A unique collaboration between the Notre Dame Children’s Choir and a Sacred Music at Notre Dame graduate student aims to invigorate ancient pieces of music and make them more accessible and enjoyable for modern audiences.
Released by the Dynamic Catholic Institute, O Emmanuel is already attracting attention, debuting this week at No. 1 on Billboard’s traditional classical albums chart and No. 3 on the classical albums chart. A review in Catholic World Report described it as “the best jazz infusion into contemporary Christmas music since Charlie Brown’s Christmas.”
Commissioned by the Notre Dame Children’s Choir, the album is a blend of sacred music and jazz improvisation, featuring renditions of Advent and Christmas texts and melodies.
O Emmanuel‘s 10 tracks were composed by J.J. Wright, a doctoral candidate in Sacred Music, and a graduate fellow in the Rome Global Gateway during AY 2016-17. In Rome J.J. is researching and writing his dissertation on early Baroque oratorio, studying at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, and interning with the Sistine Chapel Choir.
“The commercial release of O Emmanuel unites the talents of our graduate student, composer J.J. Wright; our faculty, conductor Mark Doerries; and the Notre Dame Children’s Choir, the community engagement arm of Sacred Music at Notre Dame,” said Margot Fassler, director of Sacred Music at Notre Dame and the Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music History and Liturgy.
“O Emmanuel is a model for how the University and the community can partner to support children, the arts, and parish life across the Notre Dame region.”
Featuring the Notre Dame Children’s Choir, the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble, a jazz piano trio, and adult vocal soloists, the album was recorded at Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
“O Emmanuel speaks to our choristers by combining chant, carols, and hymns with jazz and pop-song melodies to create a work that is simultaneously innovative and transcendent.”
J.J. will perform a concert featuring selections from the album on Thursday June 1st at Chiesa Nuova in Via del Governo Vecchio, 134 in Rome.