The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Let us now praise churches for providing concert venues.

January 4, 2016
11 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear received the following message from a loyal reader and thinks it is worth passing on:

“Dear Ear,

“Two of your recent posts sing the praises of Wisconsin Public Radio.

“May I also suggest that we thank area churches?

“Not only do they provide concert venues for various groups, but their active promotion of music more generally — choirs, organ accompaniment — throughout the year is worth a blessing.

“On Christmas Eve, we went to the First Congregational United Church of Christ (below, in a photo by Kent Sweitzer of the Madison Bach Musicians performing its annual Baroque holiday concert) to hear an abbreviated Nine Lessons and Carols.

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2014 CR Kent Sweitzer

“We had the benefit of hymnals and for the first time for me could actually read or sing along with the service. Plus lighting dozens of candles in the darkness and wishing the congregation of the planet peace.”

The Ear couldn’t agree more and is happy to comply.

Quite a few churches or church-like organizations come immediately to mind.

There is the First Unitarian Society of Madison (below) with its FREE Friday Noon Musicales every week and its special concerts:

FUS exterior BIG COLOR USE

FUS1jake

There is the downtown Luther Memorial Church (below) where University of Wisconsin-Madison choirs hold their annual holiday concert and where the Madison Early Music Festival has performed:

luther memorial church madison

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial audience

There is Blackhawk Church in Middleton (below) where the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra holds its annual performances of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah”:

BlackhawkMessiah

There is Grace Episcopal Church (below), on the Capitol Square, which is where the Wisconsin Chamber Choir held its concert this year of various settings of the Magnificat and which hosts the FREE Grace Presents series.

grace episcopal church ext

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Magnificats 1

There is the Immanuel Lutheran Church (below), on the near east side, that hosts the Willy Street Chamber Players and the Madison Bach Musicians.

immanuel lutheran church ext

Immanuel Lutheran interior

There is the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below) on the near west side, which hosts many different concerts and groups:

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

St. Andrew's Church interior

There is Holy Wisdom Monastery (below) in Middleton, which holds a variety of concerts and hosts the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in the summer.

Holy Wisdom Monastery interior

And even though it is now a landmark building rather than an active place of worship, there is the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue in James Madison Park, where the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs.

Gates of Heaven

Thank you, all.

The Ear is sure there are many more that he is leaving out.

So he asks readers to please leave the names of other churches and concerts or musical events in the COMMENT section.

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Classical music: It’s Christmas Eve — a good time to revisit how the Wisconsin Chamber Choir imaginatively and successfully used many versions of the “Magnificat” to combine the holiday seasonal and the musically substantial  

December 24, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger 

Here is a special posting that is perfect for Christmas Eve. It is a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

On last Saturday night, at the fully filled Grace Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, director Robert Gehrenbeck led the Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) through a program that managed blessedly to combine the seasonal with the musically substantial.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Magnificats 1

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Magnificat audience

The program was constructed with very great insight and imagination, around the Magnificat, the hymn in the Gospel of St. Luke that the Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth are supposed to have improvised during their Visitation.

Marys magnificat

The Latin version is probably, with the exception of passages from the Mass Ordinary,, the most frequently set of all liturgical texts, given its varied utilities — not only for Advent celebrations but as the culminating part of the Office of Vespers.

Of the absolutely innumerable settings made of this text and its counterparts through the ages, Gehrenbeck (below) – who directs the choral program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater — selected six versions, mingling them among related musical works. The program was organized in six segments, three given before intermission, three after.

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

An initial German segment was dominated by the Deutsches Magnificat, which uses Martin Luther’s translation, a late and very great Baroque masterpiece for double choir by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).

That was supplemented with a five-voice motet by Johannes Eccard (1553-1611) that absorbs some of the Magnificat imagery, and a textually unrelated double-choir German motet by the post-Baroque Gottfried Homilius (1714-1785) — a piece that reminded me strikingly of the neo-polyphonic style that Johannes Brahms would develop a century later for his own motets.

Johann Sebastian Bach found his place with three of the four Advent texts that the composer inserted in the original E-flat version of his Latin Magnificat setting. One of those adapts the chorale Vom Himmel hoch (From Heaven High), so the three were prefaced by a chorale-prelude for organ by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) that elaborates on that hymn. (NOTE: Bach’s lovely full choral version of the Magnificat can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom. It features conductor John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and period instruments played in historically informed performances.)

Then we had settings of the Latin text.

First, one that alternates plainchant on the odd-numbered verses with organ elaborations by Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616-1655) on the even ones.

Second, we had a full setting by the late-Baroque Czech composer, Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745), with a skeletal “orchestra” reduced to oboe, violin and cello played beautifully by, respectively, Andy Olson, a graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin,  who works at Epic and who has performed with the Middleton Community Orchestra; Laura Burns of the Madison Symphony Orchestra; and Eric Miller of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble.

Andy Olson oboe

- Laura Burns CR Brynn Bruijn

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble Eric Miller USE THIS by Katrin Talbot

A clever venture was made into Orthodox Christian treatments of the text in Church Slavonic. The full text in that form was given not in one of the more standard Russian Orthodox settings, but in a highly romanticized treatment by César Cui (1835-1918), a member of the “Mighty Five” group.

This was supplemented with beautiful settings of the Bogoróditse devo and the Dostóyno yest hymns of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, both of which paraphrase parts of Luke’s text: the former composed by the Estonian modernist Arvo Pärt (below, b.1935), the latter by the Russian Georgy Sviridov (1915-1998).

Arvo Part

English-language treatments finally came with one of the settings by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis pairing that is standard in the Anglican church. This was prefaced by a simple organ elaboration by John Ireland (1879-1962) of an unrelated English Christmas song.

The final group drew back from the Magnificat motif by presenting two works each of two contemporary American composers who, for their time, are able to write with lovely and idiomatic results for chorus: Peter Bloesch (below top, b. 1963) and Stephen Paulus (below bottom, 1949-2014).

Peter Bloesch

stephen paulus

Each was represented by an arrangement and an original piece. Paulus’ treatment of the traditional “We Three Kings” carol went with his setting of a charming poem by Christina Rosetti (slightly suggestive of what Gian-Carlo Menotti portrayed in his opera Amahl and the Night Visitors).

Bloetsch’s elaboration of an old French Christmas song was balanced with his lovely setting of a 15th-century poem that does vaguely hint at some verbiage of the Magnificat after all. Both works by Bloetsch, who was in the audience, received their world premieres.

The 53-voice choir sounded superb: beautifully balanced, precise, sonorous and often simply thrilling. Along the way, four women from the ranks delivered solo parts handsomely. Mark Brampton Smith (below) was organist and pianist as needed.

Mark Brampton Smith

It proved a superlative seasonal offering, in all, organized with a rationale that was both ingenious and illuminating.

For more information about the Wisconsin Chamber Choir and its future concerts, go to:

http://www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org

 


Classical music: This Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., Wisconsin Public Radio — the biggest friend of classical music in the state — will broadcast the fifth annual holiday concert by the Madison Bach Musicians that took place last Saturday night.

December 19, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Last Saturday night saw one of those unfortunate train wrecks.

And making it even more unfortunate was that it came at holiday time, when music takes on special meaning and seems more festive or celebratory.

The conflict centered on two very worthwhile concerts by two very reliable groups.

The first was the fifth annual Holiday Concert by the Madison Bach Musicians at the First Congregational Church of Christ, seen below in a photo by Kent Sweitzer.

The program featured two cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, a recently discovered “Gloria” Cantata by George Frideric Handel; and the Christmas Concerto in G minor by Arcangelo Corelli plus chamber music by Georg Philipp Telemann. (You can hear the lovely Corelli concerto performed by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link with much more information as well as an interview with MBM founder, director and harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/classical-music-trevor-stephenson-explains-why-baroque-music-sounds-so-good-at-holiday-time-his-madison-bach-musicians-will-perform-their-annual-baroque-holiday-concert-of-bach-corelli-and-telemann/

Madison Bach Musician -Baroque Holiday 2015 cr Kent Sweitzer

The second concert was a single performance – there used to be two – by the UW-Madison Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra with graduate student and guest soprano Tyana O‘Connor, all under the baton of Beverly Taylor, in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

That program was all 20th-century and featured the Overture to “The Wasps” by Ralph Vaughan Williams; the Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky; and the Gloria by Francis Poulenc.

Here is an interview about the program with Beverly Taylor who is the choral director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/classical-music-the-uw-choral-union-and-uw-symphony-orchestra-will-perform-an-all-20th-century-program-of-works-by-vaughan-williams-stravinsky-and-poulenc-this-coming-saturday-night-plus-conductor/

The Ear couldn’t go to both and went to the memorable Choral Union concert, which I will comment on tomorrow.

But veteran critic John W. Barker (below), who writes for Isthmus and often for this blog, did go to the Madison Bach Musicians and filed this rave review:

http://isthmus.com/music/baroque-holiday-madison-bach-musicians/

John-Barker

Thanks to Wisconsin Public Radio – the biggest friend of classical music in the state – you can hear most of the Madison Bach Musicians’ concert (the Bach, Handel and Corelli) this Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

The broadcast may be delayed and not live. But it is NOT too late for the holidays!

The Ear will be tuning in.

If you also missed it, perhaps you will too.


Classical music: Trevor Stephenson explains why Baroque music sounds so good at holiday time. His Madison Bach Musicians will perform their annual Baroque Holiday Concert of Bach, Corelli and Telemann this coming Saturday night. Plus, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet performs a FTREE concert Thursday night at 7:0 p.m. and at noon on Friday you can hear a FREE performance of two sonatas for violin and piano by Beethoven.

December 9, 2015
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ALERT: On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the UW -Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet will perform a FREE concert of 20th-century music by Henry Cowell, Irving Fine, Robert Muczynski, Alan Hovhaness and Elliott Carter. For more information, here is a link:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the meeting house of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Wendy Adams and pianist Ann Aschbacher in two sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 30, No. 1, and Op. 96.

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Saturday night, the Madison Bach Musicians and guest soloists will perform their annual Baroque Holiday concert. (Below is a photo by Kent Sweitzer of the 2014 concert in the same venue.)

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2014 CR Kent Sweitzer

The concert is at 8 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., near Camp Randall.

Tickets are $23-$28 and can be purchased at the door, with discounts in advance at certain outlets or online.

For more information, visit the MBM website at:

http://madisonbachmusicians.org/december-12-2015/

Trevor Stephenson, who is a master explainer and who will give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m., recently spoke via email to The Ear:

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

This is the fifth annual Baroque Holiday Concert by the Madison Bach Musicians. Generally speaking, what is your goal when you program for it?

The idea of the Baroque Holiday Concert is to present an interesting and varied program of Baroque and Renaissance music, some of which pertains to the holiday season and to winter itself.

More importantly we try to program outstanding pieces that Madison audiences may not have had a chance to hear very often in live performance, particularly, played on period instruments and with historically informed performance practices.

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2012

Why is Baroque music so popular at the holidays? What is it about the music itself that makes it feel so appropriate to the occasion?

Baroque music, whether it is written specifically for the holidays or not, does indeed sound terrific this time of year. I think the baroque style really strikes the right balance between energy and form — a perfect marriage of theater and church.

The Bach cantatas, two of which we’ll be playing on this upcoming concert, are perhaps the strongest examples of this fusion. The bearing of these pieces is always devotional, while the compositional technique—the process of invention in them—is always searching, exploratory, even avant-garde.

Look at the opening of Cantata 61, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Now Come Savior of the Heavens) where Bach (below) begins by firing up a martial-sounding dotted-rhythm French overture and then layers in the voices, one at a time, in long moaning tonally-veering chant lines. And yet, this all seems to operate within a framework that can accommodate it.

Bach1

Briefly and in non-specialist terms, what would you like the public to know about each of the works?

In addition to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata 61, the more grand-scale Advent Cantata discussed above, we’ll also be presenting the more intimate Cantata 151, Süßer trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet Comfort, My Jesus Comes) composed for the third day of Christmas), which opens with an elegant and extended aria for soprano and obbligato baroque flute. We’re thrilled that this will be performed by outstanding soprano Chelsea Morris and baroque flutist extraordinaire Linda Pereksta.

We’ll also perform the rightly beloved “Christmas” Concerto in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, by Arcangelo Corelli. The melodic material, the sequential dance-movement structure and the unsurpassed beauty of the string writing in this concerto grosso are perfect in the extreme. MBM concertmaster Kangwon Kim will lead this from the first violin.

By the way, if you’re familiar with Peter Weir’s 2003 movie Master and Commander you’ll notice that the Corelli “Christmas” Concerto pops up a couple of times in the movie score. (You can hear the “Christmas” Concerto, conducted by Trevor Pinnock, in the Youtube video at the bottom.)

Also on the program is Telemann’s E minor quartet from Tafelmusik. Tafelmusik, literally “table music” refers to the domestic and unassuming everyday quality of the writing. Chelsea Morris (below) will also perform three movements from George Frideric Handel’s Gloria.

Chelsea Morris soprano

Other musicians featured on the program are alto Margaret Fox, tenor William Ottow, bass Luke MacMillan, violinists Brandi Berry, Nathan Giglierano, and Olivia Cottrell, violists Marika Fischer Hoyt and Micah Behr, cellists Martha Vallon and Andrew Briggs, and (yours truly) harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson.

I’ll also give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. about the music, the composers and the period instruments.

Is there something else you would like to say about the works or the performers?

