LOS ANGELES – Mexico’s Santiago Fernandez, a singer-songwriter of liturgical music whose hymns have become part of the repertoire of Catholic churches across the United States, launches on Tuesday his third album, “Unidos” (United), in which he forms a duo with singer Jesse Manibusan.
“It’s a disc made for communities that have Anglos and Hispanics and are trying to bring the two together, that want people to pray together and sing together,” Fernandez told Efe about the disc with bilingual hymns available on iTunes.
“I think this will be a very useful tool for those people, because it helps everyone join in and because it really helps our communities unite their voices in prayer,” he said.
“Unidos” is an album with seven hymns composed and produced by Fernandez at his recording studio and sponsored by the Oregon Catholic Press publishing house.
Fernandez’s first disc “Ven y Sigueme” (Come Follow Me) was launched in 2005, and the second, “Un Canto Nuevo” (A New Song), came out in 2008.
“I’ve been inspired to set Biblical psalms to joyous rhythms. I made myself known through a musical collaboration with OCP and afterwards they invited me to record my music for church songbooks in the United States,” he recalled
“What I like is when my music gets into the pews at church,” Fernandez said last Sunday at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.
Because of Manibusan’s charisma, a surefire connection with young American Catholics, Fernandez invited him to sing duos of his musical creations to the rhythms of Latin rock, bolero, romantic ballads and rumba.
“The idea of melding Hispanic and Anglo cultures can sometimes scare us a little,” Fernandez said.
Hispanics account for nearly a third of the roughly 78 million Catholics in the United States, according to Georgetown University researchers.
“How can we bring the two communities together, how can we really build one community when the language isn’t a shared language, when traditions are different, when other people have other ways of praising God, another way of praying?” Fernandez asked.
“What we try to achieve with this project is to make people feel at ease, to make people feel comfortable, to make people feel like one family,” he said.
“So that when they sing these songs, most of them bilingual, they can all feel part of a group, part of a community that is raising a single voice to praise God,” he said.
Born March 16, 1971, Fernandez started singing in a church choir at 13. He went to the United States in 1987 at the invitation of a Detroit priest and ultimately earned a degree in music technology at Michigan’s Wayne State University.
“I met the priest who invited me here in Cuernavaca where he was studying Spanish, and when I came to stay in the United States he put me to work in the parishes of Monroe, Michigan. That’s where I started my adventure in liturgical music,” Fernandez recalled.
“Currently I’m musical director at St. Damian’s in Pontiac, Michigan, leading choirs in English and Spanish, and from that I’ve taken on the challenge of uniting our two communities, where some speak English and the others Spanish,” he said. EFE