Most of the choral records reviewed on AltoRiot have had some portion signifying a unison of voices wallowed in the feeling of solitude. Generally speaking most of the best contemporary-choral pieces in the last five years have tried to entrance a number of their themes with tones of somber and inner-reflection but never completely as a whole. The Benedictines of Mary, an order of catholic nuns based in Gower, Missouri sing their religious hymns eight times a day, and with such repeated practice comes an extremely articulated and professional quality of vocal output. Their latest recording Lent at Ephesus, their third full album in two years, represents the epitome of how a gathering of voices can make the mind feel as one. A collection of hymns in correlation to the Lenten season (the period by which Catholics prepare prior to Easter), Lent at Ephesus is by far one of the more unique records this year. This isn’t “celebratory” music by any stretch of the imagination as you’d expect from most seasonal recordings, and it’s difficult in recent memory to draw any comparisons to a record that brings about the true perspective of the Lenten season so well.
Lent at Ephesus is a hefty album, clocking in 23 tracks with only a few going over the five minute mark. Without getting into the performance quality of the Benedictines of Mary (which at this point have proven themselves to be legit and on par with any top-billing choral ensemble), one easily grasps a gravitating urge to look inside themselves upon the hearing of these emotionally-gripping sets. Putting aside the religious background, Lent at Ephesus‘ pacing of short tracks is perfectly timed for such reflective tones.
Highlight pieces such as “On the Way of the Cross,” “Divine Physician,” and “Crux Fidelis” are intensely focused in solitude, the voices of the Benedictines almost seem blended in with the silence of the atmosphere culminating in pure serenity.
Lent at Ephesus is a reflection of the soul, the inner-self we seek to find. Its a record of voices, perfectly sung in unison, but in the end it will give a window to the one voice often forgotten.
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