Article from the Catholic Globe
Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City
June 2011

Father Hemann releases new instrumental CD

By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor

When you hear the word oasis, soothing thoughts of a peaceful refuge or retreat come to mind.
Oasis is the title of a new CD recently released by Father David Hemann, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Ida Grove, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Holstein and St. Martin Church in Odebolt.
While Oasis is his seventh CD, it’s his first instrumental only release.
Father Hemann said there is a big call for “peaceful, spirit-filled, anointed instrumental music that puts you in the presence of God without the distraction of words.”
Once the priest had made up his mind to offer an instrumental collection, rather than come up with new melodies he opted to use the 10 songs from the Psalms of David CD that he released about 18 months ago.
“That CD was meant to help people pray in terms of the Psalms,” he said. “A lot of people love the Psalms and love it when I sing, but I had many people say it would be nice to have a recording of just the music – an instrumental.”
The vocals were removed and replaced with instruments.
“The instruments alternate in taking the ‘lead vocal,’” described Father David, who noted that the songs are in the same order as the Psalms of David. He said Oasis is meant to be a companion CD to Psalms of David.The priest did not have to re-record his guitar parts and because all of the music had been transcribed, the musicians were able to come into the studio and follow the melody lines that were already written out.
“I also knew they were very good players so I told them that they didn’t have to stick to the exact notes,” he recalled. “They did some nice counter melodies and harmonies. They did a fabulous job.”
J.E. Van Horne, the recording engineer, called Oasis a “stellar” recording and said it is the best CD he has ever recorded.
“I think it will appeal to a wider audience,” the engineer said. “People from all over the country buy his albums but I think this will go into areas of people who aren’t as religiously inclined.”
Father Hemann said he also believes this CD will have a wider draw, in fact he views it as having universal appeal.
The instruments and musicians featured include Father David on classical guitar, Kimberly Beasley on French horn, Sean Conway on Irish whistles, Bob Jenkins on oboe, Kate E. Jones on cello and Barbara W. Lepke-Sims on harp.
He said the six instruments created a nice ensemble that interacted well with one another.
“There was a nice balance between the instruments so they weave in and out,” Father David said. “All Instruments used are real orchestral instruments without any fabricated or synthesized sounds.”
Four of the six had played on the original Psalms of David CD and two – the oboe and French horn – were added for Oasis.
The musicians:
Sean Conway: Father David said the whistle permeates the whole project. Conway, an accomplished musician, was a mentor for The Chieftain’s – a world-renown Irish musical group. At age 15, Conway was named the best whistle player for the County of Innes.
“Only an Irishman can play like he can,” said Father David.
Barbara W. Lepke-Sims: Father David pointed out that he happened to meet the harp player when he was on the shuttle bus from the airport in Phoenix, on his way to do a parish mission. A woman noticed his guitar and asked what type of music he did. After he told her it was spiritual music, she said she always wanted to play harp on a Christian album.
“She listened to some of my songs and she had a tear,” said Father David. “She said she really loved my music. I kept her address and a year later I called her. She flew out and she played (for the Psalms of David).”
He remembers questioning the Arizona pastor about why he couldn’t be picked up from the airports, but now he knows. “The Lord is orchestrating all of this,” he added.
Lepke-Sims has played for both Republican and Democratic presidential banquets and the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
Kate Jones: She has a bachelor’s degree in Music from Loyola University New Orleans. She has recorded for and performed live on electric cello with various local bands, including the Black Squirrels and Turtle Moon.
She has also recorded for "Madeline in Tahiti," which is an animated adaptation of the children's book series. Jones has played for many weddings and receptions with the Metropolitan String Quartet and she serves on the Board of Directors of the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras.
Kimberly Beasley: She plays for the United States Air Force Heartland of America Band at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha.
Bob Jenkins: He taught in District 66 in Omaha for 28 years. He has played on some Mannheim Steamroller recordings, plays with the Omaha Symphony and has a master’s degree from Northwestern University.
Van Horne, who recruited much of the talent for this CD, called the music “gorgeous” and said the musicians nailed their parts. “I think the melodies are beautiful and then you add great players on top of it.”
Even after recording it and mixing it for hours, he has never gotten tired of it. He described the music as gentle, relaxing and pretty with a great combination of instruments.
“St. Augustine calls God beauty ever-ancient, ever-new,” he said. “God doesn’t get beauty from somewhere, God is beauty.”
In the inside cover, Father Hemann noted that Dostoyevsky once said beauty will save the world.
“It’s my hope that all who listen to this album are drawn into the experience of beauty and in that experience they trace it to the source of all beauty – God,” Father Hemann said. “When we experience God, our hearts and lives are changed for the better and so is our world.”


