The Monks Of Norcia - Benedicta: Marian Chant From Norcia

Published Tuesday 24th November 2015
The Monks Of Norcia - Benedicta: Marian Chant From Norcia
The Monks Of Norcia - Benedicta: Marian Chant From Norcia

STYLE: Choral
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 157703-23330
LABEL: Universal Classics & Jazz

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

A few years ago classical record companies discovered that if marketed as "music for relaxation and meditation," the other-worldly sound of monks singing Gregorian chant could sell in big numbers to people who had no commitment or indeed interest in the God the monastics worshipped. The fact that chant is sung in Latin meant that even the staunchest atheists wouldn't be irritated by the words of Scripture. What the untutored ear heard was echoing male voices intoning intricate melody lines where the "neume" (the number of notes sung to one syllable) were extended to haunting levels of vocal dexterity creating an atmosphere which was undeniably imbued with a sense of peace. In the early '90s an 11th century monastery in northern Spain, Monasterio Benedictino de Santo Domingo de Silos found themselves unwittingly thrust into international media attention when their album of Gregorian chant became a huge hit. 'Benedicta: Marian Chant From Norcia' by monks at the monastery of Norcia located in the region of Umbria, Italy, is the latest effort at mass marketing Gregorian chant. There have been many recordings of Marian chants so for this album, pieces have been chosen that will be unknown to most listeners, even if they have one or two chant albums already. 'Benedicta' sold well and charted in the US though for me it musically didn't reach the atmospheric heights of the very best Gregorian chant; the ensemble sounded a little thin and lacking the bass resonance which helped make the recordings of Santa Domingo monks so memorable. Also as a Protestant who is convinced the Catholic church is in error in its veneration of Mary, I grew uneasy reading the English translations of the chants helpfully provided in the CD booklet. No doubt the tens of thousands who bought 'Benedicta' as an aid to unwind will have no such theological misgivings.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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