Music at St. Francis de Sales Oratory
Providing the Christ the King Music Festival since 2021 is one among several ministries at St. Francis de Sales Oratory. The largest church in the archdiocese of St. Louis -- second only to the Cathedral Basilica in the Central West End -- the acoustically robust St. Francis de Sales Oratory was voted "Most Beautiful Church in America" by Church Madness in 2017, and holds multiple historic and architectural distinctions. The oratory remains a pioneer in sacred music education, conducts premier recordings and performances, and regularly hosts world class musical artists in public concerts.
In addition to educational events like the Christ the King Music Festival, the oratory has led numerous chant workshops and choir camps. In 2021, the oratory established a Private Music Studio which currently offers instruction in piano, organ, voice, percussion, and strings by way of a confederation of collegial private studios throughout the St. Louis area. In 2020, the oratory established a Preparatory Choir for children and youth prioritizing literacy in both neumatic and common practice notation, ensemble experience, decorum, and confidence.
Above: Canon Wulfran Laboq leading workshop for lay men and women and clergy on the subject of Gregorian phraseology according to the Benedictines of Solesmes, at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in 2018.
Above: James Marck, M.Mus., offers a semester-long chant course every Spring and Fall at the oratory, with introductory plans for beginners, focused projects for intermediate and advanced chant students, and individualized instruction for clergy.
Above: In addition to providing individualized instruction in Solesmes interpretation and conducting, as director of music for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest national province in Chicago, IL, Abbé Raymond Schmidt also coordinates with the diverse music programs of the Institute's eighteen apostolates throughout the United States in establishing educational and stylistic cohesion throughout the province. Abbé Raymond has served as faculty for the chant workshops and festivals at St. Francis de Sales Oratory.
Above: Children of the St. Francis de Sales Oratory Preparatory Choir performing at the annual Classical Music Fundraising Gala in Maryland Heights, MO.
New Sacred Compositions
In 2015, the oratory produced, under the direction of Nicholas Botkins, premier recordings of sacred compositions by Max Filke, John Osterhagen, and Kevin Allen. Since the release of this recording, O Lux Beatissima, the oratory has delivered premier performances of new sacred works by Luke DeMatos and James Marck in 2021-22, and John C. Orfe in 2023. Forthcoming world premiers are planned throughout 2023 - 24.
Above: A sample of new sacred music being produced at St. Francis de Sales Oratory
Sacred Music Concerts
The oratory has hosted performances by world-class musical artists including Chanticleer, Michael Hey, The Kingsbury Ensemble, Olivier Latry, Sandor Balatoni, and Benton Schmidt. Organ concerts resumed following the installation of the Karl Wilhelm pipe organ in 2020.
Installed in 2020, the Karl Wilhelm Opus 123 is a 58-rank three-manual and pedal freestanding mechanical tracker described by the builder as a "hybrid" German-French classical organ. Noted by its players for its clarity and sharp speaking speed, the Wilhelm 123 delivers pristine realization of dense counterpoint and articulate rhythm even in the cavernous acoustic of the oratory.