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Fr Mark Baumgarten, the piano man priest

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Perth priest Fr Mark Baumgarten, centre, pauses during practice. The pianist says he is slowly rediscovering his songwriting voice. PHOTO: Supplied

Songwriting cleric’s come a long way from cruise ships

Move over Fr Rob Galea, there’s a new performing pastor on the horizon. Inspired by the COVID lockdown, parish priest Fr Mark Baumgarten used his two month isolation in 2020 to write and record music which he emailed out to parishioners to provide spiritual nourishment while his Church was closed and due to its success is now working on an album of original songs to be released in time for Christmas.

The former pianist, who played music on Captain Cook dinner cruises prior to entering the seminary, said he decided to use his music to spread the word of God to the young and not so young.

Born and raised in Perth, the parish priest at St Francis Xavier Parish, Armadale, stresses he is a priest first and foremost and that his music career is simply a “by-product of his relationship with God”.

“when I began studying for the priesthood, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would happen with my song-writing” – Fr Mark Baumgarten

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He used his connection with music while discerning his vocation which proved to be an outlet for the various joys and struggles of seminary life and today has no pretence of fame, but rather hopes his songs will help people who are going through tough times.

“The more serious songs I wrote in my youth were generally either about my spiritual searching or love songs,” he said. “So when I began studying for the priesthood, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would happen with my song-writing. Obviously I wouldn’t be writing love songs in the conventional sense, I didn’t feel inclined to write praise and worship music and I don’t feel qualified to write liturgical music – so I wasn’t sure what was left.

“I’m slowly rediscovering my song-writing voice within this context, suffice to say that lockdown 2020 helped get the creative juices flowing again! During Holy Week last year it occurred to me that our forced exile had some parallels with how the apostles were also behind closed doors with their heads down following the crucifixion.

“I started playing with some lyrics that were applicable both to our situation and theirs, and thanks to the extra time I had on my hands it wasn’t long before I had a finished song called ‘Easter Sunday Morning’.

“While I’m no Fr Rob Galea, I am working on a debut album of original songs that will hopefully be ready by the end of the year.”

To listen to ‘Easter Sunday Morning’, go to Fr Mark’s Youtube Channel.

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