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Legatus Magazine

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Patrick Novecosky | Review
Jun 01, 2015
Filed under Music
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Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia

This collection of Mary-inspired chant is destined to become a Catholic classic . . . .

monksBenedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia
The Monks of Norcia
De Montfort Music/Decca

My sister-in-law was placed on bed rest for much of her first pregnancy in 1994. She borrowed my my two-volume chant CDs to help her get through the long winter days. It’s been 21 years and I haven’t seen them since.

There was a mini-boom of Gregorian chant in the early 1990s. I’m not sure what sparked the revival of medieval prayer sung by monks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a new revival is sparked by the Monks of Norcia, who just released their first recording.

Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia was produced by 11-time Grammy Award-winning producer Christopher Alder and engineered by Grammy-Award winning engineer Jonathan Stokes. The album contains 33 tracks, including favorite Marian antiphons such as “Regina Caeli” and “Ave Regina Caelorum.”

These Benedictine monks live a quiet life of devotion in the Italian town of Norcia, about 100 miles northeast of Rome. Norcia’s medieval walls embrace the 1st-century basilica where St. Benedict was born in 480. Monastic chant echoed off the walls of the Monastero di San Benedetto di Norcia for more than 800 years before Napoleonic laws suppressed this branch of the Benedictine order in 1810, closing the monastery.

But when a Benedictine community founded in Rome in 1998 sought a new home, Norcia welcomed them warmly. Thanks to Fr. Cassian Folsom, the monks’ U.S.–born founder and prior, Gregorian chant once again echoes through the ancient halls. The young community (with an average age of 33) operates a craft brewery at the monastery.

Some pieces on Benedicta are sung by the entire group, some by smaller ensembles of monks and others by soloists, imbuing the disc with a variety of sounds. There is a youthful vitality to this music that is refreshingly peaceful and permeated with joy. I like this CD so much that instead of loaning it out this time, I’m going to buy a few copies for my friends and family!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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