Article from the Catholic Globe
Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City
February 2010

Fr. Hemann gives new music CD to pope
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor

A trip to Rome last month to participate in festivities for the 150th anniversary of the North American College presented another unique opportunity for one priest musician from the Diocese of Sioux City.
While in Rome, Father David Hemann, pastor at parishes in Ida Grove, Holstein and Odebolt, knew he wanted to give Pope Benedict XVI a copy of his latest CD, titled the Psalms of David.
As a graduate of the NAC, this Iowa priest was one of about 250 alumni and current students to have a private audience with the pope. After that audience, the pontiff greeted them individually and that provided him with a chance to present the CD.
“When he came to me, he gave me a great big smile and I smiled right back,” Father Hemann described. “Then he shook my hand and I said, ‘Holy Father, this is a gift for you. I put my favorite Psalms to music.’”
Father Hemann remembered that the pope had looked very intently at the cover. Using the pope’s accent, the priest repeated the words of the Holy Father, “Psalms of David. How wonderful. Thank you.”
The diocesan priest said it was a blessing to be able to present the CD to the pope directly. If he hadn’t been able to give it to the Holy Father, he was going to mail it to the 82-year-old pope.
“He was looking great and he had the sweetest smile. I could see his holiness,” Father Hemann said. “He’s a wonderful pope.”
What made this all the more meaningful was his knowledge that Pope Benedict has a great love of music.
“The pope has said, ‘I am convinced that music is the universal language of beauty by which all men and women can be brought together,’” he said. “I have a wonderful picture of the pope playing a piano. He has said that music has been a constant companion of his life and I can say that music is a constant companion of my life.”
Sharing two great loves with the pope – the love of the church and love of music - is a great thrill for Father Hemann, who will celebrate his 25th anniversary to the priesthood this summer on July 20. Given the upcoming jubilee, it made it even more important for him to participate in the 150th anniversary of his alma mater.
“Pius IX established the seminary over there 150 years ago so that America could have a good connection with the seat of Rome,” he noted.
After Father Hemann had given the CD to the pope, his friend, Msgr. Michael Heras commented that the experience was more than the Holy Father merely receiving the CD, it was a blessing on his priestly ministry and the music ministry.
This wasn’t the first time that Father Hemann had met Benedict XVI. He met him when he was still a cardinal. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had lectured to his class when he was a seminarian attending the NAC. And this wasn’t the only pope who has received one of the Iowa priest’s CDs.
Father Hemann gave his In God’s Company CD to the late Pope John Paul II. He remembered that when he gave the CD to JPII, the pope blessed it and gave it back. Father Hemann told him it was a gift for him and the pope looked at it and said, “That’s you. Thank you.”
“That was a thrill too,” Father Hemann said. “Both of them really love music.”
With the recent trip to Rome, another moving part of the trip came in the Omaha airport. He was stranded in the airport for 14 hours before his departure and began evangelizing to various people – Christian, Jewish and an atheist.
“I was sharing with an atheist and I could tell he really wasn’t following, was fed up with the theological jargon and then he asked if I was a musician because he saw my guitar,” said Father Hemann, who played his CD, Psalm 139, for the man.
After listening, the man began to cry and he told Father Hemann that he was a recovering alcoholic who had left the church. He said he could understand the music.
“I could tell that the music broke through some barriers that my words couldn’t,” he said. “When people have an experience of beauty, there is a mystery to it. When we experience beauty, we want to find the one who is all beauty and then we start to develop a theology and seek God. God draws us to himself by showing us his beauty – through nature, music, tenderness, love.”


Article from the Catholic Globe
Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City
December 2009

Fr. Hemann releases Psalms of David CD
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor

When Father David Hemann set out to write his sixth CD, his main goal was to convey what was truly in his heart.

After years of reading and praying the Psalms, he was inspired to put them to music, which resulted in his latest compilation titled Psalms of David.

“The Psalms are some of the greatest prayers we have,” he said. “The Psalms encompass a whole range of emotions and human experiences. There is a Psalm for every situation. We can even imagine Jesus at the feet of Mary, praying a Psalm.”

Both liturgically and in personal life, the priest stressed, Psalms are great prayers of the heart.

“It is my hope that as you prayerfully listen to these Psalms, the grace of God will fall upon you, bringing you peace, healing, love, repentance, joy and most of all, union with God,” said Father David Hemann, who is pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Ida Grove, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Holstein and St. Martin Church in Odebolt.

He referred to one of his favorite sayings from Brother Robert Simon of New Melleray Abbey: “God’s the music, I just play the notes.” That is how Father Hemann sums up his part in this musical journey.

The songs
Psalms of David contains 10 songs including an introductory song, eight Psalms and a closing song titled Canticle of Mary.

“The introductory song, titled Holy Presence, is a prayer that puts the listener into the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” said Father Hemann. “St. Francis de Sales says whether we pray publically or privately, it’s important that before we do anything, we should really become consciously aware that we are in the presence of God.”

The eight Psalms included on the CD touch upon a wide range of topics. For instance, Psalm 51 centers on asking for God’s mercy, Psalm 27 focuses on trusting in the Lord and Psalm 131 is about being like a child in the arms of the Lord. It incorporates the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep prayer.

