Renowned composer delights audiences with local visit - Catholic Courier

Renowned composer delights audiences with local visit

IRONDEQUOIT — He did it without fanfare, but some simple instruction from Marty Haugen spoke volumes about his vast influence.

Printed programs for his Aug. 8 performance at Christ the King Church had run out, so Haugen encouraged attendees to reference their hymnals for several songs. That worked out quite conveniently, since Haugen is the very originator of many liturgical pieces contained in that and similar Catholic music anthologies throughout the country. In fact, few if any contemporary musicians have influenced Catholic worship as greatly as the 57-year-old Haugen.

The evening event brought together approximately 300 people. Haugen offered 16 songs that included contributions by a large choir and instrumental group derived from local ministries. He mostly played an electric keyboard while singing; he performed a cappella and on guitar as well.

Haugen’s concert was part of a three-day local appearance. He also presented a program Aug. 7 on the campus of St. Ann’s Community, and led a four-hour musicians’ workshop Aug. 9 at Christ the King that was sponsored by the diocesan Office of Liturgy. His visit to this diocese was organized by the Irondequoit Planning Group.

He opened his Aug. 8 concert with two of his most widely recognized songs, “All Are Welcome” and “Shepherd Me O Lord.” The affable Haugen led into each selection by explaining how he was inspired to write it, frequently citing Bible passages and personal experiences. For instance, he revealed that “Child of Wonder” was penned rather hastily on the way to his godchild’s baptism 25 years ago.

Other well-known songs performed by Haugen on Aug. 8 included “We Remember” and “Eyes Have Not Seen.” Though billed as a concert, the program more closely resembled a sing-along, since attendees are so familiar with Haugen’s music because they sing it on Sundays throughout the year. Haugen, in turn, encouraged folks to join in, joking at one point, “I learned that no matter what the congregation sounds like, you say, ‘Good.'”

Many people reacted to Haugen’s songs by nodding their heads and listening intently with their eyes closed. The large group gave him a standing ovation at the end of his 90-minute appearance.

Haugen, a resident of Eagan, Minn., was raised Lutheran and composes liturgical music for both Roman Catholic and Protestant groups. Among his most esteemed works is a setting of the Catholic liturgy, “Mass of Creation.” Haugen also is known for originating such hymns as “Gather Us In” and “Canticle of the Sun,” and is a veteran recording artist as well.

In his introduction of Haugen, Father Norman Tanck, CSB — who serves as pastor of Christ the King, St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes — explained how 40 years ago, contemporary composers were needed who could address liturgical changes made after the Second Vatican Council. Father Tanck described Haugen as a pioneer in developing church music “in a way that invites us.”

Haugen was at his inviting best Aug. 8, not elevating himself above his listeners but remaining right at their level — quite appropriate for a man who has spent much of his career creating songs geared toward inclusiveness in worship.

“What an incredible miracle, to sing our faith to each other,” he told the audience.

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