Nuns and monks are one together of the sure cyclical forces in the classical recording business. Every few years, the quiet, otherworldly sounds of their centuries-old chants and hymns are seemingly rediscovered and marketed as a soothing balm for harried, stressed-out urbanites. While some listeners may find spiritual enlightenment in the chants' religious texts, many others are drawn to their aesthetic or New Age qualities.
The latest chant boomlet comes via the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, a monastic order in rural Gower, Missouri. The Benedictines drew national attention last year with "Advent at Ephesus," a Decca recording of Gregorian chants and hymns that topped the Billboard classical charts for over a month (unseating a companion CD to the novel Fifty Shades of Grey). The sisters' follow up release, “Angels and Saints at Ephesus,” features 17 selections in English and Latin associated with the feasts of holy saints and angels.
Mostly, the Benedictines opt for lush, multi-part arrangements over monophonic chants. At the early end of the spectrum are the hauntingly beautiful fourth-century chant Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence and the 12th-century antiphon Ave Regina Caelorum, with its jubilant melody. From the Renaissance and Classical eras come the 16th-century Spanish motet Duo seraphim, by Tomás Ludovico da Vittoria, and the 18th-century hymn O Deus Ego Amo Te ("O God, I love you"). The opening track, O God of Loveliness, rooted in a Silesian folk song, was sung at the funeral for John F. Kennedy.
While these aren't professional musicians, singing is an integral part of the Benedictines' daily routine and the performances are uniformly polished. The reverberant acoustic adds a welcome touch of churchly atmosphere.
Angels & Saints At Ephesus
Benedictines Of Mary Queen Of Apostles
Available at Arkivmusic.com