Music that enriches: What’s on my playlist

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By Mervin Tamayo
For the U Matuna Si Yu’os

I like to sing but sometimes, I just like to listen to someone else sing.

Sure, I have Bruno Mars on my iPod. There is also a lot of other popular music – songs from movie sound tracks and Broadway musicals and even some classical songs. But I’m not ashamed to say: I’ve got some church music in there too.

You see, I sing in a church choir. I sing professionally. I sing as a soloist; I sing duets with my wife; I sing in a mixed adult choir, Magis.   Yes, I sing in the shower too!  I sing to pay the bills, I sing to relax and I sing to get in touch with God. I really do like to sing.

As music ministers in the parish of Santa Barbara in Dededo, my wife, Alice, and I are very aware that these hymns, liturgical songs and sacred music are not on many people’s top 10 list. Yet in these resources we have a valuable way to get in touch with our faith, learn and use the psalms, and get in touch with our rich Catholic tradition of music.

These songs we sing in church and use to enrich the eucharistic celebration and inspire people are the very songs we music ministers need to sustain us in our work to nurture our growth and help us continue the work that we have committed to.

The following is a sampling of songs that have made their way onto my iPod, and why they’re there to stay.

  • “And Jesus Said” by Michael Mahler and Tony Alonso from the album “Songs from Another Room”  — This was a featured song on GIAMUSIC.COM, the website for the publishers of the “Gather” books that we use in our parish, Santa Barbara. I happened to be looking for songs for a funeral and this one starts: “And Jesus said, don’t be afraid.” What a wonderful reminder that the Lord is with us at every moment of our lives.
  • “Regina Caeli” sung by the Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club from the album “In Excelsis”  — The Regina Caeli is chanted at the conclusion of evening prayer or vespers during Easter season – and if you haven’t been to vespers, please join us at Santa Barbara Church on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. This song, by Filipino composer John Pamintuan, begins with women’s voices gently singing: “Regina Caeli” which is Latin for Queen of Heaven. The music builds and layers and shimmers. It paints the mysterious yet joyful celebration of Easter and then rings out with a chorus of Alleluias. I received the CD with this song during Lent, and listening to it, I couldn’t wait to sing out ALLELUIA!
  • Panunumpa” sung by Carol Banawa from the album “Tanging Yaman”  — This is a popular song among Filipino couples, and couples about to get married or celebrate an anniversary. It speaks of a pledge. Roughly translated, it goes like this: You are the only one whom I promise to love.
  • “Maria” by Jesse Manibusan from the album “Life You’re Living” — Jesse Manibusan is a son of Guam. Although he is based in Texas, he still comes back home to share his gift of music.
  • “Ave Maria” by Daniel Kantor.
  • “Magnificat” by Lori True from the album “There is Room for Us All”
  • Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman performed by The Acappella Company from the album Only God: A Cappella Worship. This song can be found on the OCP publication, “Spirit & Song.” It is a surprisingly upbeat song that reminds the listener that the Lord is present through all things, good and bad.  We sang this song at a funeral for a young man.  The ways of the Lord are mysterious; yet in all things he loves us and cares for us.  Inspired by the Book of Job: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Lord.”
  • Restless by Audrey Assad from the album “The House You’re Building” — This was a freebie from iTunes some months ago. The artist’s gentle, soothing voice echoes a longing all of us feel in our hearts.  This was based on the words of St. Augustine: You have made us for yourself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
  • “Nella Fantasia” — Popularized by the movie, The Mission, Nella Fantasia , which means “In my fantasy”
  • Prayer for Generosity” based on a prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola, written by Manoling Francisco, S.J., composed by Dr. Joel Navarro, sung by the Ateneo Chamber Singers from the album Awit sa Panginoon.  I went to a Jesuit school and have a special affinity for Ignatian spirituality.
  • Fly Like a Bird” by Ken Canedo and Jesse Manibusan from the album Love Never Fails and “O God You Search Me” by Bernadette Farrell. These are both settings of Psalm 139.
  • “The Cloud’s Veil”  — “Even when the dark clouds fill the sky, you are by my side…” This song by Liam Lawton speaks to us about finding hope and God’s love in the dark times of life.
  • “The Warrior is a Child” — I hope that I am not alone in my experience —  that there are other ministers out there who feel like they are doing so much, going from parish to parish, singing at Masses back to back, feeling used up and burned out. But there is something about this song by Twila Paris that strengthens me, inspires me, fills me with the Lord’s grace.

If you can, take time and listen to some of these songs.  I hope it moves and inspires you enough to sing along as well! And if the Spirit happens to move you to sing these songs in the shower or in the car, then great! And if the Spirit happens to move you to pull out the “Breaking Bread” or “Gather” book the next time you go to church, even better!

Mervin Tamayo is a professional singer and a member of the music ministry at Santa Barbara Parish in Dededo.