The Monks of Glenstal Abbey,
Biscantorat: Sound of the Spirit
(Irl, 2004)

In recent years, many people have discovered the beauty and peace associated with the music and verses of Celtic poetry and Gregorian chant. Whether it is used to relax, to reach a spiritual plane or simply for musical enjoyment, you will not do better than this album.

It features the monks of Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick, Ireland, along with Noirin Ni Riain, John O'Donohue, the Glenstal Abbey School Senior Choir, Marie-Bernadette O'Connor and others. Through 21 tracks they will bring you on a journey through the church year that will elevate the souls of even the least religious among you.

Here you will not hear music, you will experience it from ancient carols through medieval chants and poetry.

The haunting voices combine to bring you back to a time long past. Back before video, television and even radio. This is song and recitation for the sake of singing and reciting. It may have been recorded on modern equipment, but listen to the voices -- the prime instrument on this recording -- and you will understand why the monasteries did not need church organs or speakers.

Many of the tracks are Christmas-related, including "The Coventry Carol" and two from earlier times in my native County Wexford. "The Darkest Midnight" and "Christmas Day is Come" are from the famous Kilmore Carol collection.

The album also makes good use of its guests. Noirin Ni Riain is famous for her crystal-clear voice and delivery. John O'Donohue is perhaps best known as the author of a best-selling series of books beginning with Anam Cara.

I wondered who Marie-Bernadette O'Connor was until I heard her first rendition on the album. Suffice it to say, she was once known by another name on the pop charts before retiring from commercial music to follow a more religious life.

This is a fascinating CD that will enhance any collection and could enhance your life.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 24 December 2004

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