The Blessed John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music was founded by the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory in association with the Maryvale Institute under the joint patronage of Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and James MacMillan, the celebrated Catholic Composer, to celebrate the Beatification of Cardinal Newman by Pope Benedict xvi in September 2010.

The purpose of the Institute is to provide a general formation in liturgical music, so that the Sunday liturgy in parishes may benefit from a doctrinal, liturgical and musical formation.

Join us and celebrate the liturgical music of the Catholic Church.

An introduction from the musical director, Fr. Guy Nicholls, Cong Orat.

The association of the Oratory with Sacred Music goes back to the original Roman Oratory founded by St. Philip Neri in the 16th century. St. Philip had been brought up in Florence and was steeped in the North Italian tradition of “laudi spirituali” made popular above all by the early Franciscans.

St. Philip made use of these in his prayer services, also known as his “Oratory”, and in the pilgrimages which he frequently led around the sacred sites of Rome.

FR. Guy Nicholls

The laudi were popular religious songs, composed in the vernacular for devotional use by the people, rather than for a liturgical context. St. Philip made use of these in his prayer services, also known as his “Oratory”, and in the pilgrimages which he frequently led around the sacred sites of Rome. But Philip also made use of more sophisticated music. Among his closest disciples were the Florentine composer Giovanni Animuccia and the Anerio brothers, Felice and Gianfrancesco, all musicians of the Papal court with connections throughout the Roman musical world. Gianfrancesco Anerio prefaced a collection of his own laudi and oratorios with an account of St. Philip’s use of music as a form of “bait” wherewith he attracted people to come and listen to good music, but thereby was able to draw them more effectively into the love of God and towards the power of prayer and the Sacraments.

When John Henry Newman became a Catholic in 1845, he found the Oratory of St. Philip the perfect model for the fulfilment of his own hopes for creating a community of priests to work together in a variety of pastoral arenas: liturgy, education, welfare, study and writing. Not least of these was the provision of good music for the liturgy, which was no easy achievement in 19th century England. Even after Catholic Emancipation, English Catholic churches rarely enjoyed a high level of liturgical music. Hence the importance of Newman’s determination from the outset to provide as high as possible a standard of music for the enhancement of the liturgy. He and his companions, such as Fr Edward Caswall in Birmingham and Fr Wilfrid Faber in London, also wrote hymns and set them to music, sometimes finding tunes from various sources, secular as well as religious, and Newman even composed some of them himself.

Read the full introduction by Fr. Guy Nicholls, Cong  Director of the Blessed Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music