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The Announcement of Christmas: Women in Chant    by Abbey of Regina Laudis order for
Announcement of Christmas
by Abbey of Regina Laudis
Order:  USA  Can
Sounds True, 2007 (2007)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Women in Chant: The Announcement of Christmas, the Choir of Benedictine Nuns of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, under the direction of Mother Abbess David Serna, O.S.B., bring us Christmas music of the monastic tradition. But don't think Sister Act - these singing nuns are something quite different. And though their voices are spectacular in this 76-minute CD presentation, this is in no way what most of us consider traditional Christmas music.

Rather these are ancient, seasonal Gregorian chants, performed as acts of prayer, from Advent to Epiphany. The voices - from soaring choral pieces to solos that sound tones like crystal bells - convey inspiration as well as a sense of peace to the listener. On the CD is also an informative sixty-four page digital booklet about the performance. It explains in detail the background to the music, along with evocative photographs of the nuns, smiling and singing in Abbey settings, brightened by occasional holiday decorations. Contents cover Advent; The Vigil of Christmas; Christmas Midnight Mass; Christmas and Its Octave; Solemnity of the Mother of God; Epiphany; and The Women of the Genealogy.

At the beginning of the cycle, we're told that 'Images of Advent awaken us to a deep and ancient sense of expectancy. The Advent wreath is one such image. Its four candles correspond to the four Sundays in Advent.' The text of the chants are all included - in the original Latin and also with English translations. I learned that the title song, The Announcement of Christmas, is chanted on the morning of the Vigil of Christmas (December 24th), with the Genealogy of Jesus performed by candlelight, just before Midnight Mass. I found the stories of the Women of the Genealogy - from Tamar to Mary - particularly interesting.

In Women in Chant: The Announcement of Christmas, the Regina Laudis nuns pull us out of the bustle of our daily lives - and all the excesses of the holiday season - and into a serene and meditative setting, focused on the spirituality of Christmas. I highly recommend the CD - and its accompanying e-book - to anyone interested in exploring Christmas in the monastic tradition. Note that it can be ordered from Sounds True.

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