The Richard family’s love of music, each other, shines on CD

By 
  • May 14, 2010
The Richard family`Some jokingly call them the Catholic Von Trapp Family. And there are similarities as Mary and Louis Richard, with their children Nicole, 21, Cecile, 18, Catherine, 15, Daniel, 13, and Anna, 10, do sing together as a family.

The Richards recently produced a CD of their own religious music — composed, arranged, performed and sung by the entire family.


The album, titled Calling You, is a natural extension of having lived a life of family prayer, Louis told The Catholic Register. He and his wife have used song to open their family prayer time since their children were very young, when the kids were encouraged to join in the music by shaking instruments and singing or dancing.

“I think the music we sang with our kids all those years was the foundation, because really we always did it and they got better, of course, and they started learning their instruments,” he said. “The greatest desire for Mary and I and our children of course is growing in faith and sharing our faith — that’s why we wanted to make a CD, it’s why we composed music. It’s always been for those reasons.”

The couple found each other and their interest in Christian music deepening during their participation in  the charismatic renewal movement of the Catholic Church in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They met at St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church in Toronto, where Mary directed a choir for Mass, got married and moved to Winnipeg in 1986.

Mary, a former teacher at a Winnipeg Catholic school, homeschooled her children as they reached school age. She and Louis encouraged them to audition for Pembina Trails Voices, a school division choir and one of the premier youth and children’s choral ensembles in Canada. All their children have also taken private instrumental music lessons.

“I think that’s contributed in a huge way  to their musical ability. They’ve had to do so much vocal music, lots of rhythm, lots of harmonies,” she said.

In Calling You, the children contribute voice, piano, violin, guitar and percussion. The music, a collection of songs Mary and Louis composed over the past 25 years, took on variations as they practised for the recording.

“(It was) music that Louis or myself composed but the arranging we did as a family, which was a surprise to us because we didn’t know how much the children were able to offer and they offered more than we imagined they would — they gave us great ideas for accompaniments and harmonies,” said Mary.

Their music has aired on Salt + Light Radio and the Richards have performed at various fundraisers and community events in Winnipeg. But one of their goals is to raise money for a project spearheaded by a Catholic nun in Uganda.

Their eldest daughter, Nicole, who accompanied an American Catholic lay evangelist on a mission trip to Uganda in 2007, met Sr. Mary Bernard Tumusiime, who runs an orphanage for children whose parents have died of AIDS or are too sick to care for them. Wanting to take the burden off overseas donors and the diocese of Torolo, Tumusiime was looking for funds to help build a rooming house that could provide ongoing income for the orphanage.

With CD sales since the album release in December, the family has been able to send Tumisiime $1,000.

Being able to commit their music to a higher purpose is a wonderful feeling, Nicole said, but a personal benefit is the change they’ve seen internally.

“As we sing together, the dynamics of our family grows closer to each other, so I think it allows for a greater love between us. I guess you can grow spiritually when there’s a lot of love and you see the love that’s in a family and experience that,” Nicole said.

Similarly, Catherine, who writes for The Catholic Register’s Youth Speak News, said they really didn’t know what to expect in making their first CD, so anything good was unexpected and a joy.

“We didn’t notice it at the time, but now that I look back I think that we are much better at working together, not just in music but also when we’re discussing things, that we know how to let someone give their opinion, not to take things defensively, just to work together,” she said.

The music on the CD has also helped them to draw closer to God in some cases.

For Anna, the song “Mystical Rose” stuck out as her favourite.

“I just liked the gentleness of ‘Mystical Rose.’ It kind of led me to prayer,” she said.

Other songs help her to fall asleep at night if she listens to the CD before bed.

The Richards say many parents have used the music before bed time but adult friends have found it leading them to something more.

“The common reaction is that it leads them to prayer and that’s what we’re really happy about, that it gets them in touch with God in a deep way,” Mary said.

To hear samples of their music, visit www.familyrichard.ca.

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