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29.12.11

Twelve Days of Christmas: Chants of Angels

available at Amazon
The Chants of Angels,
Gloriæ Dei Cantores

(released on September 13, 2011)
GDCD 051 | 59'14"
Angels, of course, are a phenomenon that goes far beyond Christmas, the Christian kitsch equivalent of the New Age crystal. The idea behind this new release is to bring together as many chants as possible that contain the word "angelus" in some form (Angelis suis, Immitet angelus, Benedicite omnes angeli, Stetit angelus -- you get the idea) or that set words spoken by an angel in the Bible (the angelic hymn known as the Gloria, for example). The packaging of the disc, with a booklet fluttering with seraphic wings in various pastel hues, certainly plays to the angel market. The programming idea is not exactly brilliant, it must be said, combining chants from Michaelmas, Guardian Angels, and a couple other liturgical occasions. It does not help that the chants are all sung from the modern Solesmes editions, honorable and expertly edited, yes, but not really of historical interest. The singing is generally good, with male voices edging out the female ones for beauty and unity of sound (the woman a little pinched and nasal, and fussier of diction). There is something special about actual monks singing Gregorian chant, however, as noted earlier this week of the new recording from the Cistercians of Stift Heiligenkreuz. The voices recorded here are not those of monks, but of an ecumenical community named the Community of Jesus, founded in 1958 in a part of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The group of lay people celebrate the Divine Office together, in a form of prayer modeled on Benedictine practice, and their choir, known as the Gloriæ Dei Cantores, is heard on this disc (the sound captured in the group's resonant Church of the Transfiguration in Rock Harbor). Not the best chant recording I have heard, by any means, but a lovely diversion.

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