Review: Advent at Ephesus
I hesitated to write a review because this gorgeous album by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Ephesus, MO, has been eagerly seized upon by at least half the Catholic bloggers in the world, and it debuted at number one on the Billboard Traditional Classical Music chart. I figured most people already knew about it.
But then I realized… I didn’t want to be the reason you didn’t hear about this gem.
The 16 selections on this lovely album were recorded in three days at the sisters’ monastery. They include hymns the sisters sing at the end of Masses during Advent, as well as traditional chant and polyphony, and an original piece “Adjuvabit Eam.” There are no instruments — just unadorned women’s voices singing in English and Latin.
None of the sisters are professional singers, and their choir is not a performance group. Rather, they lead a traditional Benedictine life of work and prayer and are in their chapel eight times a day singing.
“To be around these sisters is like a glimpse into Heaven,” says Monica Fitzgibbons, cofounder of De Montfort Music, the new media company that chose Advent at Ephesus for its first album — and it’s true. Listening to the soothing and lovely pieces is not like listening to a wonderful performance, but a little like listening in to the ongoing prayer of the angels before God.
That might sound a little over the top, and I don’t mean to suggest that the sisters literally sound like angels. But listening to this prayerful, placid song is like hearing a snatch of something beautiful and eternal — something that was going on long before you got there, and will go on long after you leave.
According to the press packet, the album’s producer — Grammy and Oscar winner Glenn Rosenstein — says the album is one of his top ten favorite productions. It’s easy to see why. In an age when most of the music we hear is from singers groomed and managed and positioned to a certain audience and style, this is the polar opposite: music without any commercial intent, sung for no one but God.
Of course, the album does have a commercial intent. If you buy it, you won’t be sorry.
Photo courtesy the Maximus Group.
Advent at Ephesus, by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from De Montfort Music and Decca Records.
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NEW! A 30-minute special on the sisters and the making of Advent at Ephesus will debut on EWTN Sunday at 11 am, and repeat at 4 am and 10 pm on Dec. 5; at 6 pm on Dec. 12; and at 9 am on Dec. 15.