Because recorded liturgical music like chant has largely been the province of monks over the years, record companies have given rather short shrift to their female counterparts. The folks at De Montfort Music, Decca Records, and the Sisters at the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus (the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, a monastic community located in rural Missouri) hope the present disc may help rectify that situation.
The Sisters’ voices are sweet and pure. There are no outstanding virtuosos among them, perhaps, yet as a group they sing like angels, their voices harmonizing with a celestial precision.
The Sisters sing sixteen selections that celebrate various Feasts, Meditations, Offices, Masses, and Holy Days of the Church. With these selections, we find some songs in Latin, some in English, some Gregorian chant, some traditional, some anonymous, some dating as far back as the Fifth Century, most from Medieval and Renaissance times.
Among the hymns you’ll hear are “Come thou Redeemer of the Earth,” “Angelus Ad Virginem,” “Gabriel’s Message,” “Hayl Mary,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Benedixisti Domine,” “Maria Walks Among the Thorn,” “O Come Divine Messiah,” “Vox Clara,” “Like the Dawning,” and other such numbers.
It’s a wide and surprisingly diverse collection of devotional psalms and anthems the Sisters sing, with one thing in common: a single purpose in praising the Lord. Although the individual tracks are relatively brief (two-to-three minutes apiece) and the disc’s total playing time of just over forty-eight minutes may seem short measure, the songs do tend to have a similar spirit and feeling throughout, despite their variety, so maybe the album’s length is just about right for optimum listening pleasure.
The main thing is that the Sisters maintain a high musical standard, and the performances are the very ideal of serene contemplation. It’s all quite beautiful; you might even say heavenly.
According to the accompanying booklet, Decca and De Montfort Music recorded the disc at the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus in October of 2012, which seems remarkable given that I received the product in November, the very next month. The acoustic is appropriately reverberant for a liturgical setting, so expect the room reflections to amplify and smooth out the voices somewhat. Given the dozen or so persons involved, the stereo spread sounds a bit constricted left to right, affording them plenty of distance from the listener yet without sacrificing much in the way of clarity. The distancing tends, instead, to add to the resonant nature of the presentation, increasing the realism.
And to hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here: