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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


The Beloved Son: A Celebration of Faith in His Name
Gerald NEAR (b.1942)
Prelude on Ave Colenda Trinitas; Prelude on O Sacrum Convivium
Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991) Trois Paraphrases Grégoriennes: Mors et resurrectio
PLAINCHANT Antiphon: Baptizat miles regem; Responsory: In columbae specie; Antiphon: Ductus est Jesus;Communion: Dicit Andreas; Introit: Dominus secus mare; Communion: Beati mundo corde; Antiphon: Vos reliquistis; Communion: Quinque prudentes virgines; Communion: Simile est regnum caelorum; Communion: Dicit dominues: Implete hydrias; Antiphon: In diebus illis; Antiphon: Erat quidam regulus; Antiphon: Cognovit autem; Antiphon: Dicebat enim; Antiphon: At Jesus conversus; Antiphon: Stans autem Jesus; Antiphon: Accepit ergo; Antiphon: De quinque panibus; Antiphon: Assumpsit Jesus Petrum; Responsory: In splendenti nube; Antiphon: Ego sum ressurectio; Communion: Videns Dominus; Antiphon: Principes sacerdotum; Gradual: Christus factus est; Antiphon: Hosanna filio David; Antiphon: Pueri Hebraeorum portantes; Antiphon: Intravit Jesus; Antiphon: Maria ergo; Antiphon: Postquam surrexit; Offertory: Ubi Caritas; Antiphon: Coenantibus autem; Communion: Hoc corpus; Hymn: Pange Lingua; Offertory: Improprerium; Alleluia: Confitemini Domino
David Chalmers (organ)
SharonRose Pfeiffer (organ)
Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola/Dr. Mary Berry
Rec. September, November 2001, Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, Massachusetts
GLORIAE DEI CANTORES GDCD032 [64.60]

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I must confess that I have not always been enthusiastic about Gloriae Dei Cantores’ records in the past. Here, as on their Christmas CD 'The Coming of Christ' their Schola is directed by Dr. Mary Berry in a programme themed around the Life of Christ. On this recording, the sound engineers have managed to strike the right balance between clarity and sympathy. On previous recordings, the group have been recorded rather closely, which brings big advantages in terms of clarity, but means that the group is extremely exposed when it comes to lack of unanimity in the vocal line. But here, while clarity has been preserved, the choir are surrounded by a sympathetic acoustic which adds to their sound immeasurably. Under the direction of Dr. Mary Berry they produce a wonderfully focused and flexible sound.

The 16-person Schola, based in Massachusetts, sings both the daily Benedictine Offices and the Ordinary and Propers of the mass. This routine familiarity with chant is a great advantage and shows through in their commitment to all the music and the meaning of its text. This latter is important, as chant is nothing if it is not performed with a feeling for the meaning of the texts.


Rather than doing a liturgical reconstruction, the group have assembled the chant based on narrative themes. A previous CD covered Christ's nativity. This CD starts with his baptism followed by his journey into the desert with an antiphon to the Benedictus canticle from Lauds for the First Sunday in Lent. But before the chant starts, David Chalmers plays Gerald Near's organ paraphrase of 'Ave Colendas Trinitas'. Near writes much sacred music and it is good to hear some of it on CD, but no matter how well David Chalmers plays it, I feel that it sits rather oddly with the remaining plainchant.

The story then goes through the calling of his disciples using Propers for the Fest of St. Andrew. His preaching is represented by two Antiphons from the Common of Saints and of Apostles and the Communion for the Feast of Corpus Christi looks forward to the institution of the Eucharist.

The parable of the Wise Virgins is presented via the Communion chant for the Common of Virgins along with a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven from the Common of Religious.

The first miracle, the Wedding at Cana, is narrated in the Communion chant from the Common of both male and female saints. This is followed by a group of antiphons which presents further miracles; the final one being the raising of Lazarus from the Communion chant for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, which prefigures the Resurrection from the dead of Christ himself.

Halfway through the recital we are brought up short, by the inclusion of another organ piece by Gerald Near based on 'O Sacrum Convivium'.

The organ piece is followed by an antiphon and responsory for the Feast of the Transfiguration. The second half of the recital thus echoes the revelation of Christ's divinity at his Baptism from the opening of the recital. A group of antiphons narrates the events leading up to Passion week, culminating in the chants sung at the Palm Sunday procession. Chant from holy week includes the lovely 'Ubi Caritas' along with Christ’s words when instituting the Eucharist. This group concludes with the 'Pange Lingua', sung during the Procession to the Altar of Repose, and finally two chants leading towards Christ's resurrection.

The recital ends, as it began, with another organ piece. This time, Jean Langlais' organ paraphrase 'Mors et Resurrectio'. Would that the disc had ended with some chant.

As on previous GDC records, the background to the chant in the booklet emphasises the text at the expense of the music, there is little in the way of musical background. The chant is sung in the modern manner. This is Gregorian chant for now rather than liturgical archaeology.

The majority of chant on this recording is quite short, the longest (the 'Pange Lingua') lasting 3.37 and some is inevitably very short. It would have been more satisfactory if Dr. Berry could have included one or two rather longer chants. But the recital has been put together with care and some flair. The fact that it casts its narrative net over the whole of Christ's life means that we get a generous selection from the church's year. This is an imaginative solution to the problem of how to organise a programme of chant. Under Dr. Mary Berry, Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola give fine performances resonating with conviction.

Robert Hugill



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