New Course Explores Storied, Unexpected Relationship Between the Jesuits and Music

Students studied the misunderstood relationship and showcased their research in a culminating, full-length concert
April 19th, 2019 by 

Dan DiCenso stands in front of a large group of students in a classroom
Dan DiCenso '98 guides students while they do research for the course Music & the Jesuits. Photo by Avanell Brock

A group of students stand and sing while holding binders
Holy Cross choir members sing during the Music & the Jesuits concert. Photo by Avanell Brock

A wide-angle shot of St. Joseph Memorial Chapel with music being performed in the front
The Music & the Jesuits concert brought a crowd to St. Joseph Memorial Chapel. Photo by Avanell Brock

A group of students sit in the pews of St. Joseph Memorial Chapel
Students from the course Music & the Jesuits attend the Music & the Jesuits concert. Photo by Avanell Brock

What do Freddie Mercury and Chance the Rapper have in common? They’ve both created music that nods to their Jesuit ties. And they’re both topics of discussion in the course Music & the Jesuits, taught by Daniel DiCenso ’98, assistant professor of music.

The Jesuits’ relationship to music is widely misunderstood, says DiCenso — and it’s also widely under-researched.

“I could have called the course ‘Music & the Jesuits?’ — question mark intentional — because, initially, the Jesuit order was the only order of priests that outlawed involvement in the Office, meaning the singing of the Divine Office,” DiCenso explains.

The roots of the music aversion can be traced back to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who wanted the Jesuits to be free to go forth among the people without needing to come back to congregation multiple times a day to sing the psalms. As a result, the Jesuits got a reputation for being against music. “There’s a truth to that, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t involved anyway,” DiCenso says.

With limited resources about the relationship between music and the Jesuits (upon completing a textbook in class, DiCenso remarked, “Congratulations! You’ve now read everything ever written about music and the Jesuits.”), DiCenso saw the course as an opportunity not only for students to discover the history, but for him to do the same.

“I knew what I knew, and I knew what I wanted to find out,” he says. “So I thought it would make a great research seminar, in which I frame some things and then we send the students out on quests.”

DiCenso dug deep to find unexpected stories about how the Jesuits relate to music. His colleague Jessica Waldoff, associate professor of music, suggested the class study an orphanage Mass written by Mozart.

“There was a Jesuit orphanage in Vienna that was consecrating a new church and they hired 12-year-old Mozart to compose a piece for it,” DiCenso says. “The idea was that the piece would be composed by someone the same age as the charges in the orphanage.”

But throughout the semester, DiCenso and his students are expanding the Jesuit music connection beyond commissioned works to unconventional pieces in which Jesuits are more influencer than direct driver. To capture this surprising relationship between Jesuits and music, DiCenso assigns a weekly “snapshot,” where students identify examples of “tenuous, stretchy supposition about a relationship between some kind of music that we wouldn’t think to be Jesuit music, and the Jesuits,” says DiCenso.

In the classroom — a small, warm room nestled in Brooks Hall — students teach each other about unexpected connections they’ve discovered. The late Mercury, front man of the rock band Queen, attended a Jesuit high school in India; a number of Queen’s songs (think, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “All God’s People”) lean in heavily to Jesuit themes of social justice and equality. More recent examples are even less expected. Chance the Rapper’s manager, Pat “The Manager” Corcoran, also attended a Jesuit high school; on the albums he’s produced, multiple songs nod to his Jesuit heritage.

“Initially, Jesuits were missionaries, though they eventually got into the business of schooling and it’s been quite controversial as to whether schooling put the brakes on the missionary work,” DiCenso remarks. “Regardless, you are, in a sense, training missionaries.” DiCenso points out that a Jesuit education is no guarantee that Jesuit influences will seep into the lyrics, but once in a while, to the careful listener, that’s just what happens.

For Lauren Carey ’19, a music major with a minor in education, finding and redefining what “counts” as Jesuit music has been enlightening: “In most of my other music classes, it’s rare that we discover something ‘new’ about music. However, since there has not been a lot of scholarship on the Jesuits’ relationship to music, in this class we make it a goal to find new connections to music that is not obviously ‘Jesuit’ music.”

The course, which was born out of discussions surrounding the College’s 175th anniversary, leads to a final event much more spectacular than an exam — a full concert with Jesuit music performed by various musical groups on campus (of which include a number of students from the class). The lineup includes traditional songs and psalms written, composed and performed by Jesuits, interspersed with spoken lessons about different aspects of the Jesuits’ relationship to music throughout the years.

Every element of the culminating concert, held at the end of March in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel, was planned by students, from the program notes to the spoken-word elements accompanying the music. Henry Stutz ’19, an accounting major, says the concert-planning process has been a wild ride as a non-music major.

