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The Songs of Taizé
Jacques BERTHIER (1923-1994)

Bless the Child [5:12]; Jesus le Christ [3:50]; Nada ne Turbe [5:05]; Veni Sancte Spiritus [6:38]; Mon ame se repose [3:44]; Kyrie 1 [2:44]; Jubilate Coeli [2:44]; Singet dem Herren [3:53]; In the Lord [3:57]; Benissez le Seigneur [3:45]
Joseph GELINEAU (b. 1920)

Ubi Caritas Deus ibi est [4:04] and others
Recorded during services at the Church of Reconciliation in Taizé, France, 1993-2001.

Taizé is an ecumenical movement founded by Brother Roger Schutz in 1940 as a way of bringing both internal and external peace to a troubled world. The community in the town of Taizé numbers more than one hundred brothers, both Protestant and Catholic, from more than twenty-five countries. It is centered on a twelfth-century church in the tiny village of Taizé in Burgundy and is oriented towards healing rifts both national and religious. In the last forty years many young people have found their way to Taizé from all over the world and have taken back with them to their own countries what they have gained from the Taizé experience.

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The aspect of this movement that will be of most interest to music-lovers is that of the famed "Taizé Songs", most of them the creation of the French church composer Jacques Berthier. This son of a pupil of DíIndy had contributed to the music for the Taizé community early on, but with the aforementioned influx of young people, was asked to compose a body of simple songs especially for the use of the young. Over twenty years Berthier created a vast repertoire of "congregational song". The basic "Taizé Song" is made of up of a simple musical phrase, many times repeated. The texts can be from the liturgy(ies) or from works of Brother Roger and others. An interesting example of Berthierís skill is that he eventually set texts in over twenty languages which he did not speak, including English, yet the words and music go together very well.

The present CD might be described as a Taizé "greatest hits" album since it draws from more than half a dozen previously released CDs dating from 1993 to 2001. Ten of the nineteen selections are by Berthier, with one by his successor Joseph Gelineau and several others the creations of the Community. The music seems a conflation of French liturgical tradition with happy-clappy/charismatic singing and a little folksong thrown in. One would perhaps expect that any music meant to appeal to so many different types of people would sound like a mish-mash or have no recognizable personality and indeed, this cannot be described as forceful or stirring music. But it can be moving. I especially enjoyed Tracks 4 (an Alleluia from the Orthodox service) and 10 (Mon ame se repose) both of which had a more serious sound. Tracks 11-13 (an Alleluia, a Kyrie and a Jubilate Coeli) sounded like bad Christmas carols. The In Mana Tuas Pater, Track 17, was quite impressive.

To conclude, this CD is mostly directed towards adherents of Taizé or those interested in what ecumenical church music can sound like. It will insult no-oneís sensibilities, but at the same time will not appeal to those who expect church music to be "traditional". The CD comes in a small hardback book describing Taizé and the people there. It gives an excellent picture of the atmosphere surrounding the music. Finally, I should say that this CD made a welcome change from the usual Christmas fare.

William S Kreindler



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