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Music Director’s Grand Finale Christmas Concert

After more than a decade, Dr. Prowse conducts his final Christmas concert at Sacred Heart.

by Lisa Martinez

After thirteen harmonious years, the main chapel of Sacred Heart Major Seminary was filled both with expectation and people for the last annual Christmas concert conducted by Dr. Ronald Prowse, director of liturgical music and associate professor of music at Sacred Heart. On Friday, December 1, the concert space was filled with joy from the onset as Dr. Prowse quipped how quickly the tables could turn in a seminary, “My students have become my boss.”

The undergraduate and graduate seminarians of the Sacred Heart Choir began the program that progressed into performances by the Sacred Heart Concert Chorale—comprised of lay students studying sacred music, alumni, staff, faculty, and friends of the seminary. Special guests, the Sacred Heart Hispanic Choir directed by Rubi Martinez-Bernat, and the Michigan Sinfonietta, an orchestra of concert musicians based in Ann Arbor, melodiously accompanied the program once again.

"Edi Beo Thu," the thirteenth century Middle English “hymn,” or a courtly love song to Mary, in a troubadour style was a notable addition to this year’s lineup. Between his love for early music and the challenge of learning an English dialect that predated Chaucer, Prowse counted it amongst his favorites. The Concert Chorale soared through various selections, particularly pleasing the crowd with two songs from Thompson's Nativity According to St. Luke. Followed by another highlight, “Oh Ven, Oh Ven Emmanuel,” performed by the Hispanic Choir, brought a unique, rhythmic arrangement to an old classic.

Fr. Clint McDonell, director of undergraduate seminarians and assistant professor of theology,  performed impressive solos by Handel and Bach, "Comfort Ye/Every Valley" and the "Deposuit from Magnificat," respectively. Soloist, Ruth Lapeyre, filled the chapel with Handel's "Recitative/He Shall Feed His Flock."

Keeping with tradition, the concert drew to a close with a spirited sing-a-long. From Dr. Prowse’s original Christmas Medley arrangement to rallying with the timeless "Hallelujah!" Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, the audience rose to their feet and joined in singing these seasonal favorites.

The annual Christmas concert will continue, as will Dr. Prowse’s work at the Seminary in a teaching capacity.

“I’ve always felt it a great honor to have this opportunity, as well as an awesome responsibility, to help form future priests,” Dr. Prowse explained. “I’ve been blessed to work under three wonderful rectors. And I'm grateful for my biggest supporter, my wife, Catherine.”

This divine Christmas concert was the perfect finale for Dr. Prowse to share with the musicians and guests. On behalf of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary community, we are grateful for the years Dr. Prowse devoted to the concert's success and beauty, as well as his dedication to continue forming future priests and lay students in our classrooms.  

Lisa Martinez

Michigan native, Lisa Martinez, now lives with her husband in Austin, Texas, where she runs both her small business and Catholic nonprofit; yet remains a storyteller first and foremost.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.