He pointed out that the sixth selection on the CD, Psalm 34 – O Lord My God I Cry to You, praises God in the midst of pain.

“Psalm 63 is about an incredible longing for God,” Father Hemann said. “Psalm 139 is one of the first ones that came. I felt such a beautiful presence of the Lord in writing that one. It is a beautiful pro-life song that talks about the Lord forming us in the womb.”

The fifth song on the CD, Psalm 116 – I Love You Lord, was offered up as a work of love and thanksgiving to God for 25 years in the priesthood. Father Hemann said he wants that played at his 25th jubilee this summer as it relates to serving the Lord.

The ninth selection and eighth Psalm of David is Psalm 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd.

“The Psalms on this album are ones that have always been my favorites,” said Father Hemann, who added that he was named after David of the Old Testament so he has always had an affinity toward him. “They are very trusting, intimate Psalms.”

In writing the songs centered on Psalms, he incorporated portions of the Psalms that will be familiar to most people and these happen to be the phrases that spoke most deeply to his heart.

The final song on the CD, he noted, is titled the Canticle of Mary. It is built on the Blessed Mother’s praise and thanks to God.

Musical production
Father Hemann said he was very pleased with the production of the CD.

J.E. Van Horne, the recording engineer for the project, said he doesn’t believe the CD could be any better.

“I think this by far is his best album and I have recorded three of his six,” he said.

Father Hemann expressed gratitude to many who contributed vocals or musical talent to the project: Amy Barnhard, backing vocals; Sean Conway, Irish whistler; Kate E. Jones, cello; Kevin Keane, backing vocals; Barbara Lepke-Sims, harp and Amy Van Horne, backing vocals. He also received great input from his brother priest, Father Shane Deman, which enhanced his vocal technique.

“I think the people he had play on it, played to their highest level and ability. They were all great players,” said Van Horne. “And Father David is a great writer and he plays great guitar.” Likewise, he praised the vocals.

The engineer mentioned that when he has seen Father Hemann live in concert, he has a wonderful way of connecting with people.

“With this album, better than any other, he has captured that,” Van Horne said. “As a recording engineer, that is the hardest thing to capture – that magic that happens when people are in front of other people.”

The recording engineer said he could not be prouder of the recording. In his 30 years in the business, Van Horne said this is as good as anything he has ever recorded.

The CD cover, noted Father Hemann, centers on a photo taken by G.R. Lindblade & Co. that features sun rays glistening through the stained windows at Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City.

“I love the pillars there and I wanted to be photographed there,” said Father Hemann, who once served as the parish’s assistant pastor. “As we got in there, the light was falling beautifully on the pillars from the stained glass windows. We literally had about a half-hour window to get that shot.”

Through the cover, it was the priest’s hope to communicate “the individual soul pouring his heart out to God and heaven – the Lord – meeting the individual as they pray.” He wanted to convey more of a feeling of union with God over just an image of himself.

Soothing, healing
Father Hemann pointed out that prior to his official release of this CD, he had been taking it out with him on pastoral visits to the sick. One woman told him that the minute she would put on the music, her terminally ill husband would calm down and find peace.

“This music is very soothing. It has cello, harp and a hauntingly beautiful Irish whistle,” he said. “They are very gentle, prayerful, even songs.”

The songs have been used to minister to not only the terminally ill, he added, but to women in labor. Others have informed him that the songs have been successful in quieting their children down at bedtime.

Years ago
The thought of doing this project has been simmering for years.

Father David mentioned that recently a classmate of his from St. Edmond High School reminded him that back in Father Kielbasa’s religion class as a high school student he said one day he would put the Psalms to music.

“When God puts something in your heart, it eventually comes to be,” Father Hemann said.
The actual work on the CD began in 2007, noted Father Hemann. Psalms of David was completed on Nov. 22, one year to the day from when Father Hemann’s brother Mike died.

“I believe in the communion of saints and I believe Mike was very much helping me with this project,” he said.
He mentioned that many of the songs were either written or perfected during his visits to the New Melleray Abbey. One monk, after hearing his music, commented that one song was like a mini-retreat.

Before he begins a project, he prays to God and asks the Lord if he is supposed to proceed forward. Prior to his first day of recording in the studio in the summer of 2008 he prayed at a church in Omaha.

He got his answer when he picked up a book and randomly opened it up to the following quote: “King David published songs and appointed them to be sung with joy. He himself likewise often sang them, playing upon his harp, inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Father Hemann acknowledged that much time and energy goes into creating a CD, but that’s what he does on his days off because “I just love it, it gives me life.”


Jefferson, October 24, 2007
-- We have been watching and listening to the musical and ministerial career of Father David Hemann develop in northwest Iowa over the past two decades, and he has now reached a level where people around the nation are indeed coming his way. The 48-year-old Hemann was in Jefferson Sunday evening, October 21, to do 90 minutes of music and meditation with about 150 people who turned out for a Faith Festival of our Greene County Catholic churches. A good number of people of other faiths were also in the audience at the parish center of St. Joseph Catholic Church. Maybe most remarkable, the crowd included all ages and he seemed to captivate everybody in the hall -- adults and kids alike.

