From the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit: A Heritage of Traditional Catholic Hymns by the Cantabile Singers (The Cantabile Singers Inc, Brisbane, 2000, CDs or tapes $20.00 (includes postage). Available from The Cantabile Singers Inc, PO Box 3162, Loganholme, Qld 4129, tel (07) 3807 1310 or (07) 3287 5320)
In today's music stores now selling CDs and a few audio tapes, searching out recordings of hymns and other music of the Catholic Church is harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
There are perhaps two exceptions - recordings of Ave Maria (either Bach/Gounod or Schubert), a little less rare than the tribute to the Holy Eucharist, Panis Angelicus (quite rare). But these are only found in albums featuring other music.
Welcome the Cantabile Singers, of Logan City in Queensland, and conductor Stephen Lightbody, who lives in nearby Beenleigh. Stephen is a faithful young Catholic, only 20 years old, and his choir (not all Catholics) ranges in age from 14-19 years.
Their recording of 22 Catholic hymns is already selling in bursts from a Catholic-Christian supplies store in Brisbane, and by mail order. A couple of tracks also feature members of the Logan City Youth Chorale.
The album includes a rendition of the simple but effective Kyrie from the Missa de Angelis, as well as beautiful hymns like Soul of My Saviour, To Jesus' Heart All Burning, Sweet Sacrament Divine, We Stand for God, and Now Thank We all Our God.
In addition, there are two hymns by Cardinal Newman - Firmly I Believe and Truly (music by Sir Edward Elgar), and Help Lord These Souls which Thou Has Made (music Samuel Webbe Jnr) and several beautiful hymns of devotion to the Virgin Mary - Hail Queen of Heaven, I'll Sing a Hymn to Mary, and Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) - the words of the Hail Mary, sung in Latin.
The Cantabile Singers also perform a couple of Benediction hymns, the O Salutaris Hostia (St Thomas Aquinas and Samuel Webbe) and Down in Adoration Falling.
The hymn Great St Joseph, sung by Andrew Lightbody, is one of the two solo performances. The other is Soul of My Saviour, from Lana Godfrey. A hymn to our Guardian Angel features a duet from Kimberley Milne and conductor Stephen Lightbody.
The hymns on the CD go back over many hundreds of years of the Catholic Church's 2000-year music history, the oldest being Come Holy Ghost Creator Come, attributed to Rabanus Maurus (c. 776-856), and Virgin Wholly Marvellous, by St Ephrem Syrus (c. 307-373), and the most recent, Help of Christians, with words by the Australian poet, Professor James McAuley (1917-1976), and music by composer Richard Connolly, born in 1927; and Stephen Lightbody's own 1998 Jesus Was That Little Child.
The CD itself is attractively presented in an artistically decorated CD case (as is the audio tape), with a superb information booklet - amongst the best I've ever seen - with information and credits of the recording production, and an outstanding collection of historical sacred paintings.
I believe most purchasers might be so delighted with the CD they would immediately want to send another fee or half-fee as a donation, which would assist the small vocal ensemble to travel ever further afield for concerts and other appearances.
Another surprise (and a big one) is the assistance that Stephen found by chance, for an experienced "overseer" for the entire production. This was Mr David Gibson, who in the past has owned and operated three professional recording studios. He was the Head of the Sound Department of the Sydney Opera House from 1973 to 1988 and he has controlled sound and lighting production in shows by performers like Billy Joel, Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, John Denver and Colin Harper's Queensland Pops Orchestra.
Might one dare to say it seems that when someone is doing that "something for God", in line with His Holy Will, the One the angels refer to as "The Most High" is ever ready to provide the right help?
If you'll pardon the language mix - Vivent Les Cantabile Singers!
John Miles is a Catholic layman, formerly a journalist and radio/TV presenter in younger days, and now semi-retired and working on-air with 4CRB, a Gold Coast community radio station.