The “Laudis” chamber choir based in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is seeking to revive the tradition of sacred music in the local Church, balancing it with an appreciation of local music.
“We cannot perform new, contemporary and local music at the expense of the rich heritage that belongs to the Roman Catholic culture; nor can we simply perform the great music of our Catholic heritage at the expense of a local tradition, because we are such a multicultural country,” Shanti Michael, a co-founder of Laudis, told CNA.
“Music is considered one of the highest art forms for worship and prayer, and choral music is particularly the epitome of internal participation and prayer,” she added.
Listening to sacred choral music performed beautifully facilitates the heart and mind in prayer, Michael reflected.
“With the great tradition of chant, the sacred words of scripture come to life beautifully,” she said, reiterating that singing “often imparts a more effective theological footprint than just listening to Scripture being read. There is a reason why monks and nuns in monasteries still sing the Divine Office.”
She observed that in order for choirs to be prayerful and effective, they must perform well, and so training should be made available to the musicians who volunteer their time and efforts.
“Finances and time should always be invested in musical and liturgical training programs for church musicians and in appropriate resources for church choirs.”
Laudis specializes in polyphony, the only style of music, aside from Gregorian chant, that the Second Vatican Council identified in particular as welcome in liturgical celebrations. Laudis sings polyphony by Victoria and Palestrina, among other 16th century composers.
The group was founded in 2013 by Michael and Lisa Ho, and draws singers from several denominations.
Michael acknowledged that the main challenge for a Catholic chamber choir in Malaysia is that there are a “limited number of experienced, formed singers.” She lamented that the Catholic Church has “lost” much of its choral tradition.
She did emphasize that there is a need for inculturation in the country, and that a “balanced repertoire” is appropriate.
“I believe we are still searching for a liturgical musical identity.”
Michael holds a bachelor of music in choral conducting from Australian Catholic University, and earned a masters of sacred music from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She founded a youth choir in Melbourne, and was graduate assistant for the Notre Dame Folk Choir.