Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
October 29, 2001
Alberta Catholic musicians organize
Group sees Catholic contemporary music as important outreach to youth
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY — An organization set up almost three years ago in Alberta to support Catholic musicians is undergoing a rebirth.
Catholic Association of Musicians-Alberta has been revived after a strong endorsement from Bishop Frederick Henry, visible support from a southwest Calgary parish, and considerable encouragement from famed Catholic troubadour John Michael Talbot.
"CAMA is being born again anew," founder Denis Grady, a country Gospel singer from Calgary, said during an interview at St. Michael the Archangel Church following a recent meeting.
"Our key objective is to establish a leadership team," he said. "They are going to take the bull by the horns and respond to the needs in the parishes and scout out the resources to get those needs met."
About 30 people, including Bishop Henry, attended a CAMA meeting at St. Michael's on Oct. 13. It featured an impromptu, heart-wrenching performance by Rosebud musician Lewis Frere, who recorded God Bless the Innocent as a prayer response to the events of Sept. 11.
CAMA was established in January 1999 at a meeting in Calgary attended by about 40 musicians and enthusiasts. It was the first regional chapter in North America of the Catholic Association of Musicians, founded by Talbot in 1996. Today there are 10 regional chapters.
But after several meetings and a handful of concerts, the regional organization fell dormant because it lacked sufficient leadership, Grady said in an interview.
Then Father Len Hagel of St. Michael the Archangel Parish told Grady that it was important to revive CAMA. He offered his newly-renovated church with its state-of-art sound system for monthly meetings and concerts.
"Our hope is to develop an active, vibrant, inclusive ministry with a deep commitment to the traditions of the Church but with a current sense of where the Church needs us today," said Grady.
Grady is a veteran who knows what it's like to try and persuade a reluctant parish to hold a concert for Catholic musicians. He received two Catholic Music Awards in 2000 for best country gospel song and album, Running Too Long. He was also named Gospel Musician of the Year in 1999 by the Alberta Recording Industry Association.
"As Catholic musicians pursuing a vocation in music that is self-supporting, we face a tremendous challenge," Grady said in a recent letter to Henry.
The Protestants build a successful industry with Christian music, he said. Countless Christians are writing new and inspired music and Christian radio and television is growing, said Grady.
Protestant church services and their approach to worship offer a good opportunity for Christian musicians to sustain their ministries, he says.
"For a Catholic musician we need to understand how to better use our gifts in the context of the Church's liturgical tradition and its current need," says Grady.
"There is nothing wrong with Christian entertainment; it is just not appropriate at Mass. Our special event concert activity is really the place to entertain."
Henry responded by saying, "Music is going to become increasinglyimportant as a tool of evangelism in our world."
As culture changes, Christian music is extremely important as the first touch of the grace of God, he said.
"You are on the cutting edge of leading people to a spiritual awakening," Henry said. "You're waking people up out of their spiritual slumber and getting them to a place of spiritual awareness and grace."
Likewise, Talbot applauded Grady for his work with CAMA. "In many ways, he has surpassed the Catholic musicians in the U.S. regarding getting CAM organized and moving," Talbot said in an email interview.
Contemporary Catholic music is a major part of an effort to reach youth, Talbot said, pointing to the success of evangelical Christians in using music to evangelize young people.
Regional groups like CAMA are invaluable, said Talbot: "They provide a place for Catholic musicians to gather together, and provide mutual support to each artist or ministry in the movement."
"Often the Church has been a little slow on the uptake to recognize the value of this kind of music and to provide the support needed so that these ministries might continue," he said.
"This support is not financial," he said. "It is primarily just a place to discuss successes and failures, and to pass that information on to those following in the footsteps of the trail-blazing artists of the first generations."
Alberta musicians are equally enthusiastic about the prospects.
"It's wonderful to know we are doing something that will help the Church cause further," says Tony Rino, a soloist at Our Lady of Grace Church who sings the national anthem at Calgary Flames games.
For more information about CAMA, contact Grady at 403-243-1089 or email: email@example.com.
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