A success story to rival that of the recent Faith of Our Fathers recordings of traditional Catholic hymns made in Ireland has now emerged from Western Australia in the form of a "rosary tape."
The story began with the concern of a young Catholic mother - Brenda Croft of Perth - that her children were being given reflective music incorporating meditation and activities with New Age overtones at their Catholic school. In response to her query, "What is more meditative than the rosary?", the Principal replied: "You give me a rosary tape for children, and I’ll play it."
A search throughout Australia and overseas failed to locate a rosary tape for children, so Brenda set out to make one of her own. Joined by another young mother, her friend Jenny Knight, with no expertise on how to produce a tape, the two set about their task. They needed a studio, professional sound mixer, a priest for the introduction and final blessing, a young female narrator with a warm, motherly voice, a narration writer, the music and lyrics for young voices, children for the rosary recitation, a male voice, and a photographer for the tape cover.
Everything fell into place at remarkable speed, with The Rosary Tape for Children completed within weeks. The narration written by Jenny was recorded in a cramped college corridor after hours while the children, sound effects, music and singing were recorded in a room at the studio. The bulk of the final mixing and fine-tuning was done in a back room of the sound mixer’s house.
The lead singer on the tape is a 12-year-old with a 13-year-old in harmony, while the rosary recitation is provided by children whose ages range from seven to nine. The only expenses involved were payment for the sound producers and the cost of materials.
Within two weeks of its production, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 1998, orders had come from all over WA, interstate, and from overseas. By the third week, with another thousand tapes made on borrowed money, and 500 sold within days, orders and extremely favourable reports had flooded in from all over the state and interstate, with one WA farmer’s wife playing it on her tractor as she prepared the ground for seeding. Many ‘satisfied customers’ have already come back to buy more copies as gifts.
All of this was achieved by word of mouth without any publicity or promotion.
Expressions of interest have now come to market this distinctively Australian tape in the US and Canada with a CD version a distinct possibility.
The interest among young children has been particularly positive; they are especially captivated by the narrator and the story she tells of Jesus and the events of his life with the aid of excellent sound effects. And according to Brenda and Jenny, the response from a great many young parents who were unaware of the rosary or who did not pray at home has been remarkable. The tape, they say, because of its simple, educational quality, "is evangelising the children, their parents, and every report back has been glowing with people attracted to its sheer charm and thoroughly enjoyable listening and participative quality." Young children discover Jesus’ life as they never had before, while mothers at home play it when doing housework.
The Rosary for Children, although initially designed for children up to ten years of age, is in fact suitable for every age group, including the aged. It serves as an ideal travelling companion, too, because the background of gentle music during the recitation allows one to complete a rosary en route with minimal outside distraction.
Priests have received the tape enthusiastically as have schools, with students eager to join in to pray the rosary, bringing their own beads along. Prayer groups have found the tape helpful while many mothers and grandmothers have bought it for children and for themselves as the ideal gift.
Brenda and Jenny wanted this 105 minute tape, with its very attractive cover, and dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, to be available to as many people as possible, hence its barely above production cost of $5.00 plus postage, to make it affordable for the average family. Their hope is "that the prayers of innocent children can touch God’s heart, and those of people, for the conversion of the world."
Copies of The Rosary for Children are available from Rosary Evangelisation Australia, 7 Thyme Close, Thornlie, Western Australia 6108, tel +61 (08) 9259-0797 and from some Catholic bookshops. Colleen McGuiness-Howard is a Perth journalist.