Music Educator, Composer, Pianist, Writer
Mark Christopher Brandt
Books and Prayers
Essays and Liner Notes
Joy is the title of Mark's latest recording!
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When you purchase the hard copy of Joy you will receive a free copy of A Year of Favor, Mark's book of rosary meditations! This book carries the ecclesiastical approval of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Limit one copy per customer.
Joy is the name of my newest release! I composed most of this music in the mid-1990’s, hoping to find a male and female singer for the lead parts, as I had no intention of being the lead vocalist on this project. At that time (in my mind), I was strictly a pianist, composer, and arranger of my own music, and while I had sung in professional settings many times, I did not consider myself a singer. To be totally honest, I did not feel qualified to sing praise to God in a setting that might be circulated in church circles, as I had lived a life in complete opposition to God’s love until my conversion in 1991. Since encountering the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, I have discarded that opinion and many other opinions that I once held to be true.
I specifically composed this music for the purpose of praising God and thanking Mary, the Mother of God, for all that she did for me in bringing me into a deep and joyful relationship with her Divine Child Jesus, who healed me from a life of drug and alcohol abuse on Christmas Eve, 1991, while simultaneously planting me firmly in the Catholic Church with a real and true devotion to the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Holy Rosary. As soon as the inspiration for this music came about, I began “fishing” for singers - both professionally and within my own church - who might be interested in performing and recording the project.
Around 1999, when I decided to shelve this project, I had not yet determined whether it would be set for string quartet, piano and choir, a small rhythm section, or just a voice and a piano. In fact, I had no real idea at all as to how this music would be manifested. Normally when I am composing, I hear the music within me as it will be performed. In other words, the ensemble is determined as I am composing. I hear the ensemble within me and I start documenting what I am hearing. It is all part of the same inspiration. If I hear a jazz trio, I write for that. If I hear a string quartet, I write for that. Whatever music I am hearing, I compose for the ensemble that will perform it most suitably and perfectly.
In this instance, I heard music, rhythms, and melodies matching the text, but no definitive ensemble setting. Because I could not hear the instrumentation in my “inner ear,” I thought that I would place the project on hold and wait for the day when it would all come together. I have never wrestled with the composing process. On those few occasions where an entire work is not flowing, I simply walk away from it and wait for it to come to me. It always does, sometimes years after the initial inspiration. Joy is one of those projects.
In 2018, I began to think that it might be time to revisit this work of art. As I dusted off the existing manuscripts and began to reacquaint myself with the music, I found that I experienced a true and profound joy every time I sang the music. As I dared to think that maybe this project was meant to be sung, by me, the music began to flow and I began hearing new pieces that coincided and blended perfectly with the original material from the 1990’s.
One glorious day, I asked two of my daughters, Ko and Rita, to help me out by singing some vocal lines while I sang the melodies and played the piano. I wanted to get a feel for what it would be like to sing and play this music with background singers. In the moment they began to sing, I realized that this project was meant for my daughters. (Two of them were not even born when the project was first conceived and my oldest was just barely walking and talking). When my oldest daughter, Shani, agreed to come on board after that first get together the last of the music for Joy was completed in short order.
Joy features all three of my daughters in lead settings as well as in background settings. The text is from Sacred Scripture that has been set to music in the form of the Holy Rosary, and specifically, the Joyful Mysteries. My daughters and I each sing a unique Hail Mary set in a different key, as a preface to the next Joyful Mystery, and there is one Ave that we share together a cappella with Latin text. The Salve Regina at the end is also a cappella, and in Latin. All of us sang the traditional Salve Regina in Latin every night in our home as part of our bedtime prayers, and it was one of the first pieces of music I taught my children to sing.
To this day, when we are together at the end of a visit, we will sing the Salve Regina, and now my grandchildren are picking up this beautiful family tradition. I thought it would be a fitting tribute to God and to Our Lady if I composed a Salve Regina for the four of us to sing together at the end of the recording. So many praise music recordings end with the traditional one. We wanted to sing these words too, but we opted for new music altogether. I do not wish to compete with or to replace the original version. I simply wanted to use my gifts as a composer and the gifts of my family to share my and my family’s love of God and love of music in the best way I knew how.
I hope you will enjoy this wonderful project titled Joy. I hope it will inspire you to pray the Rosary and to sing your own songs of praise and worship to our wonderful and loving Father and Creator. As you become familiar with the melodies, I hope that you will sing along with us. You may want to put this on your playlist during the Advent and Christmas seasons. The beauty of offering the Joyful Mysteries, is that they are prayed all year long on Saturdays and they are featured during the Christmas season - where my own miraculous healing and conversion occurred.
Until I was about thirty years old, I lived every possible experience the world had to offer. I had far more free-flowing money back then and much more musical adulation from friends and fans. Yet, at the end of each day I felt empty inside. I firmly believe that the Eucharist and the Holy Rosary are two of the greatest gifts God has given us. As an artist, it is my dream and my goal to bring more souls to both. If you think that Catholicism is too complicated, or that Catholics are out of touch in this modern world, or you have been tricked, as I was, into believing that God could not possibly love a person like you (me), take a long listen to this CD. Let it play uninterrupted from start to finish. As you let the music carry you away to higher heights of love, peace, freedom, and joy, think about this:
If today, I am going to walk through my life in the same manner as I did yesterday, how will I ever know what my life could truly be like as a follower of Jesus? How can I trust my “knowledge” if I know nothing about Jesus except what I have heard from other humans? How can I trust the words of people who left a church in anger when so many more are joining that church in peace? Maybe my “friends” are not supporting me so much as they are enabling me to remain in misery with them. Maybe it is the Christians who know the Truth and it is the rest of the world that is clueless. What could become of me, and, more to the point, what could I become, if Jesus Christ was my one true Friend, Master, Love?
Break free! Pick up a Rosary! Pick up a Bible! Come to a church! Come home to the Eucharist! Find the joy! Share the joy!