Notre Dame Children’s Choir album tops Billboard’s traditional classical album chart

Author: Josh Weinhold

A unique collaboration between the Notre Dame Children’s Choir and a Sacred Music at Notre Dame graduate student aims to invigorate ancient pieces of music and make them more accessible and enjoyable for modern audiences.

Released by the Dynamic Catholic Institute, O Emmanuel is already attracting attention, debuting this week at No. 1 on Billboard’s traditional classical albums chart and No. 3 on the classical albums chart. A review in Catholic World Report described it as “the best jazz infusion into contemporary Christmas music since Charlie Brown’s Christmas.”

Commissioned by the Notre Dame Children’s Choir, the album is a blend of sacred music and jazz improvisation, featuring renditions of Advent and Christmas texts and melodies.

O Emmanuel‘s 10 tracks were composed by J.J. Wright, who holds a master’s of sacred music degree and will soon complete his doctorate at Notre Dame. Wright is currently in Rome, writing his dissertation while studying at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and interning with the Sistine Chapel Choir.
“The commercial release of O Emmanuel unites the talents of our graduate student, composer J.J. Wright; our faculty, conductor Mark Doerries; and the Notre Dame Children’s Choir, the community engagement arm of Sacred Music at Notre Dame,” said Margot Fassler, director of Sacred Music at Notre Dame and the Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music History and Liturgy.
O Emmanuel is a model for how the University and the community can partner to support children, the arts, and parish life across the Notre Dame region.”
Featuring the Notre Dame Children’s Choir, the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble, a jazz piano trio, and adult vocal soloists, the album was recorded at Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
The project exemplifies the Notre Dame Children’s Choir’s guiding belief that young people singing sacred music can heal and change communities, said Doerries, the choir’s artistic director and Sacred Music at Notre Dame’s associate director for community engagement.
“This history of the church and of classical music is rooted in the voices of children,” he said. “We seek to re-energize this movement in the 21st century through the commissioning and performance of music that specifically features children’s voices singing sacred music.
O Emmanuel speaks to our choristers by combining chant, carols, and hymns with jazz and pop-song melodies to create a work that is simultaneously innovative and transcendent.”
The Notre Dame Children’s Choir will perform a concert featuring selections from the album at 4:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 18) at Hammes Bookstore. The choir will also host its annual carols concert at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8.