Photo of St Oscar Romero
© 1979 Carlos Reyes-Manzo
Photo of St Oscar Romero
© 1979 Carlos Reyes-Manzo
ROMERO the Musical by George Daly and Liam Bauress is a heartfelt tribute to 'Monsenor', a once anonymous title which has come to mean only one man, St Oscar Romero, beatified by Pope Francis in San Salvador in 2015 and canonised in Rome in 2018.
This website provides a complete downloadable package to help any school or community drama group stage the musical and to play its part in the world-wide commemoration of the canonisation of Oscar Romero in 2018.
Liam Bauress, the composer, says:
The entire show is being made available thanks to the generosity of my late father, Robert Vincent Bauress. The website is dedicated to his memory.
This is not a personal moneymaking venture. The downloads are very reasonably priced and all proceeds go directly to CAFOD's development projects in El Salvador. Give more if you feel you should. There is a facility for making a general donation on the resources page.
Video extracts are from the archive recording of the 1982 Worth Abbey production (Copyright © 1980-2020 George Daly and Liam Bauress).
Track names are shown in parentheses, thus (Our World/Blessed are They).
Romero tells the story of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador in Central America, who was assassinated on 24th March 1980 because he dared to stand up for human rights and social justice (Our World/Blessed are They).
The musical opens with the inauguration of this very mild-mannered man (Fiesta) who even questions his friend, the Jesuit priest, Rutilio Grande (already championing the cause of human rights) as to why he cares so much.
Alvarez, Aparicio and the Nuncio are highly conservative bishops who are concerned that Rutilio's work will cause problems within El Salvador (Remind You) where there is already some civil unrest with the ARENA party (on the extreme right) forming up against the REDS (on the far left). But through their worries comes the voice of Rutilio and his supporters.
Civil War breaks out (Civil War) showing the tumultuous state that El Salvador is in, and Julio (a seventeen-year old boy) and Jean Donovan, a young American lay-worker (who was later killed with three American nuns in December 1980 – see the film 'Roses in December' by Ana Carrigan) sing of their affection for El Salvador which they can see slowly being torn apart (Salvador). In the same song, Major Roberto D'Aubuisson reveals his intention to maintain control and power no matter what the cost.
Rutilio Grande and Julio are shot dead on the way to a celebration of mass with campesinos. This makes a huge impact on Romero who pledges to continue Rutilio's work – giving a voice to the voiceless – knowing he is likely to suffer the same fate (My Friend). Jean cries over the body of her friend Julio, and Romero's conviction grows (Nightmares).
There is a bishops' meeting where Romero and his supportive colleague Rivera voice their feeling that the church should show their humanity and take a stand against the government. This is met with opposition from Aparicio and Alvarez. (Bishops' Meeting). Romero decides that the following Sunday there will be a special mass in honour of Rutilio celebrated in front of the cathedral – and that day all the other churches San Salvador will be closed, an unprecedented move.
Romero gives a moving homily at Rutilio's funeral condemning the national security regime (Rutilio's Funeral Kyrie/Romero's Homily/Gloria).
Next we are introduced to Maria Gomez, school teacher and mother of the journalist/narrator who has been a follower of Rutilio's cause (Green Leaf/Gloria (reprise), and we see that Romero has introduced the Community Radio 'YSAX' to try and give a louder voice to the people (Love Your Enemies/YSAX Radio), often to be a target for sabotage and bombs.
D'Aubuisson is by now getting agitated with Romero, fearing that through his work with the people and hearing their plight, he is becoming a threat to the military regime and its national security state (National Security State). Indeed Romero's next homily is aimed at the soldiers imploring them not to kill (You Must Not Obey/Homily 2). The First Act ends with Maria and children putting their faith in Mother Church as the only hope for the 'Good Life' to return (Where is the Good Life?).
Act 2 opens with an insight into the REDS' approach to life (Conga).
Romero speaks at a fiesta in San Antonio Abad (Homily 3/Magnificat/Songs of Joy) and is invited to live at a hospice for the dying, which he does (The Hospital – Dateline #5).
In the hospice, Romero sits with Maria and her son the journalist. The song (So Many Ways to Die) alludes to the death of Jesus and Romero.
We now return to D'Aubuisson and his Death Squad who are harshly criticising Romero (His Mother Was). This is answered in Romero's solo where he forgives them, knowing that he is likely to die at their hands (If They Kill Me).
Romero brings his message (Sanctus/Listen) to the huge gathering of Latin American bishops at Puebla, Mexico. He answers his critics as to why the church has become so involved in social justice (Interview at Puebla/Our Father).
As a warning, Romero's friend Father Octavio Ortiz is kidnapped and killed by D'Aubuisson and the Death Squad (Ev'ry Man is Vulnerable). This hits Romero hard although he is offered some comfort in the voice of Jean (I Feel So Alone). This gives him the strength to continue, even writing to US President Jimmy Carter urging him to reconsider sending Military Aid to the Salvadorean government (Last Sunday Sermon/Stop the Repression). Through his urgent and direct appeal to rank-and-file soldiers to end the repression, Romero's fate is sealed.
Next day, while celebrating the Eucharist, Romero is assassinated (This is My Body).
The musical draws to a close with a reflection on what has come before (Blessed is He/Basta Ya/Agnus Dei), and the Narrator gives his final bulletin (Dateline #8) leading into the funeral massacre (the video includes Anne Daly's original audio recording of the harrowing scenes in San Salvador Cathedral – reproduced by kind permission).
We then see that Rivera has succeeded Romero as archbishop, still echoing his words and thus ensuring that Romero's legacy will live on (Never Die).
Romero is scored for
The percussion could be managed by someone with a second keyboard as there is a variety of instruments. But the marimba ideally needs to be real; it is a key sound of the arrangement as it was believed to be Oscar Romero's favourite instrument, and it acts as the Central American 'continuo'. Also the 2 timpani are used a lot and provide power that a keyboard sample couldn't. Even if a keyboard is used it is recommended real tambourine is employed.
The guitarist should have access to a good nylon strung Spanish or classical guitar as well as an electric. Overdrive (or fuzz) is marked where desired but other effects (tremolo, phase or chorus) I leave to the discretion of the player and MD. The musician needs to be familiar with traditional stave notation as well as chord shapes.
The keyboard covers a variety of sounds. Where a harp is available it should replace the keyboard - in fact the notation is designed for a harpist and will always sound better. Again the harp is a well used instrument in Latin America. It is understood that Romero may often be staged in a liturgical setting with access to a real organ, so dramatically the Mass Sections will benefit from the new sound and position of this instrument where possible. The musician may determine where pedals are assumed to be used. It is permitted for photocopies of the keyboard part to be made to facilitate these optional instruments, but HARP PART or ORGAN PART should be written clearly on the title page and these copies destroyed or returned with the originals as requested.
The strings work as solo instruments, but where possible sections may be used. There are some points in the score where a solo instrument (Violin - Remind You, Cello - Basta Ya) is more suitable and the decision on this is left to the MD. Similarly if divisi strings are more effective than double stops this is permitted.