In telling the story of the liturgical music renewal in the English-speaking world since the Second Vatican Council, the 1980’s is often referred to as the period of the emergence of the “Minnesota School” of influence upon contemporary liturgical music composition. David, Marty and Michael came on to the scene with a fresh and unique contribution to the repertoire, with music that could easily slide back and forth with what we would call “contemporary ensembles” and more “traditional” choirs as well.
Marty and Michael are natives of Minnesota, and David moved to Minnesota (from Michigan) in 1978 during his mid-college days. Soon after they met (David and Michael were seminarians and Marty was already in parish ministry), they began to fuse together – not intentionally – bound by their growing friendship, which harvested an approach that centered on mutual support and critique, working together and separately; influencing each other’s work and the emerging singing and praying Church during these years. They resisted the temptation of the time to become a “group” with an identity that might perhaps place them into a narrow corner of musical style, and were able to employ in their compositions a wide variety of genres that grew out of a common classical music training, but an equally common experience of growing up during a time of musical expression in many contemporary, pop, and musical theatre avenues.
In the very late 1970’s each of them had already began to record and publish their beginning efforts, most notably being Michael’s iconic setting of Psalm 91, “On Eagle’s Wings.” It was each other’s individual work that brought them to meet, and they reached out to each other for the beginnings of a friendship that is still very close to this day.
After Michael’s ordination to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Marty’s ongoing tenure as Director of Music at St. Bonaventure Church in Bloomington, and David becoming Director of Music and Liturgy at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park, they began to gather together more frequently to share their compositions with each other. In those early days they would gather together about once every 2 months or so, leave their egos at the door so to speak, and support and offer challenge to each other’s work. It was around this time between 1981-1982 that GIA Publications stood up and took notice of the work of Marty and David, while Michael continued to publish and record with what was then called NALR (North American Liturgy Resources). As a result of their common work in their parishes, David and Marty released with GIA what is now referred to as the first volume of “Psalms for the Church Year,” which is still very popular today, and was the starting point of several volumes to follow.
After doing some concerts locally in the twin-city area, they were invited in 1984 to present a concert for the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocesan “Faith Gathering,” which brought forth the very popular live concert recording (and a film as well), entitled “Come and Journey” which was the premiere for the wider Church to discover such songs as “Gather Us In,” “Blest Are They,” and the title song, among others.
The result was a number of years of travelling throughout the United States and Canada together (while still doing events and projects on their own) presenting concerts and workshops for parishes and at several national events for various gatherings of groups like the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the National Catholic Education Association, the Great Lakes Pastoral Ministry Gathering, and the East Coast Conference for Religious Education, just to name a few.
It was also during these years that they would assist each other for their various solo recording and publishing projects. Marty served as the producer for David’s very first solo collection with GIA in 1983, “We Have Been Told;” David would sing on Marty and Michael’s recordings; Michael helped David with the vocal arrangement of “Blest Are They,” and throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s their collaborative work continued. All of them at various times in their educational journeys studied at the University of St. Thomas (although never at the same time), and in 1994 they together received the Distinguished Alumnus award from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
After a period of time during and after Michael was working on his PhD in Rome, and after during the time of his serious illness with Guillain-Bare Syndrome, their public appearances together waned, but they continued to work on their own various musical and liturgical projects.
After Michael’s amazing recovery they began to return to present occasional concerts together, about three a year, all of them benefit events to support various causes that were important to them, and in 2005 they together led a musical pilgrimage to Greece.
In 2016 they discerned together that it was time to end travelling and presenting concerts together, so they finished up with four concerts, culminating with their final concert together at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California in 2017. Together with these final concerts, they released a CD recording celebrating their collaborative ministry of almost 40 years, “With Gratitude” (GIA).
In 2017 they were honored to receive the highly-acclaimed Pax Christi Award at St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and they all brought their voices one last time to sing together on David’s recording of his song, “An Instrument of Your Peace” in 2019.
The “Minnesota School” has flourished since their collaborative relationship began in those early days. Other well-known liturgical composers that have come from the twin cities and other parts of the state include Donna Pena, Lori True, Sr. Delores Dufner, OSB; Tony Alonso, John Becker, Dan Kantor, Rob Glover, Jeanne Cotter, Kate Cuddy, and others. It must be something in the milk there.
David, Marty, and Michael remain close friends to this day. Their legacy speaks for itself.
CD Recordings of David, Marty & Michael Together!
(Simply click on the image to order)
Video of their final concert together in 2017:
Read more about their contribution to the liturgical music scene in Ken Candedo’s wonderful volume, “From Mountains High.”