A Note from the Lyricist and Producer of the Sacred Aria Project
While listening to a collection of great melodies a few years ago, Bill was struck by the beauty of a tune that he did not recognize. He thought that it could be very effective as a vocal solo with a sacred text. He jotted down a lyric that began with “Lord, Be My Shepherd,” a phrase that became its title.
Sometime later he showed the piece to Loretta, his voice coach and a trained opera singer. She noted that this elegant melody was an aria -- namely Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” from “Gianni Schicci”. Moved by the spiritual quality of the song with its new lyrics, she chose to perform it during a worship service at her church. The congregation responded enthusiastically. Loretta suggested that additional arias could be treated in this fashion and agreed to help Bill choose what they might be.
Bill submitted the score of "Lord, Be My Shepherd" to Mrs. Lois Bock, president of the Fred Bock Music Company, to include a recording of Loretta’s worship service performance. Lois and her advisory team liked the “sacred aria” concept, and – like Loretta -- she encouraged Bill to develop a collection of such works, with variety in style, voice, and theme. Encouraged by this, Bill and Loretta committed to a serious effort to make the inspiring music of the great operatic composers accessible to places of worship. Loretta patiently searched the files of the Library of Congress to find the original scores so that Bill might work with the composers’ authentic material, as his plan was not to modify the original scores. As he developed the lyrics, Loretta provided the editorial oversight necessary to ensure that performers familiar with the original arias might find the transition to the sacred themes to be seamless. Simultaneously they determined to preserve the character and dignity of the originals, thereby honoring the composers.
This Collection of fourteen solos is the result. The lyrics derive from both the Old and the New Testaments, and as well as from our own spiritual reflections on the matter of faith in a complex world. However, in every case, Bill found that the music itself directly contributed to that inspiration process; sometimes the lyrics seemed to write themselves.
With several of the major operatic composers represented, from Cilèa to Wagner, the Collection provides musical variety. It also furnishes choices for a range of worship traditions. Overall, our objective has been to give the artists who perform these favorite arias in the opera houses of the world the opportunity to share their love for them in new venues – namely in places of worship. In so doing, we have endeavored to add a meaningful spiritual dimension to some of the finest music ever written.
William K. Brehm