have.
“It’s about the fundamentals that don’t change – you get your pieces, Baroque, classical – they’re time-bound but they have a timeless quality about them that will never fade.
“There’s an intrinsic Christian quality about them.”
Listening to the CD could also leave listeners with a “sacramental grace”.
“When we sing, our voices can be a sacramental, just like holy water,” James said.
WIN | For your chance to win a copy of Prima Luce’s Christmas album, click here.