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
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.