Liturgical composer says he writes to fill a need - Catholic Courier

Liturgical composer says he writes to fill a need

Most of Marty Haugen’s liturgical compositions have been borne of necessity.

For example, his “Mass of Creation” was written so that a folk choir in the parish where he worked could join the traditional choir and organ on the same piece of music.

Now the “Mass of Creation” is used by parishes throughout the country as well as throughout the Rochester Diocese. Parts of it also were used in April during the papal Mass at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C.

“The things of mine that have lasted were written for my own community, when I saw a need that was not met,” Haugen said in a July 28 telephone interview from his home in Eagan, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis.

Haugen — who penned the contemporary hymns “All Are Welcome,” “Canticle of the Sun,” “Eye Has Not Seen,” “Gather Us In,” “Shepherd Me, O God,” and “We Remember” — will lead discussions of his work and liturgical music during several appearances this week in Rochester and Irondequoit.

Haugen will speak on “Living a Life of Joy” during two sessions at 5 and 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at St. Ann’s Community, 1500 Portland Ave., Rochester. The cost is $5 per session.

He will perform during a concert called “Joyful Sound!” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, at Christ the King Parish, 445 Kings Highway South, Irondequoit. Tickets for the concert are $7 each or $5 for senior citizens and children younger than 12. Friday’s concert will feature Haugen performing with musicians from Irondequoit’s music ministries.

Registration in advance is appreciated for the concert and Haugen’s talks at St. Ann’s Community, but is not required. Call 585-338-1146 or e-mail to register.

Haugen also will lead a workshop called “Spirit Alive in Our Worship and World,” which is sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Liturgy. That workshop will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at Christ the King Parish. Registration is $10 per person and can be made by calling Marangely Melendez at 585-328-3210, ext. 1328, or by e-mailing

The idea to invite Haugen to speak and perform locally evolved from discussions by the celebrations committee of the Irondequoit Planning Group, which comprises St. Ann’s Community and Christ the King as well as the Irondequoit parishes of St. Cecilia, St. Margaret Mary, St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle, said Donna Moll, pastoral associate at St. Salome.

Each summer for the past few years, the committee has planned a summer celebration of faith with a noted speaker. This year, the committee decided to focus on music and invited Haugen to speak. The planning group also worked with the diocese to arrange the music-ministry workshop as well.

“Everyone is very enthusiastic about the event,” Moll said.

During the telephone interview, Haugen, the composer-in-residence at Mayflower United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, Minn., and an adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minn., recounted how he wound up in music after earning a psychology degree in college.

“I was always doing music,” Haugen said. “I started out as a music major in college.”

Haugen said his career in music started in 1973, when he was hired as a musician at a Roman Catholic parish.

“As part of my job, I started writing for my community there,” he said.

Haugen said he was in the right place at the right time. Following liturgical changes made after the Second Vatican Council, contemporary composers were needed to write music that kept up with the liturgical changes and with new music groups such as folk groups.

During his musical career, he has received honors for his work, including being named the 2007 pastoral musician of the year by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. But Haugen remains humble about his success.

“Well, I’m old,” Haugen, 57, said of receiving kudos for his work. “I’ve been around a long time. I think I was very fortunate to start writing at a time when the church was looking for new music for groups.”

He acknowledged that the wide acceptance of his music and that of his contemporaries has received some backlash, but he contended that there is room in the global church for many different styles of music and traditions.

“One of the beauties of the Catholic Church is its rich musical history,” Haugen said.

That richness of Catholic music was on display during the Nationals Stadium Mass, which featured works ranging from the traditional to the contemporary. Haugen said though some were not happy that parts of the “Mass of Creation” were used, he was told it was chosen because it was familiar to many of the pilgrims in attendance.

Regardless, Haugen said he tries not to get caught up in such debates.

“I’m just as happy thinking of (the Mass) being used in small parishes on any given Sunday,” he said.

When he’s not traveling the country to give workshops, Haugen said he spends his free time kayaking and his work day composing. His compositions start with a passage from Scripture.

In setting the passage to music, he said he tries to mimic patterns of speech. His goal is to help people remember Scripture by singing it in a way that resembles how it might be read aloud.

“I’d rather have people remember the text than remember the music,” he remarked.

Copyright © 2024 Rochester Catholic Press Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

Choose from news (Monday), leisure (Thursday) or worship (Saturday) — or get all three!

No, Thanks

Catholic Courier Newsletters