10 June 2011

Gregorian Chant: Requiem

The Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey have put out a new CD, and one thing's clear: they've got chops.

It's common knowledge that Gregorian chant increases alpha waves in the brain, producing a calming effect, which makes it conducive to prayer. Not only does it have a purifying effect on the soul, it is also said (by those who specialize in exorcism or demonology) that it helps to purify the air of evil elements, and chant prayed by religious rather than by a secular choir is the most powerful.

The first piece sets the meditative tone by treating the listener to the sound of rain, church bells tolling distantly. As is obvious from the title, the CD includes chants from the Requiem Mass, ending with a responsory for the commendation of the soul and two responsories for the procession of the body. It was just the Fathers' luck that the recording session coincided with "one of the longest and most violent tempests of 2010," but this worked to their advantage. The atmospheric chant, with its meditations on death, is accompanied by the occasional howling wind in the background, with haunting and powerful effect. A highly professional recording, one is never subject to any off notes; the sounds come through with clarity and crispness from first to last.

The CD is worth purchasing, and may be found at Jade Music.

From the jacket description:
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.