The Chants of Angels / Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola
This chant schola, made up of members of the choir on Cape Cod, has recorded chant under Mary Berry and Richard Pugsley. For their two latest discs, the members of the schola divided the programs among themselves and took turns preparing and directing the chants. Seven men of the schola are on the latest disc, while seven women join them for the earlier disc. In the first (but newer) disc, the 24 selections range from the most familiar Marian chants to three unrecorded pieces. The latter include the responsory Benedicta et venerabilis , the Assumption hymn O prima Virgo prodita , and the antiphon Beata es Virgo Maria Dei genitrix , as well as only the second recording of the responsory Repleta est Spiritu Sancto . The familiar chants include the four final antiphons, distributed through the program in pairs (simple and solemn settings).
The excellence of interpretation is not surprising, for the first members of Gloriae Dei Cantores spent some time at Cambridge studying chant with Mary Berry in the 1980s, and she came to Cape Cod for many summer sessions until her lamented passing. Her influence has endured in the skillful semiological interpretations of these chants. All of the hymns are sung complete and the graduals include the repeat of the respond. It would be hard to single out a few pieces for special praise, but the sequence Stabat mater , which ends the program, is superbly executed through its five-minute length. The verses of the offertory Ave Maria , too, are expertly rendered; not only is this one of the most frequently recorded chants, but it is also one of the most frequently recorded offertories with verses.
In the other disc, released a year ago, the 18 selections include another three first recordings, the hymn Festiva vos , the antiphon Angelis suis , and the alleluia Benedicite Domino . The hymn Custodes hominum has only its second recording. The offertory Immittet Angelus is recorded with all three verses for the first time, and the offertory Stetit Angelus has its single verse. This program has few of the most familiar chants. The two scholas, men and women, sing most of the selections separately, joining to alternate in the verses of hymns and only rarely concluding a chant with octave singing.
The recordings, among the first Super Audio productions on this label, were made in the new Church of the Transfiguration, which the ecumenical community built on the grounds of their complex. The surround sound provides a nice sense of space around the singers. Since thematic programs focused on chants of the Blessed Virgin and the angels are so common, these discs are notable for containing some unusual selections. While I have always approved the schola’s chant recordings, these two discs attain a new height of excellence, the best chant singing of any American choir. The booklets are attractively printed, too. Both discs will grace any chant collection.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Catalog Number: GDCD051
Label: Gloriae Dei Cantores
Orchestra/Ensemble: Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola