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A composer from Macau who is to be remembered

admin / May 7, 2021

Aurelio Porfiri

Perhaps someone may be surprised by thinking that a small city like Macau, China, can boast of a musical tradition in the field of liturgical music that has to be highly respected. Yet it is so, thanks above all to the seminary of St. Joseph, a place of formation not only for the local clergy but also for the missions throughout the region. I lived and taught in Macau from 2008 to 2015 and I was able to personally experience this tradition which benefited from the presence of European missionaries who were experts in music, even from Italy. But considering the fact that Macau was under the Portuguese administration, this country provided a large part of the clergy from which the city’s bishops also came from, before it was decided to appoint Chinese bishops, which happened only in 1988. Among the musicians active in the city of Macau, one of the most interesting personalities was a priest named Aureo Castro (1917-1993),  a native of Portugal who lived most of his life in this city where he trained for the priesthood in the seminary of St Joseph.

Despite my studies in the field of sacred music, I must admit that I did not know Aureo Castro before my time in Macau and I must admit that I discovered a very technically savvy musician, thanks to his composition studies at the National Conservatory of Lisbon, where he graduated in 1958. In 1958, his Te Deum for choir and orchestra alternating with Gregorian chant, was performed in Lisbon. This work which was recently performed in Macao, in memory of Father Castro, demonstrates the composer’s great technical expertise and his adherence to liturgical needs in not excessively dilating the times of the Te Deum, given the length of the text. Aureo Castro chooses a certain choral symphonic gigantism that is well calibrated on the Gregorian alternatim that serves as an inspiration for melodies composed in polyphony.

Father Aureo Castro was primarily a priest in the service of the diocese of Macau, but his cultural work was also very important in the city, if you consider him the founder of a music academy dedicated to St Pius X that still exists today and in which many students have been trained. Since I have known the work of this composer better, I have always believed it should also be better appreciated in the international scene of sacred music, given the quality of his work and the tireless work of cultural promotion of which he was a protagonist.