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Traditions Monastiques



Gregorian Chant for Easter
Lumen Christi
Gloria I
Offertorium: Dextera Domini
Communio: Omnes
Ite Missa est
Hymnus: Salve festa dies
Introitus: Resurrexi
Kyrie I
Graduale: Haec Dies
Alleluia: Surrexit Dominus
Sequentia: Victimae paschali
Offertorium: Terra tremuit
Sanctus I
Agnus Dei I
Communio: Pascha nostrum
Abbey of Saint Joseph de Clairval, Flavigny
rec. live, Abbey of St. Joseph de Clairval, Flavigny

There has been an abbey at Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy from the 7th century until the French Revolution. It is now the site of the Abbey of St. Joseph de Clairval. The Anis de Flavigny candles now find their home in the remains of the historic abbey buildings. 

The community moved to Flavigny in 1976 having been founded in 1972 in the Switzerland by Dom Augustin Joly. The Benedictine community of St. Joseph de Clairval are now settled into the former Minor Seminary of the historic abbey. It seems to be a thriving community of some fifty members. 

The abbey runs a thriving 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 Easter, is a live, rather unvarnished and homespun recording of the whole community. The results are disarming and vivid though the recording is far from perfect. A particular curiosity is the way that some of the items cut in rather suddenly. This is particularly true of the first item, Lumen Christi which lasts just 11 seconds. 

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. 

The recording mixes plainchant sung by the entire community - usually with discreet organ support. The more complex chants are 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 that the CD is intended to enlighten, the booklet is relatively uninformative. There is some detail about what is happening in the service, but not quite enough. 

The disc is divided into two parts, the first covering music from the Easter Vigil Mass and the second from the Easter Day mass. The second item is perhaps the most distinctive. It is the Exultet - a long (11 minutes) solemn proclamation of Easter sung by a single voice. The unnamed cantor has a pleasant and expressive voice. The remainder of the chant from the Vigil Mass covers the Gloria, excerpts from the reading from Genesis, plus the Offertorium and Communio. 

The music from the Easter Day mass includes the lovely hymn Salve Festa Dies, plus the Introit, Kyrie, Graduale, Alleluia, Sequentia – Victimae Paschale, Offertorium Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Communion. 

The CD booklet contains only a listing of the items sung 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 link above). Another thing to beware of is that the disc has only two tracks, one for the plainchant from the Vigil mass and another for the plainchant from the Easter Day mass. This is most definitely a disadvantage to those listeners who want to explore in more detail the various sections of the mass and vespers. 

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 plastically 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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