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 CNS Story:

POPE-IPOD Sep-5-2007 (650 words) xxxi

British musicians send pope iPod nano packed with modern church music

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- British musicians recorded the classic Irish hymn, "Sweet Heart of Jesus," in a calypso, disco style and sent it to Pope Benedict XVI on an iPod nano.

Pope Benedict might like it, or he might become the first pontiff in history to throw an iPod into the trash.

The musicians' intention, however, was to soften the pope's attitude toward modern church music.

The gift is from contemporary Catholic songwriters Jo Boyce and Mike Stanley, and it features a new album of classic hymns reworked in modern forms of music. The duo has used instruments such as pianos, saxophones, guitars, drums and synthesizers to recreate centuries-old works in laid-back gospel, folk, funk, soul and lounge-music styles.

The album, "Age to Age," was downloaded onto an iPod and sent to Pope Benedict in the hope of gaining a "papal seal of approval," said a Sept. 4 press release by the Catholic Communications Network of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

The move is something of a gamble given that Pope Benedict, an aficionado of classical music, said in 1996 that rock music was not very uplifting for the soul and certainly did not belong in church.

Last year, Pope Benedict said that "an authentic updating of sacred music cannot occur except in line with the great tradition of the past."

But the artists see the new album as a chance to demonstrate to Pope Benedict just how good modern church music can be.

"We wanted Pope Benedict to hear how some of the more traditional songs can be interpreted in a contemporary way without doing an injustice to the truth they contain," said Stanley.

Boyce added: "There is much talk in church circles at the moment about the inappropriateness of contemporary instruments like drums and guitars in favor of the more traditional sounds of organ and choir.

"However, our experience over the last 11 years suggests it need not be an either/or situation, but rather both/and -- what really matters is the standard of musicianship and the ageless truth it seeks to express," she said.

Stanley and Boyce, based in Birmingham, England, also have contacted Apple Inc., the manufacturer of iPods and the controller of a large percentage of the international digital music download market, in the hope that it may offer Pope Benedict some free downloads from its online iTunes store.

Stanley said: "We'd be delighted to know that the pope enjoyed our versions of classic hymns. But it got us wondering what he listens to himself. My guess would be classical or choral music, but it would be fascinating to find out what other tunes he would add."

The album, which will be released Sept. 15, features "Soul of Savior," written by Pope John XXII some seven centuries ago, and "Make Me A Channel," based on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, recreated as soul ballads.

"How Great Thou Art," written by a Swedish pastor after he was awestruck by a walk in a thunderstorm, is reproduced as a rousing folk duet, along with "Be Not Afraid," written by the Jesuit Father Robert Dufford and billed by Boyce and Stanley as one of the best-loved hymns in the United States.

The complete digital collection of Boyce and Stanley recordings on iPod nano have also been sent to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor of Westminster, who, like Pope Benedict, is a classical pianist.

Pope Benedict is already the owner of an iPod; last year, a group of Vatican Radio employees gave him a device loaded with Vatican Radio programming and classical music.

It included musical compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frederic Chopin, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky. The stainless steel back was engraved with the words "To His Holiness, Benedict XVI" in Italian.

END


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