“But,” he adds, “it will be very rewarding to see our work and research come to fruition as a grand concert, as opposed to the traditional paper or exam that I am used to.”

Course CatalogDan DiCenso stands and smiles in front of a chalkboard

Music 299: Music & the Jesuits

Professor: Daniel DiCenso

Department: Music

Description: The purpose of this research seminar is to document the many ways in which the Jesuit order has been involved in the field of music over time and space. A major aim of the seminar is to investigate the relationship between music and the Jesuit mission. While it is now well-known that the Jesuits have been important composers and patrons of music, the many ways in which the Society of Jesus has used music as a tool of its mission across all contexts remains less well understood. The goal of the course is to construct a more robust sense of the many ways the Jesuits have engaged with music as art and music as a tool of mission. In doing so, the seminar will not only increase students’ understanding of the subject at hand, but also contribute to scholarship in the field by investigating through course projects some never-before-explored aspects of the Jesuits’ engagement with music.

Meeting Times: Tuesday | 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Classroom: Brooks 452

Required Reading

  • “The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present” by Course Catalog John W. O’Malley, S.J. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017)
  • “Music as Cultural Mission: Exploration of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America” by Anna Harwell Celenza and Anthony R. DelDonna (Philadelphia: St. Joseph’s University Press, 2014)
  • “The Ratio Studiorum: The Official Plan for Jesuit Education” by Claude Pavur (Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005)
  • Additional readings throughout the semester

Assignments

  • Snapshot in Jesuit music history
  • Program notes and lesson presentation for Music & the Jesuits concert
  • Three short one-page written responses
  • Final paper

Grades: Jesuit snapshot, written response papers, concert program notes and lessons, final paper, attendance and participation

About the Professor: Dan DiCenso earned a B.A. in music from Holy Cross; an M.A. in music, an M.S. in education and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania; an M.A. in classical studies from Villanova University; and a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Cambridge. He is a specialist in medieval liturgy, with a particular interest in the history of Gregorian chant during the eighth and ninth centuries. He has also taught courses on common practice music and contemporary popular music, including pop music, hip-hop and rock


Written by Jane Carlton for the Spring 2019 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine
Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

| More

Comments are closed.

12/03/19 Renewable Energy Policy Thesis Earns Landon Cass ’20 the Maurizio Vannicelli Washington Semester Away Program Award
11/22/19 Holy Cross Introduces ‘MyinTuition,’ a User-Friendly College Costs Calculator
11/22/19 PayScale Ranks Holy Cross in Top 7% Liberal Arts Colleges for Salary Potential in 2019
11/22/19 Holy Cross History Professor Featured in New Online Docuseries Hosted by NPR’s Peter Sagal
See All

MID Club
12/6/2019
Classics
FENW 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art Of Nepal
12/6/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal
12/7/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Holy Cross Wind Ensemble Winter Concert
12/8/2019
Music
Hogan Center Ballroom & 328

See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal
12/8/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


The Agency Club Meeting
12/9/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
STEIN 216
The Agency educates students interested in learning about the fields of public relations,...
See More >>


Holy Cross Student Investment Fund
12/9/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
Hogan Center 519
Members of HC SIF gain technical skills, experience and knowledge in the fields of...
See More >>


Orientation Leader Info Session
12/9/2019
Office of Student Involvement
Hogan Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Philosophy Phriends Meeting
12/9/2019
Philosophy
SMITH 501
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art Of Nepal
12/9/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Art on the Hill- I Scream/Stress Relief
12/9/2019
Visual Arts
Hogan Center Lobby Table 2
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Ciocca Center: Finance Club Meetings
12/10/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
STEIN 212
The Finance Club focuses on all facets of Wall Street, including sales and trading and investment...
See More >>


Ciocca Center Diversity Liaison Office Hours
12/10/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
Hogan Center Lobby Table 1
Our Diversity Liaison is working to find new ways to increase student awareness...
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art Of Nepal
12/10/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Women in Business Club Meeting
12/11/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
STEIN 216
The annual Holy Cross Women in Business Conference (11/2/19) is expanding to create a year-round...
See More >>


Virology poster session/Prof. Sheehy
12/11/2019
Biology
SMITHLABS SPILLANE

See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art Of Nepal
12/11/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Advent Festival of Lessons & Carols
12/12/2019
Featured
St Joseph Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Advent Festival of Lessons & Carols Holy Cross College Choir...
See More >>


Real Estate Club Meetings
12/12/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
STEIN 216
The Real Estate Club exposes students to a broad range of topics including residential, commercial,...
See More >>


HCSIF: TMT Sector Meeting
12/12/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
Hogan Center 405
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


HC Student Investment Fund Meeting
12/12/2019
Ciocca Center for Business
Hogan Center 404
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art Of Nepal
12/12/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Art on the Hill- I Scream/Stress Relief
12/12/2019
Visual Arts
Hogan Center Lobby Table 2
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MID Club
12/13/2019
Classics
FENW 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art Of Nepal
12/13/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Dharma and Punya: Buddhist Ritual Art of Nepal
12/14/2019
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
OKANE Cantor Art Gallery
This exhibition, co-curated by Dr. Jinah Kim, Professor of History of Art &...
See More >>


Study Break with a Therapy Dog
12/15/2019
Holy Cross Libraries
SMITHLABS SPILLANE
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Philosophy Phriends Meeting
12/16/2019
Philosophy
SMITH 501
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Administration & Finance Reception
12/19/2019
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Admin & Finance Retreat Meeting
12/19/2019
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


The Housing Director Regional Professional Development Training Session
1/10/2020
Residence Life & Housing
Hogan Center 410

See More >>


Orientation Leader Info Session
1/23/2020
Office of Student Involvement
Hogan Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
1/27/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Multicultural Peer Educators Meeting
1/27/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
1/27/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 519
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title TIX Coodinator Luncheon
1/27/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 407
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
1/27/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 408
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MLK Jr. Book Read 2019
1/28/2020
Office of Diversity and Inclusion Open to Campus Community Only Categories: Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Hogan Center 320
We are excited to announce the fifth annual MLK Winter Book Read. We invite all members...
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
1/28/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 408
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
1/29/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 410
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MLK Jr. Book Read 2019
1/29/2020
Office of Diversity and Inclusion Open to Campus Community Only Categories: Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Hogan Center 320
We are excited to announce the fifth annual MLK Winter Book Read. We invite all members...
See More >>


Cabaret
1/30/2020
Featured
OKANE Fenwick Theatre
"Cabaret"Book by Joe MasteroffMusic by John KanderLyrics by Fred EbbThis celebrated...
See More >>


MLK Jr. Book Read 2019
1/30/2020
Office of Diversity and Inclusion Open to Campus Community Only Categories: Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Hogan Center 402
We are excited to announce the fifth annual MLK Winter Book Read. We invite all members...
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Luncheon
1/30/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 407
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/3/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
2/3/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 519
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Luncheon
2/3/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 407
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
2/3/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 408
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
2/4/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 408
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/5/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
2/6/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 519
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Luncheon
2/6/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 407
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Search Meeting
2/6/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 403
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Title IX Coordinator Meeting
2/7/2020
Office of Administration & Finance
Hogan Center 403
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/10/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Multicultural Peer Educators Meeting
2/10/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/12/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Manuscripts Hack-A-Thon Registration & Welcome
2/15/2020
Classics
Hogan Center 320
A one-day workshop for secondary school teachers and students to learn how to read...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/17/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert-Michelle Sacco '21 & Matt Luca '22
2/18/2020
MusicOpen to the Public
St Joseph Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Holy Cross Organ Scholars Michelle Sacco ’21 & Matt...
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/19/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/24/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Multicultural Peer Educators Meeting
2/24/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


National Eating Disorder Awareness Screening Day
2/25/2020
Counseling Center
Hogan Center Lobby Table 5
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


National Eating Disorder Awareness Screening Day
2/25/2020
Counseling Center
Hogan Center Lobby Table 4
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


National Eating Disorder Awareness Screening Day
2/25/2020
Counseling Center
Hogan Center Lobby Table 3
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


National Eating Disorder Awareness Screening Day
2/25/2020
Counseling Center
Hogan Center Lobby Table 2
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
2/26/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
3/9/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Multicultural Peer Educators Meeting
3/9/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Latinidad Identidad
3/11/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Night of the Living Museum Exhibit
3/23/2020
Office of Multicultural Education
Hogan Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl

See More >>


Lecture: Homeric Scholar Emily Wilson on War , Homecoming, Heroism, Truth
3/24/2020
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
Emily Wilson, the first woman to write an English translation of the Odyssey,...
See More >>


Women in Science Conference
3/28/2020
Biology
SMITHLABS 154
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Women in Science Conference
3/28/2020
Biology
SMITHLABS 155
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Women in Science Conference
3/28/2020
Biology
SMITHLABS SPILLANE
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Women in Science Conference
3/28/2020
Biology
SWORD Swords Atrium
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


HC Bands Banquet
4/17/2020
Holy Cross Bands
Hogan Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert-Dr. Julia Brown
4/18/2020
MusicOpen to the Public
St Joseph Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Dr. Julia Brown, Mayflower Congregational Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan,...
See More >>


Classics Homerathon
4/20/2020
Classics
Hogan Center Outdoor Oval

See More >>


Holy Cross Concert Band Spring Concert
4/26/2020
Music
Hogan Center Ballroom & 328

See More >>

See All