The Daughters of St. Paul wanted to do something to create greater awareness of the life and writings of St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles who is also patron saint of the congregation. They decided to produce an album of songs with lyrics based on the Letters of St. Paul. The result is "His Grace is Sufficient". CatholicNews asks Sister Wendy Ooi, fsp, now serving in Kenya, about the album and her role in making it happen.How did the idea for this CD come about? Why?
Sister Wendy Ooi: We produced this CD especially for the Pauline Jubilee Year (Jun 28, 2008 to Jun 29, 2009) – in celebration of the bi-millennium of St. Paul’s birth and in response to the pope’s recommendation to create a greater awareness of the life and writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who is of course our patron saint as well.
Through this CD we hope to spread the inspiring words of St. Paul as well as to evoke the interest especially of the youth to read his letters, which contain so many beautiful reflections on our Christian faith and life.
Lastly it is also very much in line with our apostolate to use the media to spread God’s love.
Was it your initiative?
In a way, but I would say that all of us in the Paulines Audiovisuals Department wanted to do some projects in line with the Pauline year so this was one of them.
How were you involved?
I produced seven songs, wrote and performed two songs. I also did the cover and booklet design. Since we’re "small time" or what the industry would call an "independent label", we have to save costs and try and do everything on our own here – "pau ka liau", you know – but I also enjoyed that part of it because it’s a whole package really.
How much time and effort did you have to invest to create this CD?
This is a little hard to say – we did the recording in eight days but there was also some prep time for the composition, listening and selecting the demos, etc.
Which parts of the whole process did you enjoy most?
Writing the songs, "producing" them which involves the arrangement of the songs in collaboration with a very talented sound engineer, Timothy Muriithi (who also did most of the other instruments), and finally recording them. I guess it’s the whole process of seeing it through from start to finish – hearing the song in its very raw form (just the voice and the acoustic guitar) then finally with all the production behind it.
Could you briefly explain the process?
For the two songs I wrote, I first selected the Pauline passage that touched me. ("I Fall on My Knees" based on Eph 3:14-21 was written for someone as a birthday gift because at the time I wrote it, I wasn’t sure if this project would push through.) Then I had to rewrite the words to fit the melody. Once I was contented with it, I recorded the song (just my voice and the acoustic guitar). This was the same for the other composers – Sister Roselyn Wambani, fsp, as well as Steve Kithisya. Then we worked on the arrangement – other instruments as well as voice arrangements. Once the instrumental tracks were recorded, we then proceeded to record the vocals – lead and back up. Then I left it to Timothy to do the final mix and master.
Who else did what?
The other six tracks on the album were produced by our Sisters in India.
For the seven songs produced in Kenya, three were written and performed by Sister Roselyn Wambani, fsp, two were written by Steve Kithisya whom we commissioned to write some songs. He actually wrote several but only two were selected. As mentioned earlier, Timothy also played most of the other instruments and I thought he was a wonderful collaborator.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
This was really a debut of sorts for me – in terms of production as well as recording and performing for a CD meant for the public. I found the whole experience quite awesome.
Initially I was hesitant to actually use my voice (I’m no Olivia Newton-John!) for my own songs but Timothy the sound engineer and a couple of the Sisters who heard my voice on the demo actually liked it and encouraged me to record it and, in the end, I thought it worked out pretty well.
Some fellow fans of Suzanne Vega actually said they could hear her influence in my songs which for me is a great compliment. I was also pleasantly surprised when someone else said I sound like Tanita Tikaram!
My prayer now is that those who hear these songs will find some inspiration from them, that the songs can help them grow in their faith, deepen their relationship with God as well as help them contemplate his great love for them through the words of St. Paul.
Sample tracks can be heard on www.paulinesav.blogspot.com. Sister Wendy Ooi’s blog, where she posts periodical updates of her life in Kenya, is at http://chilliandlime.blogspot.com