Saturday, May 1, 2010

Downside Abbey

I don’t know if anyone is still interested in this blog since I seemed to have abandoned it. I hope you are. I usually try to not talk about me except as it relates to my experience with this music but I do want to quickly say that I have lost 5 pounds and my garden is growing nicely. I think I have averted the looming need to buy larger trousers so I don’t feel guilty about sitting down again to write a bit.

It’s been a couple of years since I stumbled into this ancient and mysterious world of boy choir music and began an exploration that has been both satisfying and fun. When I started blogging about it I was pretty ignorant. I still am, but maybe a little less so than before. Some very nice people helped me learn a lot with their comments and explanations of things with which I had no experience. Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface and that is why I laugh when I look back at some earlier posts and see how opinionated and downright cheeky I sounded at times. I have decided to revisit some of the albums that I was critical of to see if they look better now.

I had a pretty tepid response to the 1997 CD Gregorian Moods by the Monks and Choirboys of Downside Abbey so I listened again and… I love it. In fact, I like it so much that I ordered their previous 1996 CD The Abbey. What I failed to notice before is the smooth and cohesive singing from this choir. It puts me in mind of a pipe organ, each voice like a pipe, each unique but made of the same metal, all one unit.

I really like the cathedral echo in every piece that makes me feel as if I have traveled back in time, taking refuge inside the walls of cool stone to let the magic voices lift my spirit. There really is something magical about it all.

Most of the pieces are plainchant, such as Ave Maris Stella, Viderunt Omnes and Sub Tuum Praesidium. They are alternated with pieces by Byrd, Charles Wood, Gabrieli and others. Most are sung by men’s voices but the best ones include the boys. I stand by my original statement that there should be fewer monks and more choirboys, but the men do sound magnificent.

It seems odd that there are only these two recordings from the Monks and Choirboys of Downside Abbey. I’ve been to their web shop and there are no others except for a couple of CD’s of organ music and another choir of some sort. They do have the section called Ask A Monk so maybe I’ll ask them to do something new.


  1. Larry for me one of the things I enjoy very much is to get to know a bit more about the person behind the written words - the subject matter is one nice thing we have in common, but it becomes a much more rewarding experience when there is a bit of interaction.
    Listening to music and songs more than once is almost mandetory - it helps me to discover things that I would never have if I didn.t.
    Some of the music I am most passionate I would never have fallen in love with had I not given it a chance to grow on me.
    One music discovery I made was throat singing - mainly from the steppe lands in Russia - incredible stuff.
    Really pleased you have lost 5lbs - when you get to do your big brother thing I'm sure you will be kept so busy that you will no doubt loose more - really look forward to hearing about it and how you got on.
    Good about the garden - it's amazing what spring can do - here in Aus we are well into Autumn but it has been very pleasant - some trees are only just starting to lose thier leaves, it has been that mild.
    As for when or how often you post has to be your choice but whenever you have something to say I most certainly would be interest in reading what you write.
    Take care and kindest regards Stef.

  2. Oh, I'm still here big man - I was beginning to think something had happened!

    Funnily enough the reason I checked in was that I was just listening to the recording of Kings College Christmas carols that I recommended to you (and you still haven't bought) and I though I wonder if Larry is back.

    Listening to the New College Agnus Dei CD now and if you need any encouragement to continue to share your thoughts with the world it is the fact that I LOVE this CD and I bought it on your recommendation. Enough said.

    Keep up the good work. By the way, I'm off to see Libera in Arundel in a couple of weeks.

  3. Larry,

    Quick question - have you got the CD 'An Evening Hymn' featuring Oliver Lepage-Dean? I think it is basically his album. He sang with St John's College, Cambridge and the review looks interesting (added the link to my name) but it seems to be out of circulation.

  4. Still interested, you bet. Don't belittle your self, you articulate your thoughts quite nicely. You are correct, the Monks and Choirboys of Downside Abbey have only the two albums, shameful I tell you. I love chant, and they do it nicely.

    PS: I to would love to hear of your experiences with Big Brother. It is fun and rewarding to mentor.

  5. Thanks, all of you. I'm glad you didn't tune me out. It's so great to have e-pals.

    I'm still waiting to hear from Big Brothers about a match. They say they are just understaffed but it's been 4 months now since I signed on. My references were great, my previous experience with the organization was successful. I don't know what's taking so long.

    Stef, I forget that it's an opposite world down under. I hope I can make it down there some day.

    thanks again

  6. Andy

    The St John's album is special. There are some copies to be had on Amazon marketplace albeit second hand ones.