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Try Fr Ben Gandy’s playlist for 2024

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Fr Benjamin Gandy plays the organ at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Fairfield. Photo: Supplied
Fr Benjamin Gandy plays the organ at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Fairfield. Photo: Supplied

Spotify has already ‘wrapped’ up 2023 with its annual list of our favourite songs and artists, but one Sydney priest is encouraging people to change up their listening habits in 2024.

Music-lover Fr Benjamin Gandy from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Fairfield admits to being disappointed with much of the contemporary music landscape in which there is very little of the Lord evident on the radio or in online or live musical offerings.

He thinks many of us listen to subpar or unedifying music simply because it’s so readily available, but is convinced there’s plenty of great music to be found if we seek it out.

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“Why do we eat junk and fast food most of the time? Probably because there are just so many places around that offer it.

Fr Ben grew up with twin loves of God and music, understanding that each helps shed light on the other.

Now in an age of instant access and streaming platforms, he believes there is more opportunity than ever to discover the same.

“In both faith and music, you see something of the creator imprinted onto the created,” he explains.

“One can listen to a good composer’s music and evaluate who has written it simply because their ‘signature’ is there.

“It’s certainly the same with the faith—you can see that God has stamped his character on each creation.”

He recommends making use of YouTube and Spotify to find playlists, learn what you like and don’t like and “most importantly”, listen to a wider variety of music in 2024.

A love of music was almost prenatal for Fr Ben, with his mother completing piano exams whilst still pregnant with him.

She imparted a love of classical music to her children who started learning to play their first instruments before even starting school.

“Music became a part of your identity. Certainly by high school, what you listened to and who you were, those were very close,” Fr Ben said.

Fr Ben found his identity in the music of the 18th century, not the 21st, when he says God’s presence was strengthened by composers’ dedication to a higher deity.

“Bach would write ‘soli deo gloria’ at the start of his scores, meaning ‘to God alone be the glory,’ then would begin writing his music. Joseph Haydn would conclude a piece with ‘laus deo,’ or ‘praise be to God.’

“Within these contexts, you get branches of music dedicated to God’s worship and praise—the composer is thinking with a spiritual mindset.”

Fr Ben would go on to study a four-year music education degree at the Sydny Conservatorium of Music before entering the seminary.

He has continued over the years to expand his musical tastes, including further classical, renaissance, jazz, sacred chant, and surprisingly even symphonic, or orchestral, metal.

For Fr Ben, good music says something about its immediate creator, whilst also revealing something about the ultimate creator.

“Good art transports you beyond yourself,” he said.

“You realise you are not the centre of the universe, that someone else has written something that takes you out of yourself to consider something beyond the here and now.

“Good art makes you selfless because true beauty ultimately is God, and any kind of speck or shadow of that beauty found in art or music reflects that same selfless love God has and is.

“It says everything about the creator.”

Fr Ben’s ‘Spotify Wrapped’ selections:

Top five songs:

  1. Concerto Grosso a Quattro Chori in D major (first movement) by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690-1749)
  2. Vexilla Regis Prodeunt (Vespers chant hymn for Holy Week) by Venantius Fortunatus
  3. Amaranth by Nightwish (for metal fans wanting a good headbang)
  4. Forest Fantasy by Yiruma
  5. Streets of Whiterun by Jeremy Soule (from the Skyrim video game soundtrack)

Top five artists:

  1. JS Bach (Baroque)
  2. Tomas Luis de Victoria (Renaissance sacred)
  3. Dom Gregory Murray OSB (modern sacred)
  4. Eddie Condon (jazz)
  5. Delain (symphonic metal)
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