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Mater Eucharistiae is the first ever recording from The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Be transported to their Ann Arbor chapel and experience their beautiful and pure renditions of sacred music. The fifteen peaceful and serene songs of this debut release will include original compositions written by the Sisters that reflect their Dominican spirituality, along with a selection of modern and ancient hymns and chants in English and in Latin. Singing both a capella and with the accompaniment of organ, trumpet, and chimes, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have created a collection that is reflective of the music in their daily community life. The Sisters may be recognized due to their multiple appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the extensive publicity they have received in the US and Canada through outlets such as The New York Times, The Detroit Free Press, The Washington Post, CNN, Fox News and beyond. The Dominican Sisters of Mary placed in the finals of the recent season of The American Bible Challenge, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy on The Game Show Network. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, founded 16 years ago and with 110 sisters currently in the Community, also have teaching missions in schools all over the US. They chant the Divine Office throughout the day and their favorite hymns throughout the year, while also composing music of their own. They follow in the thirteenth-century footsteps of St. Dominic, while very much engaging the modern world. Their Motherhouse is in Ann Arbor, MI, and they are in the process of raising funds to construct a new priory in Texas.
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The album itself is composed of fifteen songs and is just under 45 minutes long. The music is a mixture of English and Latin and it incorporates some instrumental and a capella pieces. You will recognize some of the music, such as Salve Regina or Pange Lingua. However, there is also an original one entitled "I Am in Thy Hands, O Mary." I first listened to this album at work and it transformed my whole day and made it more Christ-centered. I try now to listen to at least some of the album once a day, and in different places like home or the car. Doing this helps remind me that every aspect of our lives should be prayer and worship of God. It also helps transform my car or job-site into a mini-place of worship. I am truly grateful, not only for the 5-star CD that these sisters produced but more importantly for the example of their lives.
Without going into too much detail, the album thoroughly accomplishes its mission. The raw skill that the Sisters bring to their music is astonishing considering they are not classically trained musicians. Moreover, the selection is a quite accessible mixture of Latin and vernacular songs that should be appealing even to people who are not accustomed to listening to sacred music. While not as haunting as selections from Hildregard Von Bingen or as technically flawless as some arrangements created by professional choirs, I nonetheless would chose the Sisters of Mary over any of these alternatives. The Sisters' music is a window into an organic lifestyle and worldview that is as real as it is ancient. To listen to "Mater Eucharistiae" is to glimpse a reality that is truly ageless. For almost a thousand years the Dominican sisters have carried on their tradition of sacred music; God willing, it will be carried on for many thousand more.
Thank you sisters for the CD and thank you God for the sisters!
Of course, they sing in a heavenly manner. Whether or not you prefer them to the Benedictines of Mary is probably a question of the material they sing and your preference for one venue or another. Like the Benedictines of Mary, the Dominican Sisters possess voices of the sweetest purity. While there are no obvious virtuosos among them (or if there are, they would be too modest to admit it), as a group they sing like angels, their voices harmonizing with celestial precision.
The Dominican Sisters sing nearly half the songs on the album in English, the native language of the composers. Accordingly, some listeners may find their repertoire more easily accessible than everything in Latin. First up is "Holy Mary Mother of God." It's obviously a lovely piece that well expresses the whole philosophy of the Sisters' order. As important, they sing it, as they do all the numbers on the program, with a gentle, fluid, always lucid grace.
And so it goes throughout a total of fifteen selections, some new, some old; some very old, indeed, like dating back to Chant based on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. The choir sounds most expressive in each of the numbers, their voices blending well, their enunciation crisp.
If I have any minor qualm about the album, it's a criticism you've heard from me before: Not enough music. I suppose you know when you've become a full-fledged pop star when your recording company affords you only a limited recording time. Pop albums are notorious for providing a measly thirty or forty minutes of playing time, perhaps reflecting the old LP days when vinyl records would hold only about that amount of material. With the coming of CD's, record companies were able to put up to eighty minutes of music on a silver disc, and with classical albums they did. Decca and De Montfort must think the Dominican Sisters are pop singers, not classical singers, since they give them only forty-three minutes of singing time. Relish those forty-three minutes.
Anyway, Decca Records, De Montfort Music, and the Dominican Sisters of Mary recorded the music at Motherhouse of The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in March, 2013. The sound is very dimensional and spacious, the voices and occasional organ accompaniment appearing much as they would in a large church setting. So we get a good sense of realism here, although it comes at the expense of some loss of inner detail because of the resonant acoustic. Still, the natural reverberation and the relatively lengthy decay time help to blend the voices nicely and offer a comfortable listening experience.
John J. Puccio