A merry sendoff for seminary’s music director

Ronald Prowse, associate professor and director of music for Sacred Heart Major Seminary, conducts during the seminary’s annual Christmas concert Dec. 1. The concert marks Prowse’s last in his current role, as he is stepping down after 13 years.
Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Detroit — For Ronald Prowse, it was a touching sendoff for a “dream opportunity.”

For the singers of the Sacred Heart Seminary Choir and Sacred Heart Seminary Concert Chorale, it was a chance to say “thank you.”

Sacred Heart Major Seminary hosted its annual Christmas concert Dec. 1, marking the start of Advent and the end of Prowse’s tenure as an associate professor and the seminary’s director of music.

“The opportunity to come to Sacred Heart was exciting for me,” Prowse told The Michigan Catholic following the concert in the seminary’s chapel. “It was a dream of mine to teach at an academic institution, which is why I pursed my doctorate in the first place.”

The Christmas concert was Prowse’ final one at Sacred Heart; he is stepping down from his position of 13 years to spend more time performing and composing, but also hopes to teach part-time.

“When I got this job, I was very excited, but felt humbled, knowing the responsibilities I’d have,” Prowse said. “I love teaching because I’m a perpetual student, and teaching is the best way to learn. I have that curious type of mind that enjoys academia. To work with seminarians, it is a huge responsibility in the musical formation of our future priests.”

The concert is a chance for the seminary to open its doors to the community as a way to formally kick off Advent, said seminarian Michael Adams, a pre-theology II student.

“This is our opportunity to have the house open to alumni who are so gracious and thank the people who donate to the seminary and provide for us,” Adams said. “Even before the season starts, it’s our way to say ‘thank you’ to the community and get in the mood for the Christmas season.”

Adams stressed how much a music director influences those in formation for the priesthood.

“Dr. Prowse has a tremendous impact here,” Adams said. “He pays so much attention in getting students to know how to read the Roman Missal, the modern music and chant with comfort and ease. He makes it so music isn’t a class just for the sake of doing music, but so we can have an application in parish ministry.”

The concert included some selections from the Sacred Heart Seminary Hispanic Choir, directed by Rubi Martinez-Bernat, and special solos from Fr. Clint McDonell with “Comfort Ye/Every Valley” and “Deposuit” and Ruth Lapeyre of the concert chorale with “Recitative/He Shall Feed His Flock.”

The concert ended with a piece, “Christmas Medley,” composed by Prowse during his time as music director at St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores, where he served before Sacred Heart.

As Janine Lozon sang soprano for the medley, a mashup of famous Christmas hymns, she couldn’t help but note a cherished memory of her own: she was in St. Joan of Arc’s children’s choir when she performed Prowse’s piece.

“I’ve been working with Dr. Prowse since 1997,” Lozon said. “He was my first teacher. I still sing, even though I have a busy work schedule, but he will always be someone I appreciate and give all my credit to. I was most excited to the sing the Christmas Medley. I sang it first with him and I sang it last.”

Prowse counts himself lucky to have the opportunity to be the man behind the music that makes Sacred Heart Major Seminary sing.

“What I appreciate the most is the opportunity to grow close to the seminarians in teaching them in the choir or private lessons and my classes that I teach,” Prowse said. “The choir is one of the classes I teach, but also vocal proficiency, liturgical music, sacred music — class that are more academic. Having the opportunity to teach students and prepare priests to read and understand music has been a wonderful opportunity.”

Hear the music

Listen to a replay of the concert on Sacred Heart Major Seminary’s Facebook page.