Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thanks to Richard Proulx

Guest post by Allison  
I only learned about Richard Proulx within the past few months, as I delved more into church music through my participation in my parish choir. I wrote last Monday a guest post on how grateful I am that he wrote an arrangement for the Russian Orthodox Beatitudes. At the time, I contemplated devoting an entire blog entry to Mr. Proulx himself. But I’m not a  musicologist, and even my amateur status as a chorister is a new one. Then I read that Mr. Proulx died on Thursday, at the age of 72.

Accounts of his life tell that Richard Proulx was the leading champion of traditional Catholic church music post–Vatican II. Folks who worked with him describe him as a kind and generous man, with exacting standards and a great sense of humor.

He was director of music and organist at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, for more than a decade and later worked independently as composer, clinician, and conductor of the Cathedral Singers. His bio states he “served as a consultant for  hymnals of many Protestant denominations, including United Methodist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and Episcopal. He  was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians.”

Mr. Proulx’s Saint Paul, Minn. childhood  was blessed with fine musical training. He described that training several years ago in an interview with Selah Publishing Co.'s Music in Worship magazine. He sounds like such a humble man:

“I was fortunate to be part of a very progressive elementary school music system where we had music twice a day: Gregorian solfège in the morning and modern solfège in the afternoon. By the sixth or seventh grade I was playing for some school services. I was simply appointed because I was available and seemed to be able to play many of the right notes. The school was very kind, and already by the seventh grade or so had sent me to a composition teacher in addition to piano lessons. So the composition began early, although those were certainly primitive efforts. No child prodigy claims here!”

Perhaps “Mass for the City,” which Mr. Proulx wrote for his adopted hometown of Chicago, is his best known and most sung arrangement. Here is the choir of Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Columbia, SC, singing the Eucharistic Acclamations from that Mass. Sound familiar?

“May angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs receive you at your coming
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.”