In Vietnam, a communist country, the Catholic faith had a long history since 16th century, even before French colonialism. Christianity first came to Vietnam in the 16th and 17th centuries and was introduced by Dutch and Portuguese traders. When France became the colonial power of Indochina (1859 – 1954), French missionaries arrived to strengthen the Roman Catholic Church which was still prominently represented by large cathedrals in major cities. Protestantism arrived in 1911 with the coming of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and was later strengthened by various Western missionaries. Nowadays, there are more than 8 million Christians in Vietnam (about 8.8 % of Vietnam population).
When I arrived in Hanoi, my friend, Bagas, took me to the famous and historical area: Old Quarter. Then, in this area, just near the Hoan Kiem Lake, I saw the very beautiful St. Joseph Cathedral. This Cathedral was built by the French colonial government and opened for the first time in December 1886.
Then, I decided to record the sound of a Sunday mass here later on the 17th February. When I joined the mass and recorded the sound, I was really amazed. The Catholic liturgical mass in Vietnamese language was really beautiful and made me in awe. The songs sung in Vietnamese was one of the most wonderful mass I had experience in my life. I had recorded the whole mass (about 75 minutes), but this is one of my most favourite moments and songs. I still do not know the meaning of the song, just one word that I heard often during the mass: Chúa, which I found later, meant God. Only that word, and the rest liturgy and song I really didn’t know the meaning, but still, through my ears I would say the sound in this church puts me in tears, because of the deep beautiful impression on me.
Later, when I arrived at Ho Chi Minh City, I also recorded the sound during a mass in the really famous Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon. But the sound was different from St. Joseph Cathedral at Hanoi. There were many big electric fans inside the Notre Dame Cathedral, because Ho Chi Minh City, which was located at the south of Vietnam, was very hot and different from the north Hanoi. So the sound of Notre Dame Cathedral was noisier and less meditative.