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Sony BMG wanted to record some memorable music to commemorate Christmas 2008, so with the help of producer Mike Hedges and arranger Sally Herbert some of the more traditional and well known pieces of music written by wonderful composers such as Schubert, Bach and Vivaldi have been recorded onto this CD.
The Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome, the Irish Film Orchestra and three Irish Priests gathered together in St Peter`s Basilica in the Vatican City to make this recording.
Tracks 1-14 as follows:
Ave Maria, interpreted as `Hail Mary`were words used to address the Virgin Mary. Franz Schubert wrote this highly emotional piece sometime during in 1825 when he was just 28 years old.
Ave Maria opens to the sound of string , gently and lovingly touched they create a magical setting giving out a sense of emotional warmth and comfort. A tenor soloist sings out with clarity and purity, imploring for his prayer to be heard, the strings continue softly, admirably backing his voice. At first he is alone but then the remaining tenor and the baritone step in to accompany him. During the course of the prayer the Irish Film Orchestra add to each crescendo to create a haunting melody. Throughout the prayer the tenors plaintive cry can still be heard above the swelling and immaculate harmony.
The whole prayer ends as it begins with the light soft strings dancing like feathers up and down the scales.
** Mit Wurd Und Hoheit Angetan**
Quite a fitting piece of music for the second track this is an excerpt from Haydn's Creation, `Die Schopfung`
In religious terms The Creation refers to the beginning and Haydn's masterpiece written in the late 1700`s celebrates the beginning of our New World as Genesis described in the Bible.
Again we are welcomed into the Baroque style piece with gentle, playful dancing strings yet within seconds the tenor bursts forth only to be accompanied a split second later by full choral backing. The whole feeling is one of joy and anticipation, there are important announcements to be made, the music embraces the task wholeheartedly and the moment is captured with perfection.
A poignant Benediction hymn with words that would warm the coldest of days. Panis Angelicus translates as `Bread of Angels` and is one of the most well known of Gregorian chants.
The introduction is maybe a touch mournful, if that's the correct word! But it is incredibly beautiful and as the tenor voice asks for our souls to be saved so that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven you can actually feel the humility reflected in the tone of his voice.
It surprised me to hear the Irish Blessing as Track Four, the words all point to a parting :
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rain falls soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
To me those are parting words but the words ring out as clear as a bell, a certain note of sadness creeps into the three voices and quite honestly it is a bit of a tear jerker. Only a tiny amount of choral work in this track but it is enchanting.
The Benedictus is a Christian Canticle and in the Bible it was sung by Zachary to give thanks for the birth of his son St John The Baptist.
The three Priests offer up thanks as if it were their own child that had been born, towards the end of the piece there is some heartrending harmony.
A song of love and devotion, it praises the Mary the Mother of God. The words of the song try to make us understand that love doesn't only mean passion and lust but it means extending love to different cultures and friends, family and neighbours. In fact it enforces that love is all important. When I heard the opening bars it reminded me of the `Funeral March`!
But three voices sing alone and in harmony which is maybe their way of showing us that we all need to work together and be more tolerant and generous with our love.
Whenever I hear this song it just leaves me in raptures, it also makes me think of the excellent little singer that was in last years `Britain's got Talent` programme. Although The Priests sing it with reverence and beauty I prefer to hear it sung by a young male soprano. It seems to develop a great innocence and wonder when it is trilled out by a high pitched voice.
Hacia Belen is a Spanish Carol and from the moment it starts you can feel the jubilation, it bubbles with joy and happiness.
The Priests have fun singing this one and the whole Carol is very `staccato`.
One that is full of joy as the King is born!
**Abide With Me.**
This hymn was written as far back as 1847, the work of Henry Lyte.
Most of us will associate the hymn with funerals but the Royal Family have played it at their weddings.
It certainly hits the spot where nothing else can reach, in one way I adore it in another way it is too much of a dirge.
The hymn has rhythmic qualities that are meant to fill us with positive feeling but I am not convinced on that one!
**Ag croist An Siol**
Irish musician Sian O Riada wrote both the music and the lyrics for this song. It is immensely popular in Irish churches and has a very Celtic theme attached to it.
Rather mournful and slow and maybe doesn't grip me as much as some of the other tracks.
**Domini Fili Unigenite.**
As soon as this opens you immediately think `Vivaldi`! Joyous, sprightly, thankful and filled with optimism.
I am probably biased because Vivaldi is one of my all time favourites, the voices interact and glide along with the cheerful sway of the music.
As the song opens you hear the trumpet sound, it heralds something good is on the horizon and how right it is!
**O holy Night.**
A Christmas carol that the majority of us have sung, either in school or at a carol service. Played at the right time of year it is a triumph, the repeated crescendo is spine tingling.
Definitely carry a tissue when this one is about!
**Ecce Sarcerdos Magnus.**
Not `Pomp and Circumstance` but still one of Elgars well known pieces of work. The words are taken from the Liturgy of Hours, which is recited regularly by Clergy all over the World.
Again I seem to prefer the more joyous songs, the inspirational music that reaches out to us.
**Be Still My Soul.**
This hymn is one that was based on a Psalm and the music is from Finlandia by Sibelius. It is music that makes you consider your soul...`Be Still My Soul`, those are words of consolation and reflection.
A touching, evocative and poignant song that fittingly ends the CD.
This CD has most definitely been assembled with much thought and reflection. The Priests performance is admirable and magical.
When I first saw this CD advertised on the television I knew that I had to buy it and I am so glad that I did!
The Priests CD is available on the Amazon website for as little as £6.49 with free delivery.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Ave Maria
2 Mit Würd und Hoheit Angetan (from Die Schöpfung)
3 Panis Angelicus
4 Irish Blessing
6 Plegaria (Los Tres Amores)
7 Pie Jesu
8 Hacia Belen
9 Abide With Me
10 Ag Crióst an Síol
11 Domine Fili Unigente (From Gloria)
12 O Holy Night
13 Ecce Sacerdos
14 Be Still My Soul