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Traditions Monastiques


Gregorian Chant for Pentecost
Introit: Spiritus Domini
Vidi Aquam
Psalmi at Tertiam
Kyriale IX
Alleluia: Emitte Spiritum
Alleluia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Sequentia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Offertorium: Confirma hoc
Communio: Factus est repente
Salve Regina
Antiphona: Dum Somperentur
Antiphona: Spiritus Domini
Antiphona: Repleti sunt
Antiphona: Loquebantur
Lectio Brevis, responsorium breve
Hymnus: Veni Creator
Antiphona et Magnficat
Abbey of Saint Joseph de Clairval, Flavigny
rec. live, Abbey of St. Joseph de Clairval, Flavigny


The Abbey of St. Joseph de Clairval is, rather confusingly, based in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy. There was an abbey there from the 7th century until the French Revolution and the remains of the historic abbey buildings now house the Anis de Flavigny candles. 

The Benedictine community of St. Joseph de Clairval was founded in 1972 in the Switzerland by Dom Augustin Joly. The community moved to Flavigny in 1976, settling in the former Minor Seminary of the historic abbey. It seems to be a thriving community, currently numbering some fifty members. 

The abbey run a commercial enterprise, Traditions Monastiques, devoted to making the monastic life better known. Amongst the Icons and books are CDs of plainchant including a number made live at the abbey itself.

This disc, of plainchant for Pentecost, is a live recording of the whole community participating in chant for the mass and for vespers. The disc does rather sound as if someone has simply set up a recording apparatus and left it running during the service. The results have a disarming immediacy even though the recording is not perfect. 

The recording has a good atmosphere, giving a strong impression of the acoustic in which the choir sings; this is always important on a disc like this. The results are attractive and warm. But there is a remarkably emphasis on sibilants which can become a little annoying with repeated listening.

The recording mixes plainchant sung by the entire community (usually with discrete organ support) with more complex chants sung just by the schola (the smaller group of monks responsible for the chant). No indication is given as to the relative size of these groups and the CD booklet fails to elucidate which groups sing when. In fact, considering the CD is intended to enlighten, the booklet is very uninformative, it seems to be aimed at those who know what is going on. Not attempt is made to indicate what the different chants are for and no words are included.

The disc starts with a selection of chant from the mass. The Introit - Spiritus Domini, Vidi Aquam, Psalmi ad Tertiam, Kyrie and the Gloria form a natural opening sequence. The Credo is omitted. We then get the two Alleluias, the Sequence – Veni Sancte Spiritus, the Offertorium – Confirma hoc, the Communion – Factus est repente and the Salve Regina.

Some of these items were familiar to me from use in the Latin mass choir in which I sing, but others were new. The only item which is likely to be generally familiar is the lovely Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus. The Salve Regina is not sung to the familiar chant.

From the Vespers service we get the 4 Antiphons, Dum complerentur, Spiritus domini, Repleti sunt, and Loquebantur, the Hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, the final Antiphon and Magnificat and the close of the Vespers service.

The advantage of the live recording is that you get a real feel for the atmosphere of the mass; the familiarity of the monks with the chant comes across. They really do sound as if they have been singing the music for years. But they are not professional musicians, so some of the cantors sound a little thin voiced and there are problems of ensemble. Though these problems are only such if you expect such music to be sung perfectly, as if by the Tallis Scholars. Here it is intended to be an expression of the worship of the community and ensemble must be understood in this other sense. 

The CD booklet contains only a track listing and a short introduction to the chant. I could discover no recording date. The disc is available on-line from the abbey’s web-site  (see above). Another thing to beware of is that the disc has only two tracks, 1 for the plainchant from the mass and another for the plainchant from vespers. This is most definitely a disadvantage to those listeners who want to explore the various sections of the mass and vespers in more detail.

The whole disc has a suitably meditative atmosphere, whilst preserving a very real feeling of being in a living community; it is certainly not a plastic-packaged product. This warts and all feeling will not appeal to everyone but I loved the disc. If you want to experience chant as sung in a real Benedictine community then do try this.

Robert Hugill



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