Various: Gregorian chant,

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Paraclete Press
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Coming of Christ
WORKS: Gregorian chant,
PERFORMER: Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola/Mary Berry
CATALOGUE NO: (distr. +1 800 451 5006; www.paracletepress.com)
This is the first in a series of three discs that ‘illuminate the life of Jesus through Gregorian chant’, and it covers Advent and Christmas – seasons that, to the quietly accustomed ear, contain some of the most joyous of plainsongs. Moreover, Mary Berry is immensely experienced in this field and her mirific guidance coaxes from the singers a constant shimmer of tiny accents and stresses sparking the words into life, a feature vividly illustrated by the swaying sense of awe drawn from the word ‘Angelus’ in the wonderful Christmas chant, ‘Puer natus est nobis’.

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Even so, the singers do have some technical vulnerabilities, and the presentation of these pieces through the long narrative of Christ’s life makes it difficult to create a sense of a rounded ceremony – though the recording is enclosed, as it were, by two organ works. Again, although the singing style seems firmly based on that established by the famous monks of Solemnes, the versions here do not always follow their editions (‘Missus est Gabriel’, for example, omits their B flats). But this is music that has been ‘lived in’ by these performers, and they give us a sense that their journey of musical and spiritual discovery has been worth making. Anthony Pryer