I’d also like to mention that the concert will be given in the wonderful sanctuary of Madison’s First Congregational United Church of Christ. The acoustics there are absolutely terrific. Wisconsin Public Radio will be recording the concert and will broadcast it later in the holiday season, date to be announced.


Classical music: The Rural Musicians Forum offers two FREE but contrasting modern “Magnificats” — by Jonathan Willcocks and Alan Hovhaness — this coming weekend in Spring Green and Plain.

December 2, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Rural Musicians Forum — which is directed by Kent Mayfield (below) of Milwaukee and which does such a laudable service by bringing classical music to rural areas in south  central Wisconsin — send us the following word about some remarkable performances this coming weekend:

Kent Mayfield  Rural Musicians Forum

“The Rural Musicians Forum welcomes the holiday season with two Advent concerts in early December. Each concert features the ancient text of the “Magnificat” in two dramatically contrasting modern musical settings for orchestra, chorus and soloists.

One performance will be at 7 p.m. on this Friday, Dec. 5, at the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church (below), at 253 West Washington Street in Spring Green.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The second is at 3 p.m. on this Sunday, Dec. 7 at the basilica-like St. Luke’s Catholic Church (below), at 1240 Nachreiner Avenue, in Plain.

St Luke's Church in Plain

Both concerts will be directed by Gregory Dennis (below), who is widely appreciated around the state for his able choral direction.

Gregory DennisJPG

The concerts are NOT ticketed. A free-will offering will be received. These concerts are underwritten in part by support from the Spring Green Area Arts Coalition, the Spring Green Arts and Crafts Fair, Kraemer Brothers LLC and generous individual donors.

“The first work is from the British composer, Jonathan Willcocks (below), who is known for a broad range of choral and orchestral music, much of it written for television and film, as well as for King’s College Christmas celebrations.

His “Magnificat” is a melodious, rhythmic and colorful piece, set in five contrasting movements from the Latin with two additional 15th-century texts in praise of the Virgin Mary and interweaves the Latin of the Church with the English of the common people — as if interweaving spiritual and secular themes through the use of two languages.

Jonathan Willcocks 2

“The second setting for the “Magnificat” is strikingly different. Influenced by the sounds and rhythms of the Holy Land, Alan Hovhaness (below) — who is also known as an “American mystic” — captures the mysticism, the beauty and the burning ardor of early Christianity. The result is an experience of intense longing, a declaration of grateful praise and resounding jubilation from voices filled with faith. (You can hear the opening of the Magnificat by Alan Hovhaness in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

alan hovhaness full face

Announcing the concerts, RMF’s Artistic Director Kent Mayfield notes, “In Willcocks, we have vitality and joyful excitement. With Hovhaness, we sense mystery, inspiration and an unforgettable radiant beauty. Each brings an abiding sense of spirituality to an often-secular holiday. Each prompts a stirring emotional response appropriate to the season.”

“‘Two Magnificats: Ancient Texts – Modern Voices’ promises a rich musical experience exploring deeper themes of personal and universal, spiritual and aesthetic meaning in a single holiday celebration.”

“Two performances of “Two Magnificats” are scheduled with full orchestra and featuring soloists soprano Christina Kay (below top), alto Katie Butitta (below second), tenor J. Adam Shelton (below third) and bass Derek Miller (below bottom).

christina kay magnificat

Katie Butitta

J. Adam Shelton

Derek Miller

For more information about the Rural Musicians Forum and its concert series, here is a link:

http://www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

 

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will “wake up” listeners with a popular Bach Cantata and several other works at a holiday concert this Friday night. Plus, the Madison Opera gets an NEA grant to help stage Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” in the spring.

December 18, 2013
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NEWS: The Madison Opera has news to announce: It has been awarded a grant of $15,000 in the first round of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Fiscal Year 2014 funding. It is one of 895 nonprofit organizations nationwide – and one of only 34 opera companies – to receive an NEA Art Works grant. The grant will help support the Madison Opera’s Upper Midwest premiere production of Jake Heggie’s opera “Dead Man Walking” on April 25 and 27, 2014. The Ear sends hearty congratulations!

By Jacob Stockinger 

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below top) will perform the program “Wake, Awake” featuring Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata No. 140 on this Friday, December 20, at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church (below bottom is the acoustically superior interior)  on the corner of West Washington Avenue at Carroll Street on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir 1

MBM Grace altar

The concert of choral music will usher in the holiday season with J. S. Bach’s most famous cantata, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (“Wake, Awake, a Voice is Calling”), featuring some of the most beloved melodies by Bach (below). You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Bach1

Appearing with the WCC in this work is a stellar cast of soloists and Sinfonia Sacra, the WCC’s own professional orchestra.

Additional highlights of the concert include a set of hauntingly beautiful carols by Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus (below) and a new, visionary setting of O magnum mysterium by Juilliard School of Music composer Wayne Oquin.

stephen paulus

Further music for Advent and Christmas by Heinrich Schütz (bel0w), Gottfried Homilius (a student of Bach), William Mathias and  William Dawson round out the program, and a vocal Jazz arrangement of Go,Tell It On the Mountain brings the evening to a rousing close.

Heinrich Schutz

Advance tickets are available for $10 for students, and $15 for adults from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets; or at our local retail partners: Willy Street Coop East and West, and Orange Tree Imports.

Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Bach, Mozart, and Haydn; a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and world-premieres. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.

Robert Gehrenbeck


Classical music: Is it a Christmas miracle? Monastic chant outsells “Fifty Shades of Grey” music compilation as well as Taylor Swift and Alicia Keyes as Benedictine nuns from Kentucky top Billboard’s Classical Traditional chart for one whole month with “Advent at Ephesus.” Hear the NPR interview with the head sister Mother Cecilia and selections on public radio stations on Christmas Day. Plus, listen to different version;s of Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” this afternoon on Wisconsin Public Radio.

December 23, 2012
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ALERT: Wisconsin Public Radio host Marika Fischer Hoyt, an accomplished professional violist who plays both baroque and modern viola, will do something The Ear loves to hear; a comparative listening session that samples different interpretations of a great work. Today from 2 to 4 p.m. on WPR (88.7 FM in the Madison area), Fisher Hoyt will sample six different versions of J.S Bach‘s magnificent “Christmas Oratorio” — The Ear’s favorite holiday choral work that too often gets overlooked in favor of Handel’s “Messiah.” I say: Thank You, Marika, and Tune in, listeners, as part of a Happy Holiday!

MarikaFischerHoyt

By Jacob Stockinger

Still looking for a last-minute music gift for the holidays? You might consider the following unusual item, which comes to The Ear thanks to the publicist at Decca Records and which seems to mark a renewed interest in medieval chant that also swept the US in the 1960s and 1970s.

Dec. 19, 2012 – (New York, NY) — The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Missouri continue their reign at the top of Billboard magazine’s Classical Traditional Chart for the fourth straight week in a row, holding the No. 1 position heading into the Christmas holiday with their recording, “Advent at Ephesus.”

Advent At Ephesus CD cover

American Public Media’s “Performance Today” calls “Advent at Ephesus” “remarkable,” and has featured the recording twice on their program in December, with additional music airing on Christmas Day.  Hailed as one of America’s most popular classical music radio programs, the show has more than 1.3 million weekly listeners, and is heard on more than 260 stations around the country. To find stations carrying the program click here: http://performancetoday.org/stations.

People Magazine recently featured the Nuns on their “People Pinboard” page which highlights “celebrity news, photos and trends” in their Dec. 17th issue, noting that “Advent for Ephesus” “outsells the “Fifty Shades of Grey” classical anthology (below) that author EL James listened to while writing the bestselling trilogy. Can it really be true that God outsells sex — at least at Christmas?

Fifty Shades of Grey CD

The Salt Lake Tribune says the disc is “divinely beautiful,” while The St. Louis Post-Dispatch aptly notes the album is “quietly cutting through the blare and noise of commercial Christmas” and “an ideal remedy for jingle-itis.”

Mother Cecilia of the Benedictines of Mary was also recently featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” following their No 1 debut, making waves across the Internet and resulting in their record shooting to the Top 5 of both Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com rankings, ahead of such superstars as Taylor Swift, One Direction, Katy Perry and Alicia Keys.

To hear the “All Things Considered” story, click here:

http://www.npr.org/2012/11/30/166260517/nuns-top-50-shades-in-classical-music-smackdown

nuns CD benedictined

“ADVENT AT EPHESUS” features 16 tracks including traditional English and Latin hymns, polyphony, Gregorian chants, medieval harmonies, and one original work from the sisters themselves.  The record represents a rare and often forgotten approach — one that focuses on music celebrating the quiet, introspective anticipation of the Nativity that is the foundation of the Advent season, celebrating the four preceding Sundays leading up to Christmas.

nuns singing ephsus

Founded in 1995 and hailing from Missouri, the sisters are young, contemplative and extremely musical.  They do not set foot beyond their Northwest rolling farmland, focusing solely on living an austere, yet joyful life set apart from the world.  Working on their farm and mostly living off the land, they sing together eight times a day as part of their daily monastic schedule, lifting their hearts to God through music.


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