OUNT Saint Mary’s Abbey is located in Massachusetts. This Abbey is home to some wonderful Cistercian Nuns who have produced a new Gregorian chant CD called To Pray In Beauty.
Believe it or not, pretty much every monastery in existence has created a CD or LP record over the years. I was surprised when I first learned this fact. Most of them sell these recordings in their bookstores. Sometimes (as with the De Silos monks, trained by Gajard) their recordings get “picked up” by a producing company and make it bigtime.
I can say that the Cistercian nuns of Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey have avoided the standard fare. Their CD is definitely worth hearing (and is offered at such a low price!). The voices are peaceful, beautiful, and they sing in tune! They include some selections on the CD that will be familiar to lovers of Gregorian chant, yet they also include some lesser-known pieces, like Avete solitudinis.
Furthermore, they sing the “Cistercian” variants of the chant, which are slightly different melodically than the versions Abbot Pothier included in the Editio Vaticana. The following audio excerpt will illustrate what I mean:
The CD is handsomely produced and packaged, as you can see by viewing the back cover.
Search Google for TO PRAY IN BEAUTY and you will find several ways of purchasing this fine CD.
1. Hymn Avete solitudinis (Mode 1) verses 1, 2, 5, and 6
2. Communion Simile Est (Mode 8)
3. Alleluia Justus Germinabit (Mode 1)
4. Introit Salve Sancta Parens (Mode 2)
5. Introit Dominus Dixit (Mode 2)
6. Communion Quinque Prudentes Virgines (Mode 5)
7. Communion Videns Dominus (Mode 1)
8. Gradual Christus Factus Est (Mode 5)
9. Introit Resurrexi (Mode 4)
10. Introit Quasi Modo (Mode 6)
11. Introit Viri Galilaei (Mode 7)
12. Introit Spiritus Domini (Mode 8)
13. Introit Exurge (Mode 1)
14. Alleluia Deus Judex (Mode 8)
15. Introit Esto Mihi (Mode 6)
16. Introit Omnia Quae Fecisti (Mode 3)
17. Introit Inclina Domine (Mode 1)
18. Introit Vocem Jucunditatis (Mode 3)
19. Hymn Ave Maris Stella (Mode 1)
From the official press release:
This new album comes with a 20-page booklet, including liner notes by Fr. Gabriel Bertoniere about the history of Cistercian chant. Also included are the English translations of the pieces sung in Latin. To Pray In Beauty: that is the ideal of monastics as they sing the Mass and the Hours in choir. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta expressed a similar ideal in her phrase “something beautiful for God.” The beauty is not for beauty’s sake; it is for God—for his glory. It was St Augustine, that great lover of beauty, who called God “Beauty ever ancient, ever new” and lamented “late have I loved Thee!” All created beauty reflects something, however faint, of the divine Beauty, but Gregorian Chant does so in a special way, for it is itself both prayer and beauty—but a beauty that reveals itself only gradually, disclosing ever new depths and connections.
The Cistercian version of the chants presented in this recording have always played an important role in the lives of the Cistercian nuns of Wrentham since the time of its foundation in 1949. In the early years of its history, chant alone was used to provide the musical setting for the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. Since English was introduced into the liturgy after Vatican II, the nuns gradually built up a rich repertory of chants in the vernacular, but twice a week they continue to use Gregorian Chant in the celebration of the Eucharist as well as at Vespers on Solemnities. Gregorian Chant is itself both prayer and beauty—but a beauty that reveals itself only gradually, disclosing ever-new depths and connections.