Christ Cathedral’s music program is making a big impact, not only in the Diocese of Orange, but also throughout the West Coast – thanks to a new program airing on Immaculate Heart Radio.
“Music from the Tower,” produced in the Tower of Hope studios located on the Christ Cathedral campus, airs at 9 p.m. Saturdays on local stations KHJ 930 AM and KCEO 1000 AM. Its aim, says co-creator and host Dr. John Romeri, is to spread the surprising news that liturgical music is entertaining.
“It’s fun just to hear about the interesting people coming to the Christ Cathedral campus,” says Romeri, Christ Cathedral’s organist and director of music. “There is always a lot going on here; we often welcome visiting musicians who have dedicated their lives and their compositions to the Church.
“We want to spread the word that some exciting musical happenings are going on at Christ Cathedral,” he adds. “Our program goes together with the guest artists who come to the cathedral.”
Named as a tip-of-the-hat to the “Music from the Spires” program produced by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, “Music from the Tower” includes in-depth interviews with musicians, conductors, composers and other musical artists whose work has made an impact on music, particularly liturgical music.
Included in each episode are an hour-long interview and snippets from the artist’s work, with links to the full pieces on the Cathedral music website (christcathedralmusic.org/music-from-the-tower-radio-program). Links on the website allow listeners to order the music for themselves, via a direct link to Amazon.com.
“We want our listeners to gain insight into the world of famous musicians,” Romeri says. Soon, he adds, the show will feature programs with world-famous organist Fred Swann; artistic director John Alexander, who recently retired from the Pacific Chorale; and Grammy-winning organist Paul Jacobs.
Romeri admits that planning and producing each radio program taxes his already-busy schedule. In preparation for each week’s program, he prepares the interviewees, collects their biographical information, and prepares each of four segments of the artist’s music.
As an example, the third episode of “Music from the Tower” featured Fr. Virgil Funk, founder and first president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. Here is the outline of the program taken from the OC Catholic website:
Segment 1: We speak about the founding of NPM and its influence on the music-making of the Roman Catholic Church.
Segment 2: We discuss a conference that Fr. Funk and Dr. Romeri both attended in Rome titled, “Music and Culture,” with musicians from around the world celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the papal document, Musicam Sacram.
Segment 3-4: We speak of great musicians and educators in the field of sacred music, highlighting Dr. Paul Salamunivich and Fr. Lawrence Heiman, C.PP.S.
Music: All the music for this episode is taken from a CD titled, “Paul Salamunivich Conducting the NPM Convention Choir,” recorded live at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Segment 1: “Festival Hymn of Thanksgiving,” arr. Paul Sjolund
(The same piece, but from a different album)
Segment 2: “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” arr. Ronald Arnatt
Segment 3: “Were You There,” arr. Sue Wallace
Segment 4: The conclusion of “Holy God.”
“Hearing Fr. Funk, who is now 80 years old, describe how he has dedicated his entire life to the musicians of the Church was so exciting,” Romeri recalls. “It’s a blessing to have these recordings in the artists’ own voices, because in that way they will live on forever.”
Romeri produces the radio program in addition to his work as the diocese’s first music director and organist. In fact, Romeri, who has worked for the Diocese of Orange since December 2015, has many growing and vital responsibilities. He is conductor of the newly formed Cathedral Choir, the Children’s Choir and the Diocesan Choir. In 2019 he will help christen the refurbished Hazel Wright organ, the fifth-largest organ in the world, when it is fully installed after restoration by the Ruffatti Pipe Organ Builders of Padova, Italy, prior to the official blessing of Christ Cathedral.
Romeri and the Diocese of Orange’s Director of Communications Ryan Lilyengren have big-picture plans for “Music from the Tower” – they want to grow it into a nationally produced program.
At present, co-producer Jim Governale works behind the scenes on the technical side. Governale, a longtime local Christian radio producer and host, notes that “Music from the Tower” is part of a radio revolution, as Catholic radio is making great strides in programming.
“A lot of what is heard on Christian radio is complementary to what you hear on Catholic radio,” Governale notes. “After a couple of decades in Christian radio I’m really thrilled that the Catholic voice is having more impact on people on the radio than in decades gone by.”