Richard Proulx Extended Biography

Composer, conductor, musician, educator, music editor

Richard Thomas Proulx was one of the most important composers of liturgical music in the twentieth century. Modern Liturgy Magazine called him the “most significant liturgical composer of the last twenty years.” Originally from Saint Paul, Proulx was born on April 3rd, 1937 to Raymond and Helen Proulx. He began piano studies at the age of six followed soon after by composition lessons in middle school. Both outside sources and Proulx himself recognized the benefits of the outstanding musical education offered at St. Patrick’s Parochial School located in St. Paul, MN. Proulx later studied at McPhail College in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota receiving a degree in organ performance. Following graduate studies, he received an honorary doctorates from the University of St. Thomas in 1989 and the General Theological Seminary in 1994.

Proulx began his professional career at Church of the Holy Childhood in Saint Paul, MN where he worked and directed for 15 years. Following his time in St. Paul, he directed and played for ten years at Saint Thomas Church in Seattle (1970-1980) before moving to the Cathedral of the Holy Name in Chicago where he played the organ and directed music for twenty years. Beyond his compositional pursuits, Proulx worked hard as an educator and clinician, teaching abroad in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland , and throughout the United States.

Proulx was prolific, writing more than 300 works in five plus decades as a professional musician and composer. His compositional abilities were broad, spanning the realms of instrumental, choral, and mixed ensemble works. He is well-known for many of his substantial works including his church opera, The Pilgrim, his Concerto for Organ and Strings, and The Child’s Book of Beasts. He also composed pieces and hymns familiar to many congregations, such as I Received the Living God (tune composed by the French Benedictine, Dom Clément Jacob (1906-1977), harmonization that appear in hymnals published by GIA Publications (Chicago) composed by Richard), and a Community Mass. Beyond his compositional endeavors, Proulx also consulted and contributed to Hymnal 1982 and The New Yale Hymnal among many others.

Proulx is also known for his founding of The Cathedral Singers in 1991. He directed the independent recording ensemble and spurred the release of more than twenty recordings of sacred music. The Cathedral singers have performed both in the US and abroad.

Proulx’s talents also reached into the secular world. He composed an orchestral score for documentary film The Golden Door, and his organ arrangement of Veni Creator was featured in the 1997 film The Devil’s Own. Work from The Cathedral Singers, made two television debuts on NBC’s hit show ER. Aside from appearances in television and film, Proulx put his composing talents to work in jingle writing and advertisement, composing the theme song for Union Pacific Railroad in 1971.

Saint John’s University enjoyed a long association with Richard Proulx, awarding him its highest honor, the Pax Christi Award, in 1998. As a young man, Proulx studied Gregorian chant at Saint John’s and later taught hymnody and composition in summer sessions at the University. Saint John’s commissioned his choral work, Where Your Glory Abides. The Proulx collection is a significant part of the Library’s holdings in sacred music, which Proulx helped establish by facilitating the acquisition of the Bruce Larsen collection. Alcuin Library at Saint John’s University is the home of his collection of compositions, including manuscripts as well as published pieces.

Proulx passed away on Thursday Feb 18th, 2010 at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, but his spirit lives on in the works and music he left to the world. Services in his memory were held at parishes in Chicago and St. Paul. With the generosity of Richard and the Proulx family, St. John’s Alcuin Library is committed to the preservation of his work and legacy.

For more information on Richard Proulx:

Thurman, F. Anthony. “Richard Proulx Selected to Receive AGO Distinguished Composer Award.”
American Organist Magazine: News Bulletins., 28 Nov. 2005.

Manchi, Donato. “Richard Proulx: Biography.” 2012. Web. 16 May. 2012.

“Richard Proulx, 1937-2010.” 2012. Web. 17 May. 2012.

“Obituary: Richard Proulx.” Star 28 Feb. 2010. Web. 17 May 2010.