A bold project to reinvigorate Church music in Australia

A bold project to reinvigorate Church music in Australia

Anthony Barich

Young Perth musician Andrew Cichy, aged 24, plans to reinvigorate church music in the Archdiocese of Perth, and perhaps in time other parts of Australia.

He has been accepted by Oxford University to read the Master of Studies in Musicology and will be resident at Merton College, where Peter Phillips is Director of Chapel Music.

Peter Phillips is director of music of the Tallis Scholars, an internationally-renowned choir specialising in Renaissance choral music, which performed to a sell-out audience at Perth Concert Hall in 2007.

Andrew Cichy is believed to be the first Catholic from the Archdiocese of Perth to read Music at the prestigious English university but he needs $60,000 by 31 July for the one-year Oxford University course.

He has already completed an honours Bachelor of Music degree, majoring in Pipe Organ Performance, at the University of Western Australia, and is the first student to do so in over a decade. His honours thesis, titled 'Father Albert Lynch: His Musical Contribution to Western Australia and Beyond', is the first academic study of the Perth priest's life and work, bringing together hundreds of hours of interviews and research from sources that might otherwise have been lost or destroyed.

Mr Cichy's work constitutes the most complete guide to sources on Fr Lynch produced to date.

Born in Collie in 1900, Albert Lynch was a gifted violinist, who, by his early twenties, had risen to prominence in Perth musical circles.

Recognising the young man's latent talent, the West Australian community raised several thousand pounds to enable him to study overseas and further develop his skills. This period of overseas study was a crucial turning point in Lynch's life for, while studying in Belgium, he converted from Anglicanism and returned to Perth in 1927 as a Catholic.

His stay in Perth was brief: sensing Lynch's vocation to the priesthood, Archbishop Clune sent Lynch to Rome in 1930 to study at Propaganda Fide College. After being ordained at the Lateran Basilica in Rome on 16 March 1935, the now Fr Lynch returned to Perth to single-handedly change the face of sacred music in that city, initiating a program of sacred music education in Catholic schools through which more than a generation of Catholic students learned the Church's Gregorian Chant.

This culminated in thousands of students participating in diocese- wide Gregorian Chant festivals. Fr Lynch also established St Mary's Cathedral Choir - the first Catholic cathedral boys' choir in Australia - beating both Sydney and Melbourne to that distinction.

When the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Panico, visited Perth in 1941, he remarked that the Cathedral choir was the finest he had heard in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mr Cichy, who claims descendancy in Fr Lynch's musical tradition - having studied with Annette Goerke, who took her first organ lessons from Fr Lynch - envisages a similar plan for the diocese, having already run Gregorian Chant courses for several parishes across Perth.

'I want to help as many people as wish to be helped - parishes, schools, clergy, churches needing advice on sacred music or even considering installing a pipe organ,' he said.

His plan to reinvigorate the archdiocese - as his inspiration Fr Lynch did - involves lecturing in sacred music, publishing scores, articles and other guides, providing resources for those who need them and continuing research into his personal areas of interest, as well as aspects of liturgical music history, including those affecting the Archdiocese of Perth and New Norcia.

Mr Cichy says the treasures of Church music are not just confined to Catholic churches, but are also a part of the wider community's cultural heritage.

'What inspired me about Fr Lynch was that he showed what can be achieved by one life when it is lived in the service of others,' he said. 'When the people who backed Lynch to study in Belgium learned of his plan to enter the priesthood, they thought he was throwing his life away, since the State had spent thousands of pounds funding his studies, but - as Fr Lynch was later to admit - by doing that he did a great deal more to music than he otherwise could have.'

While Mr Cichy, a layman, has not discerned for himself a priestly vocation, 'In Fr Lynch's spirit of giving,' he said, 'I'd prefer to stay in Perth and see what I can do for people here, rather than seek career opportunities elsewhere.'

Anthony Barich is a Perth-based Catholic journalist with 'The Record', the Perth archdiocesan weekly. To contact Mr Cichy to help get him to Oxford call 0439 922 446 or email cichya_at_hotmail.com.

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