Christopher Francis reviews Tempus per annum CD

Christopher Francis is Editor of "Latin Liturgy" - the Journal of the Association for Latin Liturgy.

Tempus per Annum:  review of new CD from Pluscarden 

This latest CD from the Benedictine monks of Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, Scotland is of chant from what in English is erroneously called ‘Ordinary Time’ - which is not what Tempus per Annum means. The remarkable variety of the chants on this disc is far from ordinary. The interpretation is thoughtful, and is based on a real understanding of the chant. As the excellently written booklet says, ‘close attention has been paid to the neumatic signs printed in the Graduale Triplex…the signs found in three principal early manuscripts of the Chant: from the monastery of St Gall, dated to the 920s; from the Cathedral at Laon, around 930; and from the monastery of Einsiedeln, around 960.’ 

For this necessarily brief review I will single out three chants for particular mