You might think you’d never meet a serious Catholic in a popular rock band. Think again. And meet Ray Hermann.
Ray Herrmann is currently on tour, entertaining thousands of fans across Europe as the lead saxophonist and flautist for Chicago, one of the world’s longest running rock bands.
A highly gifted Grammy award-winning musician and one of the world’s finest session players in the industry, he has also performed with many of America’s leading rock musicians over the past 20 years, such as Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.
Yet Herrmann’s most prized musical achievement isn’t so much accompanying these famous names in front of vast crowds, but rather a set of high quality CDs he and his wife Theresa have produced, together with the Redemptorists, comprising the music of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori.
The three CD albums consist of “Praying the Rosary with St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori,” “Praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary,” and “Praying the Way of the Cross,” which features the prayers of the 18th-century saint and the voice of the Hollywood actor Liam Neeson.
“It’s been a mission of love for my wife and me,” the devout Catholic Herrmann tells me while in Rome on the Italian leg of Chicago’s European tour.
And there’s this, about his spiritual life:
Meeting Ray Herrmann, a humble man of deep faith, elicits an obvious question: how does he live out his faith in what is notoriously a hedonistic and irreligious environment?
“Some days are more difficult than others, I must be honest,” he replies. “But I think that through the Church and the sacraments, it’s easy really when you think about it. All the tools are there — you just have to sort of follow the Church’s teachings.”
He says he doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, but people know he’s Catholic and it doesn’t seem to bother them. “Some of the lyrics I probably wouldn’t have written myself,” he laughs, “but I’m providing for my family, and providing entertainment. By providing entertainment there’s a responsibility there and as a Catholic I try, when I get the chance, to be as forthright as I can be about my faith and what it means to me.” He also says he’s not always alone in the faith and is sometimes surprised to see, while on tour, a crew member sitting in the same church.
Asked if any of the great artists he has played with live a life of faith, he noted Bob Dylan and in particular the rock guitarist Carlos Santana. They have “a huge spirituality” he says, but they’re not Catholic. “I talk to them about it and I can appreciate [their faith], especially Santana’s. I haven’t worked a ton with him, but we did some gigs. He’s a very spiritual guy and he tries to take music to a spiritual place.”
As for himself, Herrmann says that before a concert, he always prays that he will “play to the glory of God.” “That’s what I pray for, that people find joy in my music,” he says. “I might be doing some Christina Aguilera session, but I hope I bring that. I talked with Santana about that, that you sort of try to bring that to every musical experience, whatever it is.”