The Catholic Sacred Music Ministry recently organised a weekend Liturgical Music Workshop at Blessed Sacrament Church Hall, BDC. The programme comprised a liturgical talk open to all the faithful, and a music composition workshop limited to those with some formal training in music.

Fr. Felix Au, Rector of Blessed Sacrament Church, described how music has a special way of moving our souls and touching our hearts – to express our love for God. He was happy that a talented team of Kuching musicians had come together to try to provide a platform for musicians to compose locally inspired liturgical music. This is one sign of a maturing Catholic community.

Kuching’s Catholic community enjoying a liturgical sing-a-long session with Fr Manoling

The weekend talk and workshop were led by Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ. He grew up thinking he would, one day, become a concert pianist. However, when he was slated to perform his first public recital, he felt God’s calling…his life was to be committed elsewhere.

Fr. Manoling became a Jesuit novitiate at age twenty. He was ordained a priest in 1997. Today, he is a professor of Theology at the Loyola School of Theology at the Ateneo in the Philippines.

Fr. Manoling started composing liturgical songs when he was 14 years old. He is one of the founders of Bukas Pallad Music Ministry, which to date, has produced 18 recordings of CDs and Albums. Fr. Manoling has himself written well over two hundred songs that are now sung in different languages, all over the world.

At the liturgical talk on Friday night, Fr Manoling skillfully presented the guiding principles for music used in the celebration of Mass. He captivated the audience by playing some of his original compositions, to demonstrate important learning points. He also engaged them in a sing-a-long to the simple, but beautiful, pieces of music.

Workshop session in progress…

Participants to the Liturgical Music Workshop held on 22nd & 23rd September, had to be limited due to the nature of the workshop. Only thirty musicians who serve in church ministries, and have some musical background, were accepted into the workshop. They came from the different parishes of our Archdiocese; from Kuching, Betong, Lundu and Kota Padawan.

Participants were divided into small groups of three or four, and they learnt how to put melody to their original song compositions. They were asked to compose all the Hymns and Mass parts, which they wrote in BM, English and Chinese.

Showcasing their musical talent

Fr. Manoling was full of admiration for the musical talent found at his Kuching weekend workshop. He was overwhelmed with gratitude at the songs they sang, which he felt, were even more beautiful than the existing ones he had heard them sing.

Although some participants expressed apprehension over composing a completely new Mass setting in such a short period of time, they were completely blown-away and in awe of what they were able to accomplish, with Fr. Manoling’s ‘hands-on approach’.

Below are testimonies from some very happy participants:

Grace Boniface: ’I feel very grateful and happy to be here. Looking at the pure talent that we were not able to tap before, it is indeed a privilege to have Fr Manoling train us.’

Sean Ashley: ‘Beautiful music. Praise the Lord! As a responsible Catholic, it is my duty to teach and share this with others. Definitely worth the time spent here.’

Joyce Ting: ‘This is the epitome of empowerment. We have been given tools to write songs that can help our brothers and sisters grow closer to God.’

Workshop participants with Fr Manoling Francisco, SJ

Fr. Manoling now plans to focus his attention on mentoring young musicians to compose songs in their own language, incorporating local and ethnic music that would appeal to all age groups.

Photos: Dominic Bong, Crystal Chong, Stephanie Chua