Chaplain Paul Melley Releases Second CD ‘God is Love’
Album is inspired by College immersion trip to Kenya with students
April 4th, 2012 by Cristal Steuer
Paul Melley, assistant chaplain and director of liturgical music at the College, has just released his second CD “God is Love” by GIA Music. Based in Chicago, GIA is an international publisher of Catholic and Christian resources for prayer and worship.
Melley says his new CD was inspired by an immersion trip to Kenya with a group of Holy Cross students in January 2009. “I was inebriated by Kenyans’ use of song to communicate the meaning of who they are as individuals and as people,” shares Melley. “You can’t escape music in Kenya. I loved their song, rhythm, melodies, and language. It was a part of every encounter and every day. We seem to have lost that here. Music can be heard everywhere here, in the car, iPods, in stores, elevators. But no one is singing. Kenyans are always singing. Not to communicate information but meaning.”
He says he was enamored with what Kenyans sing and how they sang it and this influenced much of the music on his album. “The trip will have an impact on me for the rest of my life,” explains Melley. “I wrote the title track, and infused it with their national language Kiswahili, using the phrase, Mungu ni upendo, which means God is love.”
The title track features a Kenyan vocal ensemble. “I recorded Kenyans because authenticity is really important to me. Not only because of the content—I know how to say and sing the words Mungu ni upendo—but it doesn’t sound ‘mine.’”
While writing the song he says he could hear the Kenyan’s voices in his head. “We actually had a studio choir singing the song initially, but it just didn’t feel right. I was pretty adamant to have it be authentic.”
With that in mind, he connected with Kenyan singers. “We recorded in my office in Campion, there were only three singers, but we did some layering and multi-tracking and it made everything come together.”
When Melley started thinking of a concept for the cover of the album he said he didn’t want it to look like a Hallmark card. “How do you represent God and love?” he asks. “It was a task. We worked on a lot of concepts, but what I kept coming back to is that it’s not always easy to love. A real, deep, and abiding love is not sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.”
Melley says one of his moral theology professors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, used to define love as such: “Loving someone is being willing to descend into another’s chaos.”
Melley decided to take a picture of the riveted, rusted, and stained corrugated tin huts that they use for their homes in the slums all over the country; and that can be encountered in many of the places where some of the world’s most poor live and place a heart over it, “almost as if it had been painted on or graffiti,” shares Paul. “I think it’s very provocative, and really draws you to gaze at it.”
Melley has worked at the College since 2003. “Being at Holy Cross grounds me in a community,” he explains. “It’s really important that my work has some benefit to the larger Church.”
Melley will be performing at Boston College the first week of May. If you would like to hear him out on campus he will be leading the sung prayer at the liturgies of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday Vigil, and Easter Sunday morning.
As far as his next big project: “I’ve been writing music again, which I’m excited about. I’ve been presenting at some national conferences so that has been taking a lot of thought and reflection and study, and I’m hoping to turn some of them into articles. I’m also chipping away on working on a prayer resource book.”
His debut album, “Humbled,” was released in 2007 by GIA Music. “Humbled” is a collection of songs that have been used in worship, including many that Melley has used during liturgies at Holy Cross.