Canto Noel

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Gregorian chant
PERFORMER: Monasterio Benedictino de Santo Domingo de Silos/Francisco Lara
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55217 2 ADD Reissue

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Marketed under the stress-busting slogan ‘Give the gift of Christmas peace’, Canto Noel is clearly intended to cash in on the success of EMI’s earlier Canto Gregoriano, the two-CD set of Gregorian chant that was passed off as ‘classical music’ and merchandised as sonic valium to spiritually challenged Philistines.

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The new disc is, primarily, a fair ‘sampler’ of Christmas day ritual at the Spanish monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos – the monks’ punishing and sleep-defying schedule here reduced to an undemanding sequence of soundbites. Unlike the earlier discs, these recordings are only 12 to 14 years old, nicely resonant, and the presentation, with colour photographs of monks and monastery, plus full texts and translations, is helpfully, even humorously, informative.