By complete coincidence, as I was driving in to work one day last week, I heard a long interview on National Public Radio's Morning Edition with Mother Cecilia, the prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Missouri. The piece contained several excerpts from this new album, and I immediately knew I had to check it out, and sooner rather than later.
"Lent at Ephesus" (23 tracks; 78 min.) contains more of the a-cappella angelic voices (this is the nuns' third album). Starting off with "Jesus, My Love", the group of about 20 Benedictines are praising the Lord, and basically never let up from there. It's hard to pinpoint any highlights as the songs tend to blend in one into another, and it all sounds warm, uplifting and glorious. But there are a couple that in particular caught my attention: the 7 min. "Improperia", with the so-called "droning" sound as described by Sister Cecilia, which sounds heavenly, truly "out of this world". Then there is "Mother of Sorrows", one of a handful original songs brought by the nuns. Another can't miss is the 8 min. "Crux Fidelis", epic in every regard. Just wow. If you grew up Catholic (which I did), some of this will sound immediately familiar, even comforting. But even if you didn't, I am quite certain that this will resonate with you.
This CD is like an oasis of peace and comfort in the midst of our ever-frantic and busy lives. The only unfortunate thing is that we will never get to experience this live, as the Benedictines will not tour or give concerts. On the plus side, apparently the proceeds of these CDs go toward settling their debts and expanding their good works. Even if that wasn't the case, "Lent at Ephesus" is nothing short of a fantastic album, and is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
This cd will be available in February. Go to their website to hear some extracts. The tracks include some beautiful arrangements of classic Catholic hymns, but also a selection of Gregorian chants, should you wish to discover this great hidden jewel of our musical tradition.