Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 6, 2010
Catholic musicians rock out at Unity awards
Conference and concert meld in Calgary to give a platform to North American artists
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
CALGARY - Flashes of multi-coloured lights lit a dimmed room as Ceili Rain, an American Catholic Celtic rock band, preformed the opening act at the 10th annual United Catholic Music and Video Awards.
Four-time 2010 Unity Award winner Ceili Rain was among the dozens of Catholic musicians to descend on Calgary Aug. 28 for the first-ever Unity Awards held on Canadian soil.
Critical Mass, Chris Bray, Janelle and David MacDonald and Matt Maher were among the Canadian musicians nominated for multiple awards in 31 categories. However, collectively they only took home four awards.
Bray won the best new artist of the year award, Maher won for best pop/contemporary song and album of the year for Alive Again and MacDonald won for best music/dvd video of the year for Life is the Only Choice.
The awards gala was also the culmination of another first - a two-day music conference held Aug. 27-28 at Calgary's Southside Victory Centre.
"I would attend the awards in the United States and see all this talent gathered. . . . I thought why aren't we doing a conference so the great guitar players could teach the rest of us how to really play," said Calgary-based organizer Denis Grady.
A secular Franciscan, Grady invited his spiritual director Franciscan Father Bob Mitchell to give the opening keynote address at the conference, highlighting the life of St. Francis of Assisi as a model of how musicians can use their musical talents to evangelize and minister.
"The word 'troubadour' refers to him rather than musician, because he used to wander through the streets playing (the lute) and singing, and his followers would all be doing the same thing. They reached out to people through their music," said the Franciscan friar.
The conference seminars highlighted a sample of Calgary's local talent with Christine Mader, former liturgy director for the Calgary Diocese, presenting on concerts in the sacred space and Lorraine Kneier, former fine arts director for the Calgary Catholic School Board, leading a prayerful meditation based on her book Music: A Window to the Soul.
Bishop Fred Henry attended the conference kick-off.
"We are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of music speaking deeply to our souls, but also enabling us to worship in a new way," he said.
"Music captures our imagination and lifts us up and we shouldn't as Catholics abandon the music area to the secular forces within society. We do need to celebrate our talents, gifts, Catholic musicians, liturgical participation and heighten it all."
Since the Second Vatican Council, Henry said, doors have been opening with new opportunities for artists, songwriters and performers to give praise and glory to God through song. Yet, he said the pool of talent is still small in terms of the demand. He believes youth are the future of Catholic music.
"Some of our young people are much more in tune to music than some of the old fogeys like myself," he said.
"They need someone to open the door for them so I'm looking especially to our youth ministers to open the door and help us all appreciate this," said Henry, adding his diocese is committed to youth and youth ministry.
ONE ROCK ROCK FESTIVAL
The weekend prior to the Unity Awards the Calgary Diocese hosted the first annual all-day outdoor Catholic rock festival geared toward young adults called One Rock. It featured Unity Award winners Matt Maher, Steve Angrisano and Ceili Rain and drew more than 1,000 people.
In between conference workshops an outdoor stage showcased a variety of musical talents including an aspiring teen band from Okotoks.
Majesty formed one year ago, playing cover songs at St. James Parish. The five-member band, whose members range in age from 14 to 17, has written 15 original songs and is working toward recording its first album.
"We all feel called to play and give our talents to God," said guitarist Ashton Siqueira, 15.
"We're here to get your attention with all the techno stuff we do . . . so they listen to the words. In one of our songs we sing - Jesus Christ paid a price for every man young and old - and it has this really cool beat to it. We're just trying to make it interesting for them."
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