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April 29, 2020

Ray Repp Tribute


RAY REPP TRIBUTE
 

Ray Repp, influential American composer, passed away on Sunday, April 26, 2020, after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. Born in 1942, as the oldest of the nine children of Rita and Walter Repp, young Ray was a seminarian at Cardinal Glennon College Seminary in his hometown of St. Louis when he started composing folk music settings of the Psalms for his Scripture class, influenced by the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and other popular folksingers of the early 1960s. At the time, Catholic liturgy was still in Latin, but after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Repp’s folk psalms were ready for the new English Mass.

In 1965, while attending a community service orientation program for the Catholic Extension Society in Chicago with 400 fellow college students, the young composer shared his sacred folk songs at daily liturgy, where they were sung with great enthusiasm. This marked the first documented ‘Folk Mass,’ with guitars replacing the organ as the primary liturgical instrument. When the attendees were sent out to serve the poor in major cities across America, they took copies of Repp’s songs with them to sing at their community liturgies. By the time FEL Publications published Repp’s Mass for Young Americans in 1966, his songs had already caught fire across the nation.

The music of Ray Repp encouraged American Catholics to find their long-lost singing voice and participate more fully in the sacred liturgy. He traveled widely to promote his songs at parish workshops, college concerts and liturgical conferences. As society was undergoing tremendous change in the 1960s, Repp’s music energized young Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike, and captured the idealism of their generation.

The influence of Ray Repp can never be overstated. His faith, his commitment to social justice and his sheer optimism inspired countless people to take up the call to become church musicians and liturgical composers. “Peace, My Friends,” “Till All My People Are One,” “Into Your Hands/Entre Tus Manos” and other Repp favorites continue to be published in today’s hymnals as new generations discover his music.

Perhaps Ray Repp’s legacy is best expressed in the Scripture-based lyrics of his iconic song, “I Am the Resurrection,” which continues to be recorded by Christian artists and sung in churches throughout the world.

"Keep in mind the things that I have said.
Remember me in the breaking of the bread.
If you believe, then you shall live."

 

Thank you, Ray, for sharing your many gifts with the Church and with the world.