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Frei Hermano da Câmara

(N. 12 July, 1934)

Hermano Vasco Villar Cabral da Câmara was born on the 12th of July 1934. In addition to his noble ancestry – he is the great-grandson of King João VI -, he also has family connections to several figures in Portuguese music, being the cousin of Maria Teresa de Noronha, Vicente da Câmara, Nuno da Câmara Pereira and Luísa and Salvador Sobral, for example.

He started singing at an early age but only started a public career in the second half of the 1950s, becoming one of the most recognized voices in Portugal. Self-taught since always - his father did not want him to study music - his first album came, then, in 1959, through Valentim de Carvalho and soon he was able to show his vein as a composer, signing the first composition "Minha Mãe, Nasci Fado singer”. The EP “Sunset and Sentiment” had the presence of Fontes Rocha, Joaquim Vale and Joel Pina and brought together poems by Linhares Barbosa, Henrique Rego and the Conde de Sobral, having been reissued several times, such was its success.

In 1961, he began his career as a Benedictine monk, marked by the “Fado da Despedida” that he recorded to acknowledge this fact and began a fruitful decade in record terms. Under the seal of RCA Victor, Hermano da Câmara recorded five albums, opting for poetry by António Botto, Augusto Gil and João de Deus, also becoming the first singer to record Fernando Pessoa, in 1965. The poem “Mar Português” became a fado called “Mar Salgado”, with Frei Hermano signing the melody.

After participating in other recordings, in 1970, Frei Hermano da Câmara returned to recordings in his own name. “A Santa Face de Jesus”, “Cantilena da Lua Nova” and “Túnica Negra” were the three 45 rpm records that were grouped together in an album that introduced him to the younger generations. This contact with Frei Hermano da Câmara gave rise to the albums “Encosto a Fronte à Vidraça” and “Bruma Azul do Desejado”, the latter accompanied by the members of Quarteto 1111, adding to the album a new and avant-garde sound.

In July 1973 he was finally ordained a Benedictine monk, thus establishing his devotion.

Valentim de Carvalho's bet on Hermano da Câmara led him to edit several works over the years, always with great success. In 1974, he released “Sede de Infinito”, where the poems of several famous authors were accompanied with original melodies of the fado singer.

1976 was the year in which he released one of his most emblematic hits and which, even today, remains associated with his name: “O Rapaz da Camisola Verde”, with lyrics by Pedro Homem de Mello and music by Frei Hermano da Câmara himself. Two years later, he edited “O Nazareno”, a project that portrayed the life of Jesus Christ and which had several guests on this double album, namely Amália Rodrigues.

The album became a musical show and, in 1986, a performance of “O Nazareno” took the stage at the Coliseu de Lisboa, featuring, among others, Teresa Siqueira, Teresa Tarouca, Alexandra, Jorge Fernando.

Several other albums followed, with Frei Hermano still in 2014 participating in a new staging by Carlos Avillez for “O Nazareno”, showing that this work was very present in the memory of many Portuguese people.

Frei Hermano da Câmara's musical career continued, along with his monastic life, having performed in several emblematic venues in the country, such as the Tivoli Theater (1969), the São Luís Theater (1977), the Maria Matos Theater (1980), the Coliseu dos Recreios (1986) the Coliseu do Porto (1988), and the Expo 98.

In 1990, he saw the statutes of the Apostles of Santa Maria approved by the Archbishop of Braga. This congregation, founded by Hermano da Câmara himself, has as its motto the apostolate through music, that is, music as a vehicle of faith. All the money earned from Fado, through the sale of records, shows, copyright, was channeled to support the congregation.

Frei Hermano da Câmara continued to record, releasing, in 1994, the album “Missa Portuguesa”; in 1997, “Um Astro de Luz” and, in 2003, “Vivo d’arte, vivo d’amor”.

Despite having been away from the stage for many years, in 2012 and 2013 he performed a concert commemorating 50 years of fado, at Teatro Tivoli BBVA, where he revisited hits such as “O Fado da Despedida”, “Túnica Negra”, “O Rapaz da Camisola Verde” and “Jesus”, accompanied by Pedro de Castro and José Luís Nobre Costa on Portuguese guitars, Francisco Gonçalves on viola and Joel Pina on bass guitar.