Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Premonstratensians Top the Charts

Take a look at this. The new CD of the Norbertines of St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County, California, was climbing higher and higher after the release yesterday, when suddenly Amazon ran out. I guess the company underestimated the intense and growing demand for Gregorian music--which would hardly make the company unusual!

Overnight, Amazon scrambled and it is now back in stock. The singing on the CD is so very beautiful, and thoroughly authentic. You can detect the sense of familiarity with the music, one you just can't get from professionals as versus monks who sing this music every day. There is a real confidence in what they do. This year, you might consider adding this CD to your Christmas listening lineup.

This CD in particular has interesting selections: the propers from Christmas Masses: midnight, dawn, and day. I like this idea since this is Norbertine chant (see this piece on the Premonstratensians/Norbertines) and helps chant geeks like me compare their chants to the Graduale Romanum versions. The essential structure of the music is the same but there are differences in application, just as with Dominican, Cistercian, and Franciscan chant.

I received a question the other day in my in box about all this. The question was whether Cistercian chant, for example, is Gregorian chant. The answer is yes. It is all Gregorian chant. There are different uses of the chant that are traditional to some particular orders. Interestingly, these monastic versions of the Gregorian books never needed to be reformed after Pius X called for reform, simply because this chant was never corrupted in the way Roman chant was after Trent.

The reconstruction efforts that began in the late 19th century depended heavily on these monastic traditions to point the way to authenticity. So we owe much to these traditions. To tell you the truth, the casual listener would not be able to tell the difference. It all sounds Gregorian. Only if you know the pieces really well or are following the neumes closely on the printed page can you tell the differences.

In any case, it is very exciting that the US has produced it own version of best-selling chant. It seems poised to do very well in the marketplace. Whether you will or will not hear these Mass propers in your parish this year, you can become familiar with them in the way many generations of Christians have been.

This way, for example, when you hear the sound of "Puer Natus est..." you can just know that it means it's Christmas Day.

Here is the Norbertine page at Jade Records.

Here is a YouTube about the release.

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