You may have heard the news of the forthcoming release of Voices: Chant from Avignon which is to be released on 8 November by Decca Records (here is a link to the Track List.) The above photo shows Dickon Stainer, Managing Director of Decca, passing the contract through the grille in the parlour of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation in France. You may also have seen the promo video which is good. I chose another video which I'll post tomorrow.
If you haven't heard the news, you can look up any one of the 546 stories currently listed on Google News or read any of the 1390 results from the blog search. (The YouTube video has had 38,755 views since it was uploaded last Sunday.) Unfortunately given the massive interest in the new CD, and the fact that most journalists mention the fact that Decca also publishes the songs of someone called "Lady GaGa", it is not a good idea to try to find pictures of the Abbey or the nuns on Google Images.
In an excellent article at the Chant Cafe, Another Round of Chant Mania, Jeffrey Tucker picks up on the irony for Catholics:
Striking, isn’t it? Here we have music that is organic to the Roman Rite liturgy that was assembled and codified over the first millennium of Christianity, and yet it still retains the ability to be news, to create globally popular collections of music that people listen to in their cars, their homes, on the iPhones and MP3 players - everywhere of course but in the typical Catholic parish.As he points out, the more sophisticated defenders of the pop music played in Church will argue that the postconciliar liturgical reform called for the active participation of the laity, and that liturgical music should be accessible and easily understood so that the laity could join in and play their rightful part in the worship of God.
Many advocates of the traditional heritage of Catholic liturgical music take issue with this interpretation of active participation and point out, as did Pope Benedict himself, that listening prayerfully to beautiful and sacred music is itself a form of active participation.
Without in any way denying the importance of such discussions, Jeffrey Tucker highlights the obvious lesson to be drawn from the way in which the forthcoming CD has gone viral: Gregorian chant is extremely popular. It does not alienate people.