The ancient strains of sacred polyphony reverberate in the heart, soul and impressive vocal chords of the diminutive Arianna Fouch. Now age 20, the homegrown Alaskan’s voice has echoed through local churches for roughly a decade.
In 2016 she took her passion for music to Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where as a junior studying nursing with a biology and sacred music minor she sings in a popular student choir that plans to release its first album later this year.
Fouch’s love for sacred music, however, was first kindled in the Last Frontier.
“My parents have told me that I’ve sung all my life — humming, making up my own songs, and performing them for my family or an audience,” Fouch told the Catholic Anchor.
At age eight she started voice lessons. The first song she “officially learned” and performed was Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” which she sang at Anchorage’s Blessed Sacrament Monastery. Since then she’s sung in local choirs, as a soloist at Holy Family Cathedral, in recitals, high school events and in competitions.
“I really started singing sacred music at the Dominican Rite Latin Mass at Holy Family Cathedral when I was in seventh grade,” Fouch recalled.
She was also a fixture in the choir at Holy Rosary Academy, where she attended 12 years and graduated in 2016. In seventh grade she sung Ave Maria for the school’s graduation ceremony at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage.
“The seniors heard me sing previously and had personally asked me to sing it for their graduation, so now it kinda became a tradition for me to sing it for the rest of the Holy Rosary Academy graduations,” she said.
Holy Rosary’s choir also pushed her to learn different music and take on leadership roles.
“I have sung many songs in the music theater category and love acting and performing them as well, but sacred music is more of my passion,” Fouch said. “Every time I go up to the choir loft at Holy Family to sing chant or polyphony it makes me smile because of my love for it and my love for God — even if it is a very stressful art.”
Last March she joined fellow students at Steubenville in the choral ensemble “Beatus,” which consists of three men and three women.
Matt Wagner, a senior studying sacred music, founded the choir, which sings a variety of Catholic music but is most experienced in Renaissance polyphony, traditional hymnody and Gregorian chant. The album they are recording is centered on the theme of “joyful discipleship.”
Fouch said she would love to someday bring her ensemble group to Alaska, where her parents Jason and Anna still live in Anchorage with her younger brother Joshua.
“We just need to work on the financial part, because traveling all the way to Alaska from Ohio is expensive,” she said, noting that her fellow singers “have heard a lot about Alaska from me and want to visit and sing at all the parishes.”
For now the group is constructing a retreat where they will teach sacred music and its enduring importance, a belief that needs to be rekindled in today’s generation, according to Fouch.
Her current passion for sacred music wasn’t always the case. As a child she found it difficult.
“At first, sacred music was foreign and confusing to me, but I loved singing so I did it anyway,” she said. “It was not until I started studying music and the history of the church during high school and through Holy Rosary’s education and my involvement in Holy Family’s choir when I found a great appreciation for it.”
Today, she wants to spread the news.
“It is so important to me because I find that people in our church today have lost an important part of our liturgy,” she said. “Sacred music brings a great amount of solemnity and reverence that other music does not and there aren’t many churches that have experienced it.”
Fouch hopes to do her part in helping to restore the place of sacred music in the Mass.
“Sacred music is beautiful and has been left as ‘a part of the past’ to some and I want to resurface that beauty and have it accessible to everyone,” she said.
“I’ve heard it said that God is the ‘origin and author of beauty,’” Fouch added. “I believe this to be true because of sacred music. When people listen, when people sing, when people meditate on it, I can see God working in them to show them and help them understand the liturgy and the mysteries that resonate in the verses that the pieces present.”
Fouch loves the famous quote from Saint Augustine: “He who sings well, prays twice.”
“When I sing this music or even just listen to the music, I find myself thinking so intensely about God and what he is saying to me through all the music,” Fouch said. “That is the real beauty of sacred music.”