Meet the Dominican Friars: Spending Christmas with Catholic family

The new album "Christ Was Born to Save" offers us an outstanding musical path for providing special support to the Friars of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is “adopt a student”. Sometimes a student will be studying abroad and find themselves mostly alone at Christmas. Or maybe the season will simply be a chance to get to know one of them better. You can “adopt” them as a member of the family, inviting them over for a family dinner, or out to a special annual Christmas concert celebration.

There are so many ways to spread Christmas cheer. I am delighted to discover that this Christmas we can also support the Dominican students in Washington, D.C., by welcoming their very fine music into our family home. You too can “adopt” these students, because proceeds from the sale of their new album, Christ Was Born to Save / Christmas with the Dominican Friars, will go towards the Dominican House of Studies.

As you listen to the outstanding selection of Christmas repertoire on their CD, I can guarantee that their heartfelt worship will spiritually enhance your Christmas season. You will find yourself responding with heartfelt gratitude, offering prayers of support in return for the musical warmth they are providing on this release. As they sing their way into your hearts, you can prayerfully hold them there.

The disc’s selections are excellent. The album achieves a perfect balance between classic carols (“2. Good Christian Men Rejoice”, “5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “9. Angels from the Realms of Glory”, “10. Away in a Manger”, “11. Silent Night”, “13. O Come All Ye Faithful”), and Latin chants and carols (“3. Alma Redemptoris Mater” [Palestrina], “4. Dominus dixit ad me”, “8. Gaudete”, “12. Puer natus est”, “15. Tollite hostias”) and the most stunningly beautiful seasonal showcase repertoire (“1. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”, “6. Blessed Be That Maid Mary”, “7. In the Bleak Midwinter”, “14. See Amid the Winter’s Snow”, “16. Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”).

The album also achieves a perfect balance between purely choral singing and instrumental accompaniment with organ and brass. Brother Peter Gautsch, O.P., plays the organ on “5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “9. Angels from the Realms of Glory”, “13. O Come All Ye Faithful”, and “15. Tollite hostias”. Dr. Timothy McDonnell, however, is the organist on the magnificent grand finale, “16. Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”. For me, all of the organ work on this album is outstanding. My personal preference is to have voices always accompanied by organ, so I was absolutely thrilled to hear such nice arrangements and accompaniments by the organists break in whenever things got too a cappella for my own idiosyncratic predilections.

The album credits reveal who the talented organists are but, mysteriously, they don’t tell you who contributed the brass. Yet, for me, brass is always the delicious icing on any Christmas organ arrangement’s cake. Despite the apparently deliberate attempt to remain anonymous in the credits, I can nonetheless reveal to you that it was Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan, O.P., who played the trumpet for three tracks: “5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “13. O Come All Ye Faithful”, and “16. Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”. Because he was busy conducting the schola, the trumpet sounds were actually recorded separately and overdubbed on those tracks.

Perhaps Father Vincent Ferrer’s desire for instrumental anonymity stems from the fact that he is already identified in the credits in a leading role as the conductor for the album. Clearly he has great musical gifts. I love that he’s too busy to metaphorically blow his own horn — because he’s literally blowing a horn instead. 

Born in 1983, Father Vincent Ferrer is finishing his Masters of Music (MM) in Sacred Music/Choral Music this academic year at The Catholic University of America. He finished his License of Sacred Theology at the Dominicans’ own Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception last spring. He is also responsible for many of the fine arrangements on the album.

Christ Was Born to Save / Christmas with the Dominican Friars was recorded in Washington’s Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. Because proceeds from the sale of this album support the Dominican students in Washington, D.C., remember you have a supreme charitable rationalization for adding it to your shopping list. So, why not “adopt” these fine students as members of your own extended Catholic family this Christmas?

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About Christopher S. Morrissey 34 Articles
Christopher S. Morrissey teaches Greek and Latin on the Faculty of Philosophy at the Seminary of Christ the King located at Westminster Abbey in Mission, BC. He also lectures in logic and philosophy at Trinity Western University. He studied Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of British Columbia and has taught classical mythology, history, and ancient languages at Simon Fraser University, where he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on René Girard. He is a managing editor of The American Journal of Semiotics. His poetry book, Hesiod: Theogony / Works and Days, is published by Talonbooks.