Monday, May 4, 2009

The Monks and Choirboys of Downside Abbey have a cd titled Gregorian Moods.
It has both Gregorian chants and Choral music. There are standards like Ave Verum Corpus (one each by Byrd, Mozart and Elgar), Cantique de Jean Racine, by Faure, Locus Iste, by Buckner, and more. The choral pieces are separated by Gregorian chants which I am much less familiar with but which, as it turns out, I like a lot. I thought they would just be a bunch of low voices all groaning on in Latin with no music but it’s much nicer than that. Guess I was thinking of the Tibetan monks. These monk’s voices are rich, the songs are pretty and they’re accompanied by some nice organ music.
Listening to these chants is like stepping back in time to a dimly lit cavernous cathedral with rows of hooded men invoking a special magic with their echoing voices.

There are about three dozen boys in the choir and their singing is first rate.
I wanted to find out more about this choir but there isn’t very much information on the internet, not even on the Abbey’s web site. They do have a section called “Ask a Monk” where you can request various information so I asked about the choir, but the monk didn’t reply. I guess he must have suddenly taken a vow of silence.
It would be interesting to know, for example, how it is they wind up with so many men who can sing and who also want to lead a monastic life.

I did come up with a few facts but they are not really about the choir. They run a boarding school for three hundred boys that in 2004 became co-ed. I don’t know if girls are now singing in the choir but this CD is earlier than that.
Founded over a century ago, Downside's Schola Cantorum is the oldest Roman Catholic school choir in the United Kingdom.
“The Schola Cantorum gives concerts of sacred music throughout the year…
Downside Abbey is a Roman Catholic monastery… It is the home of a community of Benedictine monks.”
“The church provides a place of worship for the pupils of our School as well as other visitors, but its primary purpose is for monastic prayer. The monks spend about 2 1/2 hours here every day together in prayer.”

This is a pretty good CD.


  1. No downside for Downside, eh?

    Yeah, that was lame... :D

  2. Not related to above:

    Here is a cd that was just released and quite nice, Benjamin Isachsen (Norway) - Canto Ergo Sum (2009).

    Here is the track list:

    01 - How beautiful are the feet - Handel
    02 - Ich halte treulich still - BWV 466 - Bach
    03 - Ave maria - Bach,Gounod
    04 - Pie jesu - Faure
    05 - Cantilena - Trond Kverno
    06 - Benedictus - Haydn
    07 - Ave maria - Schubert
    08 - Og natta ror sin lette bat - Karlsen
    09 - Nunc dimittis - Burgon
    10 - O for the wings of a dove - Mendelssohn
    11 - Bist du bei mir - BWV 508 - Bach
    12 - I himmelen, I himmelen - folktune
    13 - Nun ruhen alle walder - Ellert

    I will include a track of him on Sunday.

  3. That sounds really good. Thanks. Does that title mean I sing, therefore I am?