Rebekah Gilmore smiles after performing with the Tudor Choir presented by Cappella Romana, which was invited to sing at St. Matthew Parish as part of an effort to bring a diverse repertoire of sacred music to Portland’s Westside.
Rebekah Gilmore smiles after performing with the Tudor Choir presented by Cappella Romana, which was invited to sing at St. Matthew Parish as part of an effort to bring a diverse repertoire of sacred music to Portland’s Westside.
HILLSBORO — As patrons began filing into the pews at St. Matthew Parish, tidbits of songs and voices from the sacristy gave the audience a glimpse of the performance they were about to witness. Soon, the Tudor Choir presented by Cappella Romana took to the steps of the front of the church to present a selection of sacred music from the Tudor and early American era.

Concerts like this one can be seen on a regular basis in Portland at large churches or cathedrals. But here in this large modern parish in Hillsboro, music lovers from the metro area’s Westside are given the chance to enjoy high quality music closer to home in a building with astounding acoustics.

Groups like Oregon Chorale have been performing at the church for years, but the congregation was not often made aware of them. That is, until Shanti Michael came to the parish as the music coordinator.

Now, concerts from groups like Cappella Romana are regularly part of the parish’s activity calendar. Over the past year, there have been chorale performances, gospel performances and even an opera.

The Tudor Choir begins delicately blending their voices, exploring Mass parts like the Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Their dancing duets echo through the church before swelling in crescendos and decrescendos.

“Music is an expression of the heart and soul by which we communicate our deepest longings to God,” said Father Hugo Maese, a Missionaries of the Holy Spirit priest and pastor at the Hillsboro parish. The beauty of sacred music, the priest said, invites parishioners to learn history and inspires young musicians “to engage in learning and appreciating the variety of styles that the church offers.”

Michael hopes concerts like this one provide an opportunity for more people to be exposed to the wide repertoire of sacred music.

“Everyone in this world seeks after something really mysterious, something really beautiful and deep,” said Mark Powell, executive director for Cappella Romana. “I know for a fact that the musicians in the choir performing today — and likewise Cappella Romana and all of our singers — they’re drawn to this music in a very deep way even if it’s not explicitly expressing their own faith.”

In bringing groups like Cappella Romana to Hillsboro, Michael hopes more children will have exposure to different kinds of sacred music.

“I really wanted children to be exposed to this music because children used to sing this type of music in reality,” said Michael, pointing to the children’s’ chorale tradition of the Anglican Church in England.

“The first thing we do with kids when we try to teach them in any capacity is how to sing something. So why wouldn’t it apply to our faith?” asked Michael. “When they learn all of these songs and learn to sing this music, it’s going to be embedded in their minds forever, just like their ABCs.”

Exposure, Michael says, is critical for appreciating different kinds of music. It also presents an opportunity for evangelization. Michael looks to the impact that can be made when witnessing something of true beauty, whether painful or glorious.

“When we allow sacred music to be a source of participation, our liturgies, our lives are changed for the better,” said Father Maese. “As a music enthusiast, I can say that music in its true sense is an opportunity to continue the tradition of praising God and praying to God.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org