Saturday, September 23, 2017


The 11 sisters of Siervas are a rock band like ‘nun’ other

CHALLENGE RODDIE Diocese of Orange via AP
Siervas, a nun rock band, performs live on Sept. 8 at the Festival de Cristo at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. The band was born in a Peruvian convent three years ago and has gained an international following.

Members of Siervas rehearse on Sept. 7, a day ahead of their performance at the Christ Cathedral campus in Garden Grove, Calif.
Eleven nuns take the stage wearing traditional black-and white habits but are anything but old school as they belt out songs to the ringing of electric guitar and a rock ‘n’ roll beat.
Known as “Siervas,” the band was born in a Peruvian convent three years ago and now travels far and wide to perform.
Of all the extraordinary things about Siervas the most remarkable may be they are not just a novelty. They have a genuine international following.
Their songs of love and faith have earned over a million YouTube views, led to the release of two CDs and now they are waiting to see if they are among the honorees when Latin Grammy nominations are announced Wednesday.
Siervas recently traveled to Southern California and drew 4,000 people when they headlined a Spanish-language Catholic music festival.
“Everyone was calling our office saying we want to see these nuns, when are they singing?” said Ryan Lilyengren, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which organized the event. “They’re sharing their message in a way people are willing to hear it.”
The nuns, who come from eight countries and range in age from 20s to 40s, insist they aren’t rock stars. But they certainly act the part when on stage performing to the electric guitar, steady drumbeat and catchy lyrics, uniformly smiling as silver crosses dangle from their necks.
Their name Siervas – Spanish for “the servants” – comes from the convent where the band was formed and still lives.
At first, they composed and played music together as a hobby after spending days praying with incarcerated women and the poor in Peruvian shantytowns.
When Siervas had enough original music they compiled a CD. That led to a concert performance that attracted local media attention in Peru and then invitations to perform in nearby Colombia and Ecuador. Interest skyrocketed on the internet and the group released a second CD.
Now, they rehearse together twice a week, melding upbeat lyrics with Latin pop and rock. Each nun also practices daily on her own, honing skills on instruments ranging from cello to electric guitar.
A YouTube video of the group standing on a rooftop helipad overlooking Lima, Peru, and belting out their song “Confía en Dios” – or “Trust in God” – has more than 1 million views.
The band’s popularity comes at a time when the Catholic Church and other religious organizations are seeking to draw younger people. Among America’s so-called millennial generation, more than a third reported no religious affiliation and only 16 percent identified as Catholic, according to a 2014 study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.
“Modern times have modern music,” said Sister Monica Nobl, a 40-year-old vocalist. “Pop-rock music is a kind of music we’ve heard all or lives. We grew up with that kind of music, so it’s also just natural to use it.”
Sister Andrea Garcia, 47, remembers listening to Michael Jackson when she was a college student. She thought she’d pursue a career in biology, but found faith instead.
“We think this music, or this genre, resonates with young people today,” said Garcia, a composer and vocalist from Argentina. “Our goal is that through the melodies, our lyrics will reach people.”
They sing in Spanish and their themes are Christian, but fans post messages to them on social media from Asia and Europe as well as Latin America. And while many fans are devout Catholics, others are from different denominations or even atheists, Garcia said.
Milagros Izagara, a 53-year-old real estate agent in Simi Valley, California, said she isn’t particularly religious but was drawn to the band’s songs encouraging unity.
“I am not a churchgoer, but I love this music,” said Izagara, who helped start a Peruvian community organization in Southern California. “I love it because they are breaking a paradigm. They are out of the box.”


TJM said...

But, but, the "liberals" told us nuns wearing habits were joyless, subservient creatures. The joyless, but dissident, creatures can be found today in women's religious orders who abandoned the habit and are dying out.

Anonymous said...

Who am I to judge another's spirituality? While some might feel comfortable in religious attire, others might find it an obstacle to their faith. That doesn't say that I was a big fan of the seculazation of religion, but I often think of blue jeans and a hoodie as a valid Franciscan habitat.

TJM said...

except Vatican Disaster II did not say, abandon the habit but potentially update it.Quite frankly, the habit showed a certain esprit de corps and was counter-cultural, a very powerful witness in a secular world. These old nuns who abandoned the habit generally look like old sad sacks who inspire nothing. THey certainly aren't attracting novices. The order which taught me, a so-called international order, had ZERO novices last year. Africa and Asia is keeping the order on life support

John Nolan said...

'Latin pop and rock'? Had me wondering for a moment.

Seriously, there is nothing at all wrong with adapting non-liturgical religious texts to up-beat musical styles. I remember Boney M having a hit 30 years ago with 'By the Rivers of Babylon'. The same goes for gospel choirs. As the Salvation Army said in the 19th century, why should the Devil have all the best tunes?

The caveat here is 'non-liturgical'.

By the way, the Benedictine monks at Pluscarden have a 'working habit' which looks remarkably like blue jeans and a hoodie. They do not wear it in choir!

George said...

I listened to some Youtube videos of Siervas. The recordings and performances are of a very high standard and professional quality. While it is not my preference in the kind of music that interests me, these sisters can definitely sing and play. Might this prompt some of their listeners to consider a religious vocation? One can hope and pray, but at the very least it gives them something to listen to that is a much better alternative to what else in popular music is out there and available for them to listen to.