Ottawa’s organist and cantor to release Christmas album in December

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Michael Trolly,  the cantor and organist at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa has produced a Christmas album!
You can get a preview of the songs that are now up on YouTube.
If you are looking for Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers, give a listen.   But if you listen you might find the music addictive.  That’s the experience most of had with his album Even As We Are. I played if over and over and over at home, in my car.

Click here for the play list.   Michael agreed to answer a few questions for the blog.

What prompted you to do a Christmas album?

I’ve had a lot of requests over the years for a Christmas album.  I’ve played piano and sang since I was a very small, and have recorded various projects before, but had never released any Christmas music, and I had wanted to do this for a long time.Music has always been an integral part of my celebration of Christmas.   Growing up, I would sometimes attend a Christmas Eve service with my family at an Evangelical church, an Anglican Eucharist later in the evening, and then the Catholic Midnight Mass.  In my desire to work for greater unity among Christians, the music we have in common seemed to play an important role.

As a Catholic in the Ordinariate now, I still play occasionally (especially around Christmas) at my mother’s Wesleyan congregation, or at other churches.  I also play for the Vigil Mass at a diocesan parish, as well as serving as organist and cantor at my Ordinariate parish.

This album is partly a way of sharing some of our musical Patrimony with other Christians.It includes my adaptation of an Anglican Chant setting of the Magnificat by Havergal, as well as an original folk-style tune of mine for Fr Roland Palmer’s hymn Sing of Mary, a favourite at my parish.   Two of the pieces are by Fr E. Caswall, who served as a C of E priest before his entrance into the Catholic Church, and later became a Catholic priest after his wife’s death.   Another  is a setting by my own parish priest (and our new Canadian dean) Fr Doug Hayman, of a Christmas office hymn.   The Huron Carol, based on the work of St Jean Brebuf, is one of the most popular Canadian carols, though less well known elsewhere.   In general, I’ve tried to pass on some of the music that’s been most important to me in my own spiritual journey, and to focus on material that isn’t so common (for this album, I’ve probably omitted all of what would generally be considered the most popular Christmas carols and hymns–not because I don’t like them or wouldn’t include them on a future project, but because I wanted to focus on  something very particular.)

How long has this been in the works?

I’ve been practising the material on this record for years, and developing a sense of what I wanted.   I even made a start at recording this album over a decade ago, and had been promising family and friends that it was coming.   What I finally did was go to my producer and suggest it was finally time, and ask whether we could do something very simple–a live recording of me playing piano and singing.   We took videos of the session and put them on YouTube.  The album is essentially the same, although it’s been mastered.I’m hoping at some point in the future to do another Christmas project, probably with some other musicians.

What other recording experience have you had—-tell us about your other albums

I have two other recordings available, both containing all original music.   My first album, “From the Middle of your Wild Dream” was recorded in the loft over a friend’s garage the summer I was 18, and we duplicated it ourselves.   We’re hoping to have it remastered soon and released online, but it’s not currently available.  My second album, “Even as We Are”, was a more professional affair, recorded my final year of university, at studios in Winnipeg and Ottawa, and featured some family and friends on other instruments and backing vocals. This Christmas album, “Sleep, Holy Babe” is an attempt to provide a more intimate feel; it’s my first recording where all the piano and vocals were recorded simultaneously, as a live recording, so it gives a more authentic experience of how I sound in person.

As a busy father, church organist and cantor, trying to make a living, how did you find the time for this?

Well, for a long time I didn’t!   I spent three years back in school recently earning my Master of Divinity degree, graduating last year.  Then I immediately took on a year long stint in high school chaplaincy.   A lot of recording projects have been put on the back burner in recent years.  My current full time job is working night shifts at a group home for persons with special needs, a schedule I work because it leaves me more time available for church and family commitments, and to take on other musical projects.Still, as a church musician, I’ve been playing and singing Christmas music for years.   I also play and sing a lot at home; many Christmas carols work very well as lullabies while putting babies to bed!   So I was slowly getting things ready.   As I’ll be taking most of 2020 off from work as parental leave, that may give me the chance to finish some other projects as well!

What do you hope listeners will take away from this music?

That will depend a lot on each person, of course.   But I do hope it will put the spotlight on some texts and music from the Anglican Patrimony as it is celebrated in the Catholic Church.  More importantly, I hope it will provide a celebration of Christmas that is deeply Marian as well as Christ-centred.I’ve tried to incorporate a lot of material that focuses on the relationship between the Madonna and Child.   It was a conscious choice to insist on including all the verses of “In the Bleak Mid-winter”–the verse referring to God roughing it, content with a “breastful of milk” is often left out of hymn books, and even more frequently from recordings.  But such expressions are very common in Marian hymns, and express something profound both about the Incarnation, and the theology of the body and of motherhood in particular.   I hope I’ve caught something of that spirit.

When will the album be available?

The album should be available for download or streaming by December 1.    CDs are currently available for pre-order, and you should be able to get them in time for Christmas Day.   Email me for pricing and shipping

I  know it’s not even Advent yet, but on this blustery November morning, as I listen to the carols, I am caught up in the worshipful and tender feel of Michael’s arrangements.  My goodness!   His arrangement of Sing of Mary is worth the price of the whole album.

Here’s a bio Michael provided:

Michael Trolly was born near Toronto, Canada, in 1984.  Raised in an Evangelical Protestant family, Michael began to explore the Anglican tradition in his teens, after his father bought him a copy of the Prayer Book.   He was confirmed in the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada by Bishop (now Monsignor) Robert Mercer in 2003, and became a seminarian of that body shortly after.   Michael studied theology and music at multiple universities, and holds BA and MA degrees in theology from Canadian Mennonite University, and an MDiv from St Paul University.

Michael briefly served as the ACCC’s diocesan secretary, and participated in synods in Halifax and Vancouver that endorsed unity with the Catholic Church.

Ordained as an Anglican deacon by Bishop (now Monsignor) Carl Reid in 2011, Michael served as Assistant Curate at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa.  Michael and his wife Rebecca (a former Wesleyan Church minister) were received into the Catholic Church the following year.  They remain parishioners at Annunciation, now a parish of the Ordinariate, where Michael serves as organist and cantor.  They are expecting a third child in January, and the family shares their home with a feline named after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.


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