Father David Hemann, a rising star in Catholic music from northwest Iowa, is shown here performing the evening of October 21 in the parish hall of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jefferson.

He came with good news, having just returned from the 2007 “Unity Awards” national competition of the United Catholic Music & Video Association in Phoenix, where his new song “Walk on Water” was named “Praise & Worship Song of the Year.” That competition is the Catholic equivalent of the well-known “Dove” awards for Protestant musicians.

Hemann is now pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Ida Grove and Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Holstein. He has recorded five CDs of original music in recent years, performing on guitar, drums and vocals. His latest CD, “Gathered Wisdom,” includes the award-winning song and others that he says reflect the lessons he’s learned in his 22 years in the priesthood.

Father Hemann signs a CD for Aubrey Heupel, 5, of Jefferson while her father Dave Heupel watches. Father Hemann conducted the marriage of Dave and Kristen Heupel, both of whom are teachers in the Jefferson-Scranton Community Schools.

“I come from a devout Catholic and intensely musical family in Fort Dodge,” Hemann said. “One of the things I’ve learned in 22 years as a priest is that with talk, you can reach people’s minds, but if you use music, too, you can touch their hearts.”

He said writing and performing his music is also his own favorite form of prayer. “This is what I do when I have my own prayer time – I sing,” he told the crowd Sunday evening. “I don’t write these songs to entertain people, although I’m glad they do. I write them to praise the Lord.”

He is a graduate of St. Edmond Catholic High School in Fort Dodge, Loras College in Dubuque and seminary in Rome, and he played a wide variety of music on his way to the priesthood. That included playing three years with a touring rock ’n’ roll band before he started college. “That band was named ‘Ramblin’,” he said, “kind of like my homilies now.”

The crowd for Father Hemann's performance included a number of people from other churches as well as Catholics. Shown with him after his concert are Jefferson's United Methodist pastors Rev. Bill and Rev. Sheri Daylong.

His musical style ranges widely – folk, Irish, monastic, a touch of rock and even classical. For his next CD, he is planning “to put the Psalms of David to classical guitar music, backed by harp and cello.” Plus, he’s got a gift of gab that makes his concerts as fun as they are spiritual.

He has often used his musical ability in his pastoral assignments, which besides Ida Grove and Holstein, have included parishes in Carroll, Storm Lake, Boone, Sioux City, Hospers, Sanborn and Hartley. And he has performed in concerts all across the Sioux City Diocese and beyond.

You can learn more about Father Hemann, and order his CDs, on the Internet site

Father Hemann signs another CD, this one for St. Joseph parish member Jean Fountain.

''These are my babies!'' Father David Hemann said, pointing to his guitars, when he was greeted before his concert by St. Joseph's pastor Father Don Ries.


Article from the Catholic Globe
Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City
October 2007

Father Hemann wins Unity Award for best praise and worship song
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor

Father David Hemann, a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City known for his original spiritual music, recently performed at the Orpheum Theater. But that theater wasn't the one located in downtown Sioux City, it was in Phoenix, Ariz. and was the venue for the 8th Annual Unity Awards.

Sponsored by the United Catholic Music and Video Association, the show was held on Oct. 6. Raymond Arroyo, EWTN journalist and book author, served as the master of ceremonies for the event that recognized excellence in Christian music, video and radio.

The diocesan priest was not only on hand to perform, but he was also up for five awards. He was nominated in these five categories:

*Gathered Wisdom was up for the best devotional album of the year.

*Gathered Wisdom was up for the best praise and worship album of the year.

*The song Mary Thrice Admirable was up for best devotional song of the year.

*The song Be Mine was up for the best liturgical/sacramental song of the year.

*The song Walk on Water was up for the best praise and worship song of the year.

"When I got to the hotel, they gave us a package of the overview of the night," recalled Father Hemann, who is pastor at Sacred Heart in Ida Grove and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Holstein. "After the intro was the opening song, Walk on Water. I was thrilled to see that I was the opening act."

Father Hemann played guitar and offered vocals and longtime friend Msgr. Michael Heras of Texas played piano.

"It was a highlight for me to perform," said Father Hemann.

When they were set to perform, it was Arroyo who introduced Father Hemann and Msgr. Heras.

"The curtain opened and there was a huge glitch in the sound system - a horrible feedback and buzzing sound that filled the Orpheum Theater. Then there was just dead silence, and I said, 'Don't worry, things like this happen to me every week at liturgy.'"

The sound system was fixed and he was able to perform "without a hitch."

In the end, Father Hemann took home one award. It was for Walk on Water - the best praise and worship song of the year. Given that it was the opening act, that is the one that he thought had the best chance to win.

"It is a powerful song with a powerful message," he said. "People seem to like it upon first hearing it."

