Musician with local ties reflects on World Youth Day performance


PROVIDENCE — For Ryan Tremblay, the scene was familiar, and the setting again spectacular.
The Coventry native, a Catholic musician, recently performed at Pope Francis’ World Youth Day, held August 1-6 in Lisbon, Portugal. It was the third time the performer has appeared at the triennial global event.
It was hot and sunny as an audience of 1.5 million people gathered in the Portuguese capital. Musicians performed on a stage set up in Edward VI Park in Lisbon. The crowd, mostly teens and young adults, cheered them on, waving the flags of their native countries.
The styles of music played range from hip-hop to pop and rock. Yet, there is something unique about this music festival. All gathered are united by their common Catholic faith and their desire to come together to worship Jesus as a community. The lyrics of the songs are markedly Christian in character, speaking of the saving effects of Jesus’ mission.
Those present, on top of showcasing the typical symbols of their nation, also carry with them religious artifacts, a very visible symbol of another, even more important element of their identity.
Concerts are interspersed with prayer services and Masses, led by the pope and clergy, both local clergy and those from diverse nations and continents. Many see their voyage to Portugal not merely as a vacation or a long-needed getaway, but as a pilgrimage.
While in Portugal, Tremblay spoke with the Rhode Island Catholic about his experience. Speaking of how his “spirit or zeal for the ministry was renewed” by the events surrounding World Youth Day, he noted how this gathering of the faithful is a sign of the spiritual vitality of the Church.
“The Holy Spirit is alive,” Tremblay said. “Young people are aware of it. This is something that I would recommend all people to see, especially nonbelievers. I would challenge anyone who has anything to say about the faith that may be a bit skeptical to see a World Youth Day and see the hope that is present.”
Tremblay, age 36, was raised in SS. John and Paul Parish. His journey to World Youth Day 2023 was something born out of the dynamics of his family life and his own spiritual journey.
Tremblay recalled how he received a drum kit as a Christmas gift at the age of two and spent most of his elementary and high school years as a percussionist. As a teenager, his parish organized a worship band to perform at events hosted by the local parish chapter of the LifeTeen movement. After succeeding in his audition as a drummer for the band, he started to branch out, learning how to sing and play the guitar and to write his own music, some of which the band performed.
The worship band began to play throughout the state, including the Night of Healing benefit concert at the Providence Performing Arts Center in 2002, opening for such acts as Grand Funk Railroad, Blue Oyster Cult, Vanilla Fudge, and Billy Gillman.
Unfortunately, during his time in college, as Tremblay became less involved with the church band, he began to drift away from the faith, becoming less involved in the Church and beginning to develop doubts about the faith. He nonetheless continued to perform as a musician. Yet, after reading the works of the Catholic apologist Dr. Scott Hahn, Tremblay experienced a spiritual reawakening, and returned to his Catholic roots.
As Tremblay’s career as a musician continued to move forward, his music began to more deeply and explicitly reflect his Christian faith and his experiences in his spiritual journey. This was seen in his first album, “My Life With You” (2010), which described his reversion to the Catholic faith.
Tremblay has remained rooted in his Catholic faith. He has performed at Catholic parishes, at various events organized by Catholic organizations, and has even been afforded the opportunity to perform at World Youth

Day two previous times. The first was  in Poland in 2016 and Panama in 2019.
“I feel the Catholic faith helps me to connect with peace and beauty in the present because it is rooted in truth and tradition,” Tremblay stated, continuing that he is particularly influenced by The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 
Being a Christian musician has served to deepen his sense of community, which in turn has deepened his faith. “It’s always empowering to celebrate the faith with millions of people around your age,” Tremblay said. “That feeling of renewed commitment, you get that at World Youth Day, but you feel that [even when] getting off the plane with the other pilgrims.”
It is in seeing those present at their concerts exemplify the spirit of the Catholic faith, that Christian musicians can see their own faith deepened.
“I see young women dressed in a pure way; when I see men with an exuberant attitude, with smiles on their faces, instead of turning to drugs at a music festival, but are just happy to wave their flag. I have gotten emotional a few times when performing.”
This, in turn, feeds into the duty we all have to evangelize.
“We are called as young disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the nations. And yet sometimes we struggle to feel connected to like-minded people,” going on to note how his own spiritual journey has been a move from a sense of spiritual and emotional isolation to a deeper sense of union with God and his fellow believers.
This was something undermined by the Covid-19 pandemic. In spite of the negative effects of the recent pandemic on the careers of many musicians, Tremblay managed to find a way to continue on remaining rooted in the Catholic community, becoming a music teacher at Our Lady of Mercy parish school in East Greenwich.
Yet, in the summer of 2022, Tremblay stepped down from this position, to move with his wife and young children to Nashville, a major center for the contemporary Christian music scene.
Throughout his journey, Tremblay has demonstrated that his musical career is not only a spiritual matter, but also a family affair. He frequently performs with his wife, singer Elizabeth Tremblay, and his triplet sons (who go by the stage name “The Tremblay Triplets”). His father, Bob Tremblay, who has been a major spiritual and musical influence on Ryan, acts as his producer, stage manager, and occasional co-performer. This was no more on display than in the events immediately preceding World Youth Day.
Before embarking on World Youth Day 2023, Tremblay returned to New England. On July 28, he and his family landed in Boston, where they were interviewed by and performed for Catholic TV. Later that day, Tremblay, his wife and sons performed in the chapel of St. Anthony’s parish in Portsmouth. Performing for a packed audience, Tremblay and his wife noted how St. Anthony’s parish is of much personal significance, since this parish had hosted many of Ryan’s early performances, and how Elizabeth frequently attended this parish as a child.
“You can never really underestimate how each World Youth Day can impact you,” Tremblay said, noting how those present showcased how they were “willing to fight the good fight.”