Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 28, 2005
God's Pied Piper is an Aussie
Australian liturgist brings the word of God to children through music
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Bringing people closer to God through uplifting music is the same whether the songs are sung in Edmonton or Down Under, said Michael Mangan.
A composer and liturgist visiting from Brisbane, Australia, Mangan, along with his wife Anne, held concerts and workshops in several Edmonton schools Feb. 21-25 that had children and adults alike singing with wide smiles on their faces. They swayed their arms. They clapped. They cheered.
Mangan says it is vital to get people involved.
"The whole thing about liturgy is participation of the people and music is a key way that people can participate. It creates unity," said Mangan, 47.
Meld text and music
"If we want people - especially children - to participate in music, it has to be singable. They have a lot of fun little songs, but often the lyrics are not liturgically appropriate. Sometimes the lyrics were appropriate, but the music does not appeal to them. I try to meld together the text and music that would get children involved."
Mangan came to Canada in response to an invitation from Father Lucien Larre who heard his music while visiting Australia three years ago. Because of the demands on his ministry, it took Mangan until now to come over.
"I was attending Midnight Mass when I heard a choir perform a beautiful hymn about a little boy," said Larre, from Coquitlam, B.C. "After Mass, I asked the organist where the parish found the song. He told me Michael was his brother-in-law."
He contacted Mangan immediately, inviting him to Canada. Larre said schools in Australia and New Zealand wait eight months for Mangan's concerts.
"I really liked the simplicity of his singing and music," said Larre, who has helped organize several musical productions. "In schools I see that the songs were too difficult for the children. I like Michael because he is a liturgist. He follows the teachings of the Church. His hymns are liturgically sound and fitting. The children love to sing them."
Larre is grateful that Mangan decided to travel to Canada. He spent a week performing in Vancouver before arriving in Edmonton. Larre hopes everyone has an opportunity to hear his music.
"He is so busy with his ministry. But now he is on summer holidays. I asked him to give us two weeks," Larre said. "The way he can get children involved with his music is his very special gift. I think him being here is a blessing for the Church in the West. I hope we can get him to come again next winter."
Mangan has written more than 120 songs compiled on eight recordings. He has been involved in parish ministry and youth groups since high school. His move into Catholic education showed him the need for music as a means to bring youth to the Church.
"I would say my path has chosen me. I started out writing a few songs for the children in the schools where I taught. Other schools wanted to use them. It just grew."
A child shall lead them
Mangan says he wants to give young people a new angle on how to worship and how to get enthusiastically involved in liturgy. When children are involved, parents get involved as well, he said.
Many of his songs, including Stand Up, are rhythmic with memorable melodies. His piece, Look at the Cross, is poignant and reflective.
He has created many songs for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter along with music for use during the Eucharist, sacraments of initiation and special celebrations throughout the year.
Mangan was musical director for the 30,000-strong Reconciliation Through Education celebration in Brisbane in 1997. During 2000, he was appointed jubilee musician-in-residence for the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
"We love the ministry sharing Michael's talents," Anne said. "We have four children and by involving them they want to go to Mass. It is enlivening liturgy to move with the music.
"We believe we are called to be creative in the image of God and use the gifts we have been given to help praise God," she said. "It is lovely to see the Catholic unity within the Church. It is great to experience it. It is universal."