When he offered comments as he accepted the award, Father Hemann explained that he thanked the people - other artists and people in the Christian music industry - for voting for him. He added, "I held up the award and said 'Things like this don't happen to me every week at liturgy, but something much greater happens every Sunday. Christ gives us his body and blood, soul and divinity through the Eucharist.' I asked my fellow musicians to continue to craft beautiful music that will continue to make the Lord known and praise his name in the world."

It was important for him to put the focus on God because that is why he and so many of the Christian musicians make their music.

For each category, there was an average of five to 10 nominations.

"I had told several people that if I receive one award, I'd be ecstatic and if I received none I would have still been happy because when you are nominated - you are already a winner," he said.

Artists from United States, Canada, South America and even parts of Europe were nominated for these awards.

While not many people could attend the awards show, several people caught it in the podcast.

This was not his first Unity Award. The priest received one in 2004 for an EWTN television show that he co-hosted with Msgr. Heras, Alive With Baptism. The award was for best religious television presentation for Catholic evangelization of the year.

"The show covered the seven sacraments and with it being a 13-part series, we addressed other dimensions of the Catholic life - living our baptism," explained Father Hemann.

After every episode, the show concluded with one of Father Hemann's original songs.

"What was disheartening was that the minute it went on the air, EWTN had just been pulled off the air in Sioux City," he said. "The funny thing is that we just got EWTN back in Sioux City and now the show is just running again."

That show is in reruns now on EWTN, airing at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays.

He will also be featured on another EWTN program called Backstage, which airs at 9 p.m. on Thursday. Father Hemann will perform songs and offer reflections during the 30-minute show. (No specific date for the airing has been set at this time but it is anticipated to air in next four to six weeks.)

The two priests are presently looking at doing another series.

Father Hemann is also working on his next album. He already has five songs for his next project titled, Psalms of David. It will be predominately classical guitar and vocals with the possibility of some harp.

The diocesan priest is also willing to present concerts at parishes in the diocese. With meditations and reflections sprinkled throughout the performance, many find his concerts to be like mini retreats.

"My concerts are prayers - 'whoever sings, prays twice' says St. Augustine," he said.

Father Hemann pointed out that he loves music at all levels. When he was a seminarian in Rome, he was the head of a liturgical music group for Masses and found there to be a "beautiful integration of organ and guitar music."

The two instruments can co-exist.

"You can play the organ, piano or guitar in a very irreverent way or you can play all three of those instruments in a very reverent and classical way. It is not the instrument - it's how you play them and pray them," he said.


Article from the Catholic Globe
Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City
July 2007

Father Hemann to release new album
By Renee Webb, Globe editor

When Father David Hemann was just 4 years old he already knew he wanted to become a priest. It was also at a young age when his love of music became apparent. He credited his faith-filled family for nurturing his love of God and music.

Soon this priest of the Diocese of Sioux City will release his fifth major album.

His latest project is titled Gathered Wisdom: Songs to Live By, which is slated for release on June 15.

"Each one of the songs contains a piece of wisdom like Climbing Down to Greatness talks about humility and Walk on Water is about having faith," he said. "These are songs of how the Lord has helped me to live my life better - with more joy and more peace."

This will be his first album since Holy Warriors, which was released in 2000.

"The whole album was a seven-year process - slow cooking," noted Father Hemann, who is pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Ida Grove and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Holstein. "As a priest, I'm so busy it's hard for me to take a lot of time for my music but by slowing down the process, it turned out to be a better loaf of bread - a better meal."

Gathered Wisdom features 11 songs, two of which are instrumentals.

One of the songs with special meaning for the priest is By My Side. It is centered on perseverance. The lyrics for this song came from a poem by Carrie Mach, the former Bishop Heelan High School student who died on Dec. 7, 2000, after a nine-year battle with cancer. This was the first song on this album that he wrote.

"I had the poem sent to me after she died and I was immediately touched by it," he said. The song centers on trusting God even in the darkness and in the lowest moments.

While he wrote the song years ago, Father Hemann said that by adding little musical parts here and there the music matured over time and now finally matches the poem.

Another one his favorites on the album is Mary Thrice Admirable. It is built on a theme of intimacy and communion with the saints.

"It comes out of a very personal encounter with Mary, inviting her to be my mother in a very deep way," said Father Hemann.

He pointed out that Jesus doesn't "kick down the door to come in - he gently knocks until we let him in. The Blessed Mother is very much that way. She says, 'I am everyone's mother. I will never force my way into people's lives but if they ask me to be in their lives, I will come.'"

After reflecting on the gentle nature and motherly love of Mary, the priest wondered why he only occasionally asked her into his life. That led to the lyrics, "Be with me every moment of every day for the rest of my life."

Father Hemann said that from that point on his life became sweeter. He acknowledged that he felt more forgiving of people who hurt him, felt kinder and more at peace.

"When you are working on these songs you hear them over and over. Even with the best songs you can be thinking that I've heard it enough but that's the one song I haven't heard enough," he said.

The album features two Marian songs, the other being Climbing Down to Greatness.

"The Lord doesn't look at your title. He looks at how much you love," said Father Hemann. "Climbing down to greatness Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give his life for man. Then I looked at who other than Jesus himself is the greatest human being - Mary."

Originally he had used words from The Beatitudes for the song, but had an epiphany moment while driving home from the funeral of Msgr. Michael Sernett's father. Father Hemann was listening to the musical track without lyrics when The Magnificat popped into his mind.

"It just flowed," he said. "It has a really nice hook, 'Calling me blessed, blessed.'"

Other songs featured on the album and the correlating bit of wisdom include The Dawning of the Day (awakening faith), Walk on Water (faith), Be Mine (love), Pot of Gold (detachment - seeking God alone), Mercy (mercy), May You Live (hope), Just Be (contemplation) and Veronica (compassion).

While the priest acknowledged that these are only a few pieces of wisdom, the songs touch upon many foundational components of the church including faith, hope and love.

Father Hemann, who recorded the album in his home studio, stressed the fact that many people helped him with the project.

His brother Patrick, who originally taught him how to play guitar, sang backup on the album with four local female vocalists. Sean Conway of the Irish Brigade played whistle on the album. Joe Hand, who plays bass for John Michael Talbot and Bobby Goldboro, mixed and mastered the album.

One of his best friends from the seminary days, Msgr. Michael Heras, plays the piano on Gathered Wisdom.

Father Hemann had been in charge of a liturgical music group from the North American College that played for Masses and his piano player for the group was Michael Heras. He remembered that he sent a tape home to his parents of some of the liturgies.

"I told my parents that Michael Heras will one day play on my albums," said Father Hemann. "I envisioned the whole thing even back then. This is like a dream come true."

The two priests have not only collaborated on the music scene but also co-hosted EWTN's show Alive With Baptism.

Father Hemann pointed out that his priest friend offered "a hauntingly beautiful instrumental" on the song Veronica, which was inspired by the movie Passion of the Christ. It is one of two instrumental selections on Gathered Wisdom.

He extended gratitude to G.R. Lindblade and Co. for their photography and CD cover design. The cover features a little boy picking up rocks - symbolizing picking up bits of wisdom.

Like the priesthood, Father Hemann said he always knew he wanted music to be a part of his life.

"While drums are my first instrument, early on I learned to play the guitar. Even before going to kindergarten, I remember sitting on the couch and I stopped my mom as she was going up the stairs with a basket of laundry," he recalled. "I told her I made up my own song and it wasn't even Jingle Bells."

The priest has written many songs since that time and gives thanks to God for his gift.

"There are times when I will do a song and people are deeply touched. I realize that it's not my skill and voice alone but it's skill and voice combined with the presence of the Holy Spirit that seems to touch people's hearts," he said. "I've had so many people after concerts and years later tell me how the music has healed their aching hearts, helped them in their journey. I've even had people tell me the music is their constant companion."

Father Hemann said he believes music will be one of the greatest joys in heaven.

"Before anything else I am a son of God and as a son of God I've heard him call me to be a priest. Despite my own humanity, weakness and sinfulness he still works through me," he said. "As a human being I am also a musician. Music has a way of getting theological concepts beyond the mind, into the heart."

Music, he noted, is a tool of evangelization and healing. He added that his music crosses generation - from small children to youth, middle-age adults and seniors.

During concerts he shares his vision of the songs, evangelizes and shares the Gospel.

As Father Hemann was putting the finishing touches on the Gathering Wisdom project, he mentioned that he didn't really want to think about working on another album. One day after he told Joe Hand that it might be his last album, he woke up with the theme for his next project - Psalms of David. Other ideas for future projects include an album focused on the Breviary as well as a Christmas album.


Article from the Sioux City
June 2007

Father Hemann: The Singing Priest
Siouxland parish priest's fifth CD released this week
By John Quinlan, Journal staff writer

In 1964, a Dominican nun from Belgium named Jeanine Deckers, best known as the Singing Nun, appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" to sing her chart-topping smash hit, "Dominique."

At about the same time, a 4-year-old boy named David Hemann, growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and singing Beatles songs, decided that he wanted to be a priest. Today, his parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Ida Grove, Iowa, and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Holstein, Iowa, call him Father Hemann. But to many who have heard him at concerts throughout the Diocese of Sioux City or worldwide through the Catholic cable TV network, EWTN, he may be best known as the Singing Priest.

His fan base can be expected to grow when his latest album, his fifth, "Gathered Wisdom: Songs to Live By," is released today. There will be a CD release party at 7 p.m. today at the Skate Palace in Ida Grove.

"It sure is wonderful having a priest with his talent," said Lenee Sinnott, director of religious education at Sacred Heart Church. "I have all his CDs. He's enjoyable to listen to. It's uplifting and sort of almost like praying when you listen to and sing along with his CDs."

Hemann comes from a musical family, particularly on his mother's side, where his grandfather and an uncle played violin. Uncle Don even played for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Dad was more of a picker-and-grinner type with his guitar. So although his first real love, musically speaking, was the Fab Four, his own music reflects the classical and country pickin' influences from his family.

Though best known now for his guitar picking, Hemann started as a drummer, even playing as a teenager with Ramblin', a popular Fort Dodge rock band that cut a couple of popular regional records.

"I remember I used to turn upside down a Quaker Oats box, and we had an old drum pad and some broken drumsticks," he said.

Later, older brother Pat, one of five brothers, taught him how to play guitar. "And the first three chords I learned were E, D and A. And the first song I ever learned was a Gloria, but it was by a rock group," he said, singing: "'G-L-O-R-I-A, Gloria!' That's the first song I ever learned."

Even as a kindergartener, though, he was making up his own songs.

Coming from a religious and devout family, the priesthood seemed inevitable. Fortunately for him, the music didn't have to end when he donned the cassock.

Touching the heart

"I knew in high school that I wanted to do something with music, and I knew how much music could touch my heart and touch the hearts of many other people," he said.

He was particularly inspired by popular Christian recording artist (and later mentor) John Michael Talbot, whom he saw in concert.

"I heard his 'The Lord's Supper' and I realized very strongly that music is greater than the musician and their skill. There's something going on with the presence of God. At that concert, I was so deeply touched by the Lord's love. It wasn't just skill and good voice. It was something deeper," he said.

With a good artist, the music doesn't stop with the artist, he noted.

In addition to the Beatles, secular influences include Billy Joel; Yes; Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Carl Palmer influencing his drumming more than any other); some Southern rockers and The Moody Blues. People often tell him his music sounds like the Moody Blues. But he wouldn't walk across the street to see The Rolling Stones. Christian music influences include Chuck Girard and the Monks of St. Meinrad.

He said he got goosebumps when he heard a beautiful Christian song and recognized the singer as early hero Jon Anderson of Yes. "Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson, they're all coming to Christianity. I'm still praying for Madonna," he said.

Hemann recalls attending a Dan Fogelberg concert in Sioux City years ago, and Fogelberg sang about darkness and his light shining in the darkness, "and then it's like, let it shine," he said.

"You know how skateboarders hit a ramp, A good musician is like a ramp. You come at the musician. The music draws you to themselves. But then you go beyond them, and you're brought up to a higher place. You're brought up to a place of inspiration and love and healing and joy and warmth and well-being. And that I call God."

Which makes his music ministry "the greatest joy."

His parishioners appreciate that, said Sacred Heart parishioner David Forbes, who teaches high school religious-education classes with Hemann. "He plays and sings with the kids, and the high school kids just thoroughly enjoy it."

Father Hemann works particularly well with the youth groups he started in Ida Grove and Holstein, Sinnot noted. "It's almost like getting a miniretreat each time we have religious-ed classes," she said. He also started successful youth groups in Boone, Sioux City and Sanborn/Hartley.

Everyone in the area knows the singing priest, whether Catholic or not, and nobody has ever knocked his music, Forbes said.

"We feel blessed to have him in our parish, and we really like his music," he said. "He thoroughly enjoys it, too, and you can really tell that, especially when he does live concerts."

In the beginning

Hemann was ordained a deacon in 1984 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 20, 1985, at Corpus Christi Church in Fort Dodge. His assignments took him to various parishes in the Sioux City Diocese and in 2001 he was assigned as pastor at Ida Grove, adding the Holstein parish one year later.

His music, meanwhile, has lent itself to involvement in a number of nationwide ministries of giving retreats, missions and concerts. He co-hosted a 13-part series on EWTN called "Alive with Baptism," a music-filled teaching series, with longtime friend and music collaborator Msgr. Michael Heras. And he will soon appear on the EWTN series "Backstage," which features Catholic musicians from around the country.

One highlight was being a featured artist in the presence of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India, at the first World Youth Day in Rome in 1984. During 2000-2001, he was released for one year from his regular priestly duties to pursue a special music/preaching ministry around the diocese.

He took another year off early in his career to spend time with John Michael Talbot's religious community in Arkansas. He toured with his mentor and even did some recording with the Catholic music star. Though a great experience, it reinforced his near-lifelong desire to be a diocesan priest.

"I wanted to be a diocesan priest since I was 4 years old. And through many trials and many tests, this has been the thing that has been constant and strong," he said.

In 1992, he released his first album, "Let Nothing Trouble You," a collection of prayers and wisdom.

He has been doing formal concerts since 1992. But he is doing fewer these days, one or two Sunday night concerts a month, due to the demands of his parish work. Because he is such a busy priest, this latest album was a slow brew, taking seven years to percolate.

He sells most of his albums at these concerts. At least half the people attending buy the CD, he said.

"People come to a concert and they have an experience of the Lord at the concert, and I know it's more than my skill and voice. I mean, I'm not bad, but there's musicians out there much more talented than I am," he said. "It's my voice and my guitar, but the Lord's spirit. So in a way I kind of cheat because when people are really touched, I can't really take much credit for it."

As the latest album was winding down, Hemann swore he would do no more. Well, maybe he didn't swear. And it didn't take him long to change his mind.

"The next album, I'm going to be a little wiser. As I write songs, I'm going to record them instead of waiting until the end," he said of a coming album inspired by the Psalms of David.

Then again, because "Gathered Wisdom" has been such a slow cooker, he noted, the songs were given a chance to mature. One song in particular, "By My Side," a poem written by Sioux City's Carrie Mach and put to music by him, became "massively better" over the years, he said. Mach was a Heelan student who died in 2000 after a nine-year battle with cancer.

"She was a vivacious and very rascally young girl. But in the midst of that cancer she had to let go more and more of herself, and she embraced God more and more, even in darkness. And she reflected the wisdom of such mystics as John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, who talk about what we need to go through, the dark nights, to come through to God's fair lights," he said. "And that's in her poem. And she really attained it.

"It was such a joy to play that for Rick and Ann, her parents. For them to hear it, it was a very touching moment."


Article from the Sioux City
June 2007

'Gathered Wisdom' found in rectory
By John Quinlan, Journal staff writer

To the Rev. David Hemann's ears, the best music must be meaningful, inspirational.

"It's not just strumming notes," he said.

Several years ago, he and his brother Paul went to see Elton John and Billy Joel in concert at the Iowa State University football stadium in Ames. "It was a great concert, but after that, I left saying, 'That was very entertaining, but it didn't inspire me.' It didn't take me there," he said. "Just to put it into perspective, Billy Joel and Elton John together, which would be many people's dream, didn't even touch what a couple of John Michael Talbot's concerts have done for me."

The way he responds to Talbot's music is the reaction he is hoping for when his latest album, "Gathered Wisdom: Songs to Live By," is released today in Ida Grove after seven years of gestation.

The album was recorded in his own small studio, housed in a room in the Sacred Heart Church rectory in Ida Grove. Hemann does the mixing and puts it on Pro Tools, a digital audio workstation that integrates hardware and software, providing CD-quality multitrack digital audio editing on his computer. He sent the rough tracks for "Gathered Wisdom" to a professional engineer in Nashville, where some bass and organ tracks were added.

"You don't always have to run to a big studio someplace," he said. "If you know how to mic correctly, and if you know what you're doing, you can take it and you can do a lot with some pretty inexpensive equipment. It's a 16-track Corg D1600. It's a 16-track! So you can have 8 times 16, That's how many tracks I can theoretically have on each song.

"So I can overdub voices and harmonies. And it's really neat to create."

A quiet retreat

The creative work doesn't start in the studio. Most of it begins in a Trappist monastery outside Dubuque, Iowa. Hemann, 47, writes and puts most of his songs into final form at the New Mallory Abbey, where he has found refuge for 30 years, Some of the music on the new album is a little too upbeat to play for the monks, as is his custom; but Brother David, the head monk, should be happy with the gentler "Songs of David," once they're written for Hemann's next album.

"Every one of those songs is going to be able to be played in the abbey," he said. They're going to be very meditative, prayerful songs.

"Now this last one has some really rockin' and kickin' songs. 'Climbing Down to Greatness' is a real rib-kickin' song -- I mean, just kind of Journeyesque. A little bit like Journey. Just tons of harmonies," he said.

His brother Pat sings with him on that song. Longtime collaborator Msgr. Michael Heras contributed to the album, and he also enlisted the talents of trumpet player Paul Cooney, one of his parishioners, just two years out of high school but sounding like a professional, he said.

The collaborators, most of whom are his good friends and parishioners, leave each recording session with an extra 50 bucks apiece in their pockets, which is a lot cheaper than hiring professional musicians.

In his own words

Hemann penned all but one of the tracks on the new album himself.

The exception is "Dawning of the Day," an Irish jig that an Omaha friend, Irish whistle player Sean Conway, played at a funeral in Ida Grove. Asked by Hemann to play something appropriate, Conway picked this haunting and beautiful old Irish air. "I knew on the spot that this would be the opening piece for the album," Hemann said.

Each song on the album provides a bit of wisdom.

"Dawning of the Day," for instance, illuminates the awakening of faith.

"Walk on Water" is about faith.

The title of "Mercy" is self-explanatory.

"Mary Thrice Admirable" concerns itself with intimacy and communion with the saints.

"By My Side," the song taken from a poem by Sioux City student Carrie Mach who was dying of cancer (see main story), is about perseverance and courage.

The others are: "Be Mine," love; "Pot of Gold," detachment; "Climbing Down to Greatness," humility; "Just Be," contemplation; "May You Live," hope; and "Veronica," compassion.

"And the whole focus of 'Gathered Wisdom' is these chunks of wisdom that have come from the church and my own lived experience, with the express purpose of helping us walk our journey with more peace, love, light, direction and joy," Hemann said. "These songs are illuminations of God's truth and love to help us get through this life. Each song has a kind of a focus."