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Thomas Gabriel

Thomas Gabriel

Country of origin: Germany
Birthday: August 25, 1957

About Thomas Gabriel

Thomas Gabriel – Building bridges for a modern kind of church music
He is a successful composer, is regarded as one of the most innovative creators of modern sacred music, feels at home in the spheres of early and new music alike, and knows how to manage in his compositions the balancing act between tradition and modernism, between his personal artistic demands and congregational needs or their musical possibilities …
Thomas Gabriel, born in Essen in 1957, very early took a particular liking to music. At the age of 13, he set his mind on becoming a concert pianist, but later decided to study church music; he completed his studies at the Essen Folkwang University with distinction. After passing the concert exam in organ (1982) he held the post of choirmaster at the Liebfrauenkirche in Recklinghausen from 1983 to 1986. He then worked as a freelance artist for the West German Radio and Recklinghausen's Ruhr Festival, among others. From 1989 to 1991 he worked as a district choirmaster to the bishop of Limburg, thereafter, as from 1992, as a regional choirmaster in Saarbrücken for five years.
Making music for his own credo
Since 1998 he has been the responsible choirmaster for the deaneries of Offenbach, Rodgau and Seligenstadt, focussing on the 'new sacred song' in the Bishopric of Mainz. As a composer as well as initiator and director of the Ketteler Music Days, which have been taken place annually since 2011, he deals with this genre again and again and regularly directs (choral) workshops with the objective of presenting liturgical music at as high an artistic level as possible while at the same time involving as many people as possible intensively and actively in the expression of their Christian faith.
Apart from his work as regional choirmaster, Thomas Gabriel is a busy concert artist – as organist, harpsichordist and particularly as pianist of the Thomas Gabriel Trio founded more than 30 years ago, an ensemble consisting of piano, bass and percussion whose artistic focus is on jazz improvisations on the music by Johann Sebastian Bach.
On familiar terms with jazz, pop and rock music
Gabriel's fondness of presenting early music in a new modern style is nothing new. And therefore it is not surprising that the Catholic church musician always tries to strike a balance between traditional and modern possibilities of expression, between popular and classical forms, artistic quality standards and musical ease, even in his own compositions that focus on 'new sacred music', while absolutely redefining the boundaries of church music needs. Church and its music must 'not become a ghetto', this is how the multiple winner of arts awards explains his affinity towards the interpretation of sacred music with modern stylistic means. His mission: to transport beliefs in such a way that they can also be understood by children and young people without any religious background or that they reach persons (again) who are sceptical about the institution of church.
His compositional oeuvre is very extensive, covering not only new sacred songs and sacred oratorios (e.g. 'Emmaus', 2002; 'Bonifatius', 2004; 'Kreuzweg', 2006; 'Simeon', 2007; 'Junia', 2010) but also light operas and musicals such as 'Der Hase und der Igel', 'Eginhard und Imma', 'Aschenputtel' or 'Frau Holle' (hire material of Schott Music) with which the professed fan of the rock bands Genesis and Pink Floyd occasionally makes a detour into secular music and enchants and carries away his audience.
Enjoyed by young and old alike
The Ruhr Area-born composer has also written a large number of masses, such as 'Missa Mundi' composed on the occasion of the World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, 'Misa de Solidaridad' commissioned by the Bishopric of Trier on the occasion of its 40-year twinning with Bolivia, 'mass4men' commissioned in 2008 by the German Catholic Congress in cooperation with the church office for pastoral care of men and work of men in German dioceses, as well as the German-language 'Marcellinus-Messe' (Schott C 55932) commissioned by the men's choir 'Gesellschaft der Freunde 1856 Seligenstadt' for which both commissioning party and composer championed the cause of creating a contemporary sacred a-cappella choral work which can also be musically realized by amateur choirs. In 2013, this mass for four-part men's choir (TTBB) was premiered as part of a festival service for the opening of the Seeligenstadt Pilgrimage.
Repertoire of joy of life and depth of faith
One year ago, on the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of the choirs of St. Georg in the Hessian town of Bensheim, Gabriel composed 'Missa juvenalis' (Schott ED 21791), a modern orchestral mass for two-part youth choir and four-part adult choir, orchestra, solo soprano and two percussionists. The mass of about 30 minutes' duration, which was premiered at the German Catholic Congress in Mannheim in 2012 and has since been performed several times, combines the classical Latin Ordinary of the Mass with modern German-language insertions by Dag Hammarskjöld and Meister Eckhart which give an enchanting topicality to the rather timeless text of the mass. As regards style, the work, inspired by 'Mass of Children' by John Rutter, moves between elements from classical music, musical and jazz music. Not only does the colourful, yet rather manageable orchestration with a quite generously endowed percussion battery express the pure joy of life, but the joint music-making of youth choir and mixed choir as well as the Latin title refer to the music's delightful youthfulness which is typical of many of Gabriel's compositions and which the 56-year-old composer uses to fascinate both young and old audiences alike.