During this season of waiting and longing for the Savior, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity share the inspiring Songs of Advent and Christmas by Lupe Rios. You’ll want to check out his other albums as well.
To listen to Songs of Advent and Christmas, click here: Lupe Ríos Songs of Advent and Christmas by Lupe Ríos on Apple Music
About Lupe Rios
Tell us about yourself.
I am blessed. As a boy, my family and I immigrated to the Yakima Valley in Washington State to be farmworkers. Originally from the central state of Jalisco in Mexico, most of my 11 siblings now live spread across the US in Illinois, California, and Washington. Following my father’s work in agriculture, we moved and worked harvests throughout the US.
I loved America as much as my homeland, especially the music. I went to the University of Washington, and lively Seattle taught me to love good coffee and gave me my first encounter with transformative Catholic liturgy at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. While living in the Northwest I took part in many music groups ranging from jazz, musical theater, university choirs, Latino rock bands, mariachi, Gregorian chant, youth bands, and Spanish charismatic choirs. I composed and arranged music while in most of those groups.
Even though I never had formal training, my continuous work in music enabled me to become proficient in music theory, opening up many more opportunities. In college I studied International Relations and Religion, but my attraction to sacred music led me to pursue a vocation as Music Director for the past 12 years, first with the Dominicans at the Newman Center at the University of Washington. Subsequently I served for several years with the Franciscans at the historic Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California, and now at the beautiful Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla, CA where I also am Youth Director. I currently serve with the Jesuits at the Catholic Newman Center Community at University of California San Diego and have recently contributed musical support to the ministry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. In recent years I have given concerts at local churches in the San Diego area, and have produced three albums of music, in Spanish and English. I currently reside in San Diego, CA.
Rose e’re Blooming, Noche De Paz and In the Bleak Winter are just three beautiful songs from your album Songs of Advent and Christmas. Do you have a favorite among the collection? Why?
My favorite in the album “Songs of Advent and Christmas” is “Sabed Que Una Virgen”. It’s my Spanish rendition of the Basque carol known in our hymnals as: “The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came”. I like the simple guitar with the melody and the major third harmony above it, eventually evolving into a flamenco cry with a resounding joy using a South American style from the Andes known as ‘carnavalito’. The beautiful English carols, though traditional to some, are new to me. “Lo How a Rose E’r Blooming” and “In the Bleak Midwinter”, are to me like a new found color for a painter. I take what I hear and I sing it how my body knows how.
What does sacred music mean to you?
Sacred music gifted me the greatest joy of my life. When I hear a hymn or canto, I hear echoes of my ‘falling in love’ with God through the faith by kneeling at altars as a young boy and intoning soulful songs as I harmonized my mother’s melodies. I tend to take traditional songs from my growing up in Mexico and from the several places in the U.S. where I’ve lived, and sing and arrange them with those echoes murmuring ideas in my ear.
The strings and voices you hear in the album are all played or sung by special people in my church ministry. They are the ones that bridge my passion from my past to the joys of my present vocation as Music Director. I am always so thankful for their patience as I get so excited to attempt and mix different styles of sung worship. Because my foundation and trust was so strong with the people that surrounded me in the ministry, it allowed me to take risks, promote, and offer different approaches to the music we’ve heard and used at church.
How did you come up with the arrangements of the songs mentioned above?
I learned never to pretend to sound like someone else because my most genuine praise, my honest praise, would be the one that reflected my life experience. You can catch a glimpse of that in my rendition of “Silent Night”. Instead of the usual time meter, I arranged it to reflect harmonies and sounds closer to the mountains of Jalisco, in Central Mexico. The harmonies remind me of my mother, my sister and I as we sang imitating trios and harmonized ‘by ear’. We often did this as we found ourselves becoming an impromptu choir at Mass.
Of all your albums, which is most special to you? Why?
Each song and album are special to me, but my favorite of the current three is “Paradisum”, the latest. In that project I was able to explore deeper into my relationship with God the Creator as a thankful servant for being wonderfully made. It is a tribute to my past and an offering of gratefulness and praise to God for helping me find my vocation.
What advice do you have for young adults reading this post?
I worried too much as a young man about the direction of my life when it came to a career. Then the Holy Spirit led me to my vocation: music, liturgy and youth ministry. People of faith taught me to trust that if I took care of God’s things, He’d take care of mine. I could have gone in any direction, perhaps even with my music. But I went God’s way and all of a sudden I realized that He had my back. I entered full time ministry at age 24 and am now celebrating ten years of the happiest time of my life making music for the Lord.