Back to the Sacred Harp and How It Travels!

Here are two recordings: the first is from an annual singing in Hoboken, Georgia with David Lee leading the singing along with his mother, the second comes from a sacred harp singing in Ireland. This lets you hear the music in its home environment, sung from the blue “Cooper book” and then from some enthusiastic Irish/English/American singers, singing from the red Denson book. The music travels because it is such a joy to sing.

Enjoy them both - listen to just part or the whole. Note that the melody is in the tenor part which is doubled at the octave by women’s voices. Also note the singers who conduct along with the leader - they were probably up later that day leading one of their favorite tunes.

Chant from Pluscarden Abbey

On the Feast of St. Benedict, chant from a Benedictine Abbey is definitely called for. This is a restful bit of psalmody from Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. I love chanted psalms in the monastic traditions - no dragging, no rushing - just an even walking tempo. Pluscarden Abbey has a splendid website - you can even find out why these monks are wearing white rather than the traditional Benedictine black.

So pay them a visit on this feast day (or any day) and consider that the work of Benedict still continues throughout the world and pray that it continue forever.

And why not enjoy some bread today in honor of St. Benedict? You can read the story about the saint and the raven and the bread here. Saints and food are always enjoyable associations.

Monastic Family of Bethlehem

The Monastic Family of Bethlehem offers another window into the world of contemporary chant. The full title is the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno. Founded by some French pilgrims in Rome in 1950, the reference to St. Bruno lets you know that their spirituality is Carthusian. The contemplative nuns were founded soon after and the brothers, in 1976. I have two CDs of their chant from the monasteries in Israel with chants in Arabic and Hebrew and Latin. They are quite unique and beautiful. Interestingly, several of the newer French-originated orders are strongly influenced by the iconography and practice of the Eastern church.

If you’re looking for them in the USA, there is a monastery of nuns in Livingston Manor, New York. The late Cardinal John O’Connor gave them an old summer camp. Here’s their website. Of course, this is the French language site, but a translation in English is also available.

VOCES8 Sing Arvo Part’s Nunc Dimittis

You may need to crank the volume on your device to really enjoy this because so much of Part’s music features very quiet bass lines - and turn off the washing machine or you’ll just hear your own spin cycle. While most videos I select feature the singers themselves, I rather like pictures of natures once in a while.

As you undoubtedly know, Part (and yes, there’s supposed to be an umlaut over the “a”) is an Estonian composer of minimalist religious music.  He is Eastern Orthodox and his music has been compared to the spare style of Orthodox iconography. If you want to know more, why not visit theArvo Part Project which is based at St. Vladimir’s Seminary or read Peter Bouteneff’s book, Out of Silence. 

Or you can just enjoy the music for its depth and meditative quality.

VOCES8 is a fantastic octet from the UK, with a sound that reminds me of the King’s Singers when I liked them in the old days - only multiplied by two and with a fantastic repertoire. And lots of videos (as well as CD…

Memorial Day 2018, Lux Aeterna by Eriks Esenvalds

This YouTube seemed just right for Memorial Day here in the USA. Okay, it’s in Latin, composed by a contemporary Latvian composer, and sung by a Slovenian girls’ choir. But there is still that longing for eternal light and the wish to remember those who have gone before us.
Esenvalds was born in Latvia in 1977. You can find out more about his awards, commissions, etc. at his website. And YouTube will give you a wealth of his music. Of course, I selected this one not only because of the holiday but because this is the treble voice arrangement. And you know about me and trebles, don’t you?

Byzantine Chants for Pentecost and St. Kassiani

Here’s the St. Kassiani Byzantine Choir of All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery. While it’s a bit lengthy, I’m always interested in women singing Byzantine chant. It is So typically seen as the province of male chanters. Listen to a little or a lot. Happy Pentecost for the West - for the East, next week! The Holy Spirit listeth when and where it will.

This choir was formed by the nuns of All Saints Monastery, who recognized the limited opportunities for skilled women chanters to participate in regular Byzantine liturgies. I hope you enjoy their clear tone.

Who is St. Kassiani (also known as St. Kassia)? She is the earliest women hymnographer and melodist whose works are both still extant and able to be interpreted by modern performers.  Born into a wealthy family in Constantinople, she was part of the “bride parade” to find a wife for the young emperor Theophilos the Iconoclast. While he was smitten by her good looks, her clever response to a remark of his put him off and he chose anot…

Agnus Dei by Ivo Antognini

Here's a lovely contemporary Agnus Dei by the Italian Swiss composer Ivo Antognini. Performed by the Girls' Choir of the Koper Music School in Slovenia, it is very quiet at the opening, so don't hesitate to turn up the volume on your device.
You can learn more about Antognini from his website. Interestingly, he came to choral composing via a children's choir amd consequently has written a great deal of music for treble voices.

My apologies for the gap in posting, but I was out in the great state of California, eating, drinking, mingling, and having the pleasure of some time with composer Frank La Rocca (more to come on that in the future).