Click here to view a YouTube tribute to Richard Proulx
A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Richard Proulx began piano studies at age six and benefited from the unique musical training then fostered in that city's parochial schools, where twice daily solfege and choral singing were emphasized. He attended MacPhail College and the University of Minnesota with further studies undertaken at the American Boychoir School at Princeton, Saint John's Abbey-Collegeville, and the Royal School of Church Music in England.
Proulx's organ studies were with Ruth Dindorf, Arthur Jennings, Rupert Sircom, Gerald Bales, and Peter Hallock. Training in choral conducting was provided by Bruce Larsen, Donald Brost, and Peter Hallock; and extensive seminars with Donald Bryant, Robert Shaw, and Roger Wagner. He also studied composition with Leopold Bruenner, Theodore Ganshaw, Bruce Larsen, and Gerald Bales.
During 1980-1994, Richard Proulx was Organist/Music Director at the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Chicago, where he did much to strengthen the cathedral's outreach to the city is serves by establishing an extensive and innovative music program. As hoped by visionary Cathedral Rector, Bishop Timothy J. Lyne, the excellence of this broadbased liturgical music program quickly became a model for cathedrals across the country. Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, Archbishop of Chicago, provided great support for liturgy and the liturgical arts, especially liturgical music. The concert series, Music for a Great Space, involved the cathedral choirs with many of the finest instrumentalists in the Chicago area. The choirs toured the Midwest in 1982 and 1991, and in Europe in 1988. Proulx was also responsible for the planning and installation of two new mechanical-action organs for the cathedral: Casavant II/19 (Quebec, 1981) and Flentrop IV/71 (Holland, 1989).
Before coming to Chicago, Proulx served for 10 years (1970-1980) at Saint Thomas Church, Medina/Seattle, where he directed three choirs and chamber orchestra, established a tradition of liturgical handbell ringing, and was organist at Temple de Hirsch Sinai. Previous positions included Saint Charles Parish, Tacoma; Saint Stephen's Church, Seattle; and 15 years (1953-1968) at Church of The Holy Childhood in Saint Paul.
Richard Proulx was a widely published composer of more than 300 works, including congregational music in every form, sacred and secular choral works, song cycles, two operas, and instrumental and organ music. He served as a consultant for such hymnals as The Hymnal 1982, New Yale Hymnal, the Methodist Hymnal, Worship II & III, and has contributions in the Mennonite Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal. Proulx was a member of The Standing Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church and was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. He conducted choral festivals and workshops across the country as well as in Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand.
Proulx was appointed composer-in-residence for 1994-1995 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and was a Visiting Fellow at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. He served on summer faculties of the Montreat Conference, the Evergreen Conference, and Saint John's University School of Theology, Collegeville.
In 1991, Richard Proulx founded The Cathedral Singers, as an independent recording ensemble. The group has sung a number of live concerts in the Midwest and has produced over twenty recordings of a great variety of choral music.
In the field of commercial music, Proulx composed the 1971 theme song for Union Pacific Railroad, as well as an orchestral score for a documentary film, "The Golden Door". Two arrangements sung by The Cathedral Singers were featured in an episode of "ER" on NBC and the singers are heard in a New Earth Video, "Mount Shasta: Meeting of Heaven and Earth." Proulx’s organ setting of Veni Creator is heard in the 1997 movie, "The Devil's Own".
Richard Proulx received a number of prestigious awards. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a commission for a new opera in 1989; the same year he was presented the Gold Medal of the Archdiocese of Chicago by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. In 1994, he received an honorary doctorate from General Theological Seminary in New York City and also the BENE award from Modern Liturgy Magazine as "the most significant liturgical composer of the last twenty years". He also was named the 1995 Pastoral Musician of the Year by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. In 1998, Richard Proulx received the Pax Christi Award from Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. In 2006. Proulx was named Composer of the Year by the American Guild of Organists who also commissioned a new anthem Works of the Great Spirit for the 2008 AGO national convention in Chicago. Proulx's Concerto for Organ and Strings was programmed at that same convention. In May 2007, Chicago A Cappella honored him at the ensemble's 2007 Gala in recognition of his lifetime achievement in the field of sacred choral music. In October 2008, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) presented its McManus Award to Proulx. This award honors those who have made significant contributions to liturgy in the United States; Proulx was the first musician to receive the award. In 2009, he received a second honorary doctorate from the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, MN.
A rare combination of talents as composer, conductor, music editor, and organist, together with wide experience across denominational lines, gave Richard Proulx a unique perspective of both the opportunities and the challenges found in liturgical music-making in our time; he remained committed to the enriching and balancing role of the arts in people of all ages.
Tribute prepared by Michael Silhavy, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.