Sounds a lot like love

Littleton parish brings back sacred music for unique feast day Mass

Nissa LaPoint

A holy man once said that singing is a lover’s thing.

Out of the utter depths of love, St. Augustine wrote, singing is produced.

In their own expression of love for Mary and gratitude for their church, the choir at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Littleton performed a one-of-a-kind sound during a solemn traditional Mass July 16.

Using Medieval chants and polyphony—or multiple sounds that create one melody—the parish honored its patron Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Rick Wheeler, music director for the parish, said he doesn’t think there’s another Mass with music like it.

“As far as we know, no other (polyphonic Mass) in history begins in the way ours does,” he said.

He worked with fellow composer and friend Lee Graham to create a music score for the 7 p.m. feast day Mass at the Littleton church that celebrates the Tridentine Latin Mass.

“(My friend) and I consulted for hours on the phone and talked about examples and musical ideas and themes,” Wheeler said.

He said they decided to draw on the Church’s sacred music tradition to celebrate its feast day.

They drew on the polyphony sounds of the Renaissance, known in the musical world as the height of perfection for liturgical music. The sound adds a “dignity, majesty and prodigious richness” to the Mass, Venerable Pope Pius XII wrote in his 1955 encyclical Sacred Music.

The music score for Our Lady of Mount Carmel July 16 feast day Mass includes Gregorian chant and polyphony sung by a choir of men and women in Latin and Greek.

The music score for Our Lady of Mount Carmel July 16 feast day Mass includes Gregorian chant and polyphony sung by a choir of men and women in Latin and Greek. Photo by Nissa LaPoint/Denver Catholic

The Second Vatican Council also supported the use of Gregorian chant, saying it is suited for the Mass and should be given “pride of place in liturgical services.”

“We can write music in the 21th century that’s just as beautiful,” he said.

The music for the Mass imitated that of France, Spain and Italy around the 1500s and was inspired by the work of Tomás Luis de Victoria, a famous 16th-century composer in Spain.

“We took many examples of polyphonic Masses of the 1500s and 1600s and noticed one specific characteristic that stuck out to us: an alternation of chant and polyphony,” Wheeler said. “Both of us quickly came to the conclusion that the Mass had to be like that very historical style.”

The music score for the Mass fluctuated between Gregorian chants written specifically for the Mass and polyphony written by Graham, sung in Latin—and some Greek—by a choir of more than a dozen men and women, Wheeler said.

The music composed included an entrance song, a hymn after Scripture readings, Alleluia and a communion verse—most commonly from Scripture.

Other parts of the Mass that do not change—including the Gloria, the Creed, the Hosanna, and Lamb of God—were also sung in Latin.

“We’re finding those older chants and bringing them back,” he said.

Wheeler said he is sharing the full score with musicians so other parishes have the chance to share in the Church’s sacred treasure.


The notes from an ancient Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) used for Our Lady of Mount Carmel's feast day Mass July 16.

The notes from an ancient Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) used for Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s feast day Mass July 16. Image provided

COMING UP: Late St. Joseph deacon ‘reached out into the peripheries’ during ministry

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Deacon Maclovio (Max) Sanchez, 87, passed away peacefully in Olathe, Kansas on April 30. Deacon Sanchez was assigned to St. Joseph’s Parish in Denver throughout his diaconal ministry.

Maclovio Sanchez was born on May 21, 1931 in San Luis, Colorado, to Estevan and Emily Sanchez. He was baptized at Most Precious Blood Parish in San Luis, Colorado, on June 2, 1931 and grew up in Walsenberg, Colorado.  He graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Wasenberg.

On April 24, 1954, he married Mary Frances Marquez at Holy Rosary Parish in Denver.  Over the 65 years of their marriage, the couple was blessed with three children: Martin, Debra and Joshua. They also had numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In Denver, Max worked for Midwest Liquor Company, delivering products to the area stores. But his love was directed towards the poor communities in the metro area.  Max was vice chairman of the Coalition for the Westside Betterment and President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Bank. He and his wife were also very involved in the parish at St. Joseph’s.

On March 22, 1975, Maclovio was ordained a deacon at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception by Archbishop James Casey. This was only the second class of men ordained in the archdiocese at the time. He was immediately assigned to St. Joseph’s Parish where he also conducted numerous Spanish Missions and served at the Westside Action Center. Retiring from ministry in 1993, he continued to serve at St. Joseph’s Parish as long as his health would allow.

“Deacon Max reached out into the peripheries and brought the lost back into the Church,” said Deacon Joseph Donohoe, Director of Deacon Personnel. “We have been blessed to have such a dedicated Cleric and Servant of the Church in Denver.”