Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Stephen Moreno (1889–1953)

by Judith M. Woodward

This article was published:

Stephen Moreno (1889-1953), Catholic priest and musician, was born on 16 January 1889 at Corella, Navarra, Spain, and baptized Antonio, eldest of four sons of Juan Moreno, watchmaker, and his wife Juana, née Escudero. Introduced to music by his father, Antonio was later taught to play the piano by Dom Resa, organist at the local church. At the age of 15 he entered the Benedictine abbey of El Miracle, near the Pyrenees; in 1906 he began his novitiate at San Juliano d'Albaro, Genoa, Italy. He was professed and took the religious name Esteban (Stephen), then travelled to Rome in 1907 to further his musical education. Dom Moreno studied for a year under Signore Boezzi and met Lorenzo Perosi who encouraged him in his initial efforts at composition. While in Rome he was recruited to the Benedictine Community of New Norcia, Western Australia.

On 7 December 1908 Moreno reached New Norcia to begin his preparation for the priesthood. He acted as assistant-organist and choirmaster, and wrote sacred music for the community, before being ordained by Bishop Fulgentius Torres on 20 September 1913. For sixteen months in 1921-22 he studied performance and composition under Walter Braunfels and Huber Anderach at Munich, Germany. Acting under the instructions of Abbot Anselm Catalan, he arranged for Albert Moser to construct a two-manual pipe-organ and supervised its installation (1923) in the Abbey Church, New Norcia. In 1927 he helped to install another pipe-organ, at the mother house of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, North Sydney. During the early 1930s he journeyed interstate and to New Zealand to train choirs and supervise performances of his liturgical music; these trips provided opportunities for the publication and recording of his works. Concerts of his music were held at New Norcia, and he arranged music to celebrate the centenary of the monastery in 1946.

Moreno was recognized throughout Australia for his efforts to restore 'music proper to the Catholic ritual' and his work was well received in Europe. Guided by Pope Pius X's 'Motu Proprio' (1903) which established norms for liturgical music, he composed more than twenty Masses, numerous motets and litanies, four Te Deums, offertories for the liturgical seasons and for feasts of the saints, and presentations and adaptations of Gregorian chant. 'Modern church music', Moreno wrote, 'has a right to represent the modern mind in what is noble and dignified'. He also provided a musical setting for twenty poems from 'John O'Brien's' Around the Boree Log, wrote eighty pieces for New Norcia's Aboriginal boys' brass band, and composed chamber and orchestral music.

Despite suffering from ill health in the early 1950s, Moreno continued to compose his music. In February 1953 he left New Norcia to visit Spain, Germany, England and the United States of America, hoping to publish his work and find help for his increasing deafness. He died on 6 March that year at Marseilles, France, and was buried in the cemetery of the Benedictine abbey of En Calcat.

Select Bibliography

  • St Ildephonsus' College Magazine, 1953, p 15
  • New Norcia Studies, 2, June 1994, p 75
  • Catholic Press, 13 Sept 1934
  • Catholic Weekly (Sydney), 10 July 1953
  • S. Sayers, The Life and Works of Dom Stephen Moreno, O.S.B. (Music thesis, 1968, Graylands Teachers' College, Perth)
  • R. G. Revell, The Musical Compositions of Dom Stephen Moreno (transcript, 1986) and E. Ros, Music at New Norcia (transcript, no date, c1970-76) and D. Barry, Dom Stephen Moreno (transcript, 1992) (all held at Benedictine Community of New Norcia, Archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Judith M. Woodward, 'Moreno, Stephen (1889–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Moreno, Esteban
  • Moreno, Antonio

16 January, 1889
Corella, Navarra, Spain


6 March, 1953 (aged 64)
Marseille, France

Cultural Heritage

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.