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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Norbertine Fathers - Gregorian Chant

It has been my great pleasure this week to have received the honor of a reviewing Gregorian Chant - Requiem, sung by the Norbertine Fathers of the St. Michael's Abbey.  It is also a great pleasure to be able to review this incredible album on the 5th Sunday of Lent, in which we just heard the gospel account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus.

In this season of Lent in which we contemplate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, there is nothing better than a Requiem chant to aid in contemplation of His sacrifice. None of us are untouched by death, that terrible result of original sin; all of us need the reminder of our final ends, and the price paid for our salvation. All of us have experienced the death of a loved one at one point or another in our lives, an experience that is repeated more and more as we progress in years.

In Lent, as we approach Good Friday, we all share in the depths of grief of the Blessed Mother as we approach the shadow the Cross - it is on Holy Thursday that we enter, united through the Church, into a period of mourning and for those who have suffered loss, it may be all the more poignant, for inherent within that deep sense of grief remains an eternal hope.

A Requiem Mass, for those who are unfamiliar, is a Mass offered for one who has died. Those unfamiliar with it may find more information at the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the subject.

The Norbertine Fathers have produced a hauntingly beautiful recording of the traditional prayers of the Requiem Mass, made even more so by the Providential weather on the day it was created. As the letter that accompanied the review copy stated,

The Old cliche' of a badly written novel beginning with the words: "It was a dark and stormy night..." could well apply to the recording of this album, as the date that worked for all the singers to record was the day of one of the longest and most violent tempests of 2010. The abbey's cantor, Fr. Chrysostom Baer, decided that, far from detracting from the quality of the recording,t he howling winds actually added to the haunting tones of chant. This is the reason for the atmospheric effects heard in the background of many of the recorded tracks.

Indeed, Father Baer is correct. I find the sound of wind to be especially proper to the music, for Gregorian Chant has long been referred to as "the breath of God", given its regular tones, rising and falling, natural pauses, all reminiscent and conducive to human need to breathe in order to sustain life. Chant is particularly profound, for it blends physical life with the spiritual need to breathe in communio with God, the author of all life, who created us as body and soul together. It is in this form of music that God is most profoundly glorified, for the theology of the body and the theology of the music, physically and spiritually, reveals the fullness of our Faith and has inherently within it a vivid, sung witness not just to the hope of eternal life, but also to the resurrection of the body.

I found the howling winds to be most prominent in the Kyrie, Dies Irae, and De Profundis, and rather than detracting from it, I was drawn even more deeply into the ancient tones of the chant, chilled to the soul, yet held within the protective warmth of the sacred prayers.

The CD comes with an insert containing the Latin words with English translation, so those who fear they won't understand the music have nothing to fear and can pray right along!

It should be noted that these chants are taken from the Norbertine Liturgy, with which many of us are probably very unfamiliar in name, although it followed very closely the Roman Canon of the Mass.

The chant most striking to me about it was the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) for the Requiem:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant them eternal rest.

I don't want to spoil the CD for you so all I can tell you is this: it is available in Stores, physically and digitally, this Tuesday, April 12, 2011 and you really NEED to go out and get a copy so that it can aid your contemplation during Holy Week!

To purchase, go to

As always, pray that more souls will answer God's call to serve Him in these holy Vocations of the Priesthood and Religious Life. 

The following information is provided by Jade Music:

Available in Stores, physically and digitally, on April 12, 2011

This is the third Gregorian chant album by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey in California. This is not an actual Mass, but the traditional Requiem music according to the ancient Norbertine Rite, a form of the liturgy similar to the ubiquitous Roman Rite but the exclusive patrimony of the Norbertine Fathers. The album is available in stores on April 12, 2011.

The Norbertine Fathers and the Pacific Symphony

Thanks to the buzz and press coverage surrounding the previous two album releases, Carl St. Clair, the music director of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, invited the Norbertines to perform with the Orchestra. The three concerts, which took place in late February 2011 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA, were extremely popular and well received. 
The Expansion Project
St. Michael’s Abbey has been blessed with many vocations since its beginnings in the 1960s, and the boarding preparatory school consistently receives the highest ratings for its classical education and formation. Because of its growth, the community needs to expand its facilities. When the community began to consider expanding, it discovered that its current site is geologically unstable so the community will have to move to new land
Jade Music
Jade Music has a proven dedication to releasing quality classical and spiritual music for more than 20 years. It established itself as the premiere record label of the choir of the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. Jade Music is distributed by ADA/Warner Music Group in the United States, Universal Music in France, JVC in Japan, and Warner Music International in the rest of the world.

1. Rain and Bells  2. Introit: Requiem 3. Kyrie 4. Gradual: Requiem 5. Gradual: Si Ambulem 6. Prose: Dies Irae 7. Tract: De Profundis 8. Offertory: Domine Jesu Christe 9. Preface 10. Sanctus 11. Agnus Dei 12. Communion Antiphon: Lux Aeterna; Requiescant 13. Responsory for the Commendation of the Soul: Subvenite 14. Antiphon for the Procession of the Body: Suscipiat vos Christus 15. Antiphon for the Procession of the Body: Chorus Angelorum


Beth Lemer said...

Dude, hey thanks for posting this. I actually had a conversation with someone last night and he really recommended chants as part of meditation. Thanks!

Just another mad Catholic said...

would buy it but its not avaliable in the UK Itunes store

Mike said...

You’ve been tagged with a Lenten meme. See for details