Dear Friend of Clear Creek Abbey,
Some of you are aware of the recent release on September 9th of our second recording: Rorate Cœli: Marian Sounds of Advent. There are multiple reasons behind this effort: to foster devotion to Our Lady who is the patron saint of our community; to contribute in some little way to the appreciation of Gregorian chant, which must have pride of place in liturgical celebrations; and, finally, to share our monastic life with a greater number of our fellow human beings, whether Catholic or not, through the medium of the official sacred song of the Church.
It may seem odd to be promoting in September this repertory centered on certain portions of the liturgy of Advent, but in our topsy-turvy post-modern world it seems better to strive to preserve the season of Advent for prayer and to leave some of the buying and selling to a time preceding those precious days leading up to Christmas. So here is our latest effort to praise God through sacred music.
The album consists in three sets of Advent chants, pieces both familiar and unfamiliar to most of our readers. The first set of chants features the Marian Mass Rorate Cœli, which we have the privilege of singing a couple of times in Advent. Then comes a variety of pieces from processions and especially the Divine Office, the “splendid accompaniment” to the Holy Mass; the season’s Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater (in three settings) and the first and last “O” Antiphons are found in this set. Lastly the monks sing the chants sung at the Mass in the morning of Christmas Eve, a day of more intense spiritual preparation for the coming of the Promised One.
The Church adopted such texts as these—some divinely inspired by her Lord, some lovingly composed by her children—for her liturgy, and the chant faithfully gives musical expression to these lyrics. The primacy of place of the text’s meaning behooves our making available not only the incomparable Latin but also its English and French translations in an accompanying booklet. Our monastic Choirmaster also provides a brief musical commentary on the spirit of the pieces. For example, he gives the following comment on the solemn tone of the Alma Redemptoris Mater:
The melody of the solemn tone, more elaborate than that of the simple tone, is all the more expressive. Remark the intonation, Alma, that goes up almost the whole scale, then the short passage natura mirante, expressing creation’s astonishment at seeing the Mother give birth to her God, followed by the tender reference to her child, tuum sanctum Genitorem: the low, simple, and sober melody is expressive of awe.
We hope this music will touch something in your heart and even in your soul. It is not about the human talents of the singers and others involved, but rather has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, as a catalyst of sanctification and sanctity in a time when holiness, wisdom, and even common sense seem to be abandoning all too many, especially in our more decadent Western societies. With Mary by our side, we cannot possibly miss the message of Christmas.
br. Philip Anderson, abbot
The monks during a recording session for this album
Rorate Coeli: Marian Sounds of Advent CD