Previously a casual organist at Sacred Heart Cathedral and other parishes, Dr Matthias moved his family of five to Melbourne at the beginning of the year, in circumstances he describes as “a bit surreal”.
Paul Taylor, composer of the widely used Mass of St Francis, commissioned Dr Matthias to write a Mass for the Melbourne Archdiocese. Once the Mass was complete, Dr Matthias was brought to Melbourne to rehearse and direct the Cathedral Choir. By Christmas time, he had been offered the job as Director of Music.
Writing a Mass is not a new task for Dr Matthias. In fact, he had already written eight before. These were for Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, while he was an Anglican and Director of Music there.
Dr Matthias became a Catholic in 2011 and says different experiences have shaped his new approach.
“This was done with a different sense of the creation of music,” Dr Matthias said.
“It’s a journey I’m on. Our family have been very close with the Torres Strait Islander community and have sung a lot with them in Newcastle and Townsville. I just tried to get some of the spirit, the essence of the way the Islanders create music.”
The most important part of writing was getting the congregational part right. “Then everything else flowed from there,” he said. “It was my aim from the start, to make it be able to be sung with great spirit, disregarding in many ways a set time signature.”
Dr Matthias was determined to make it “something that people can actually sing”. He began with the rhythm of the words, which then informed the rhythm of the music.
Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, confirmed that achievement after he heard the Mass for the first time. “Finally, we have a Mass we can all sing,” he said.
Over Easter, the new Gloria was sung at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, and could be heard through the live stream of its Mass.
Dr Matthias plans to record with his wife Bernadette singing the congregational part of the Mass and then share it with dioceses throughout Australia.
The Matthias family are missing their Newcastle connections and friends, but are enjoying the new challenges, describing the journey to Melbourne as “strange but also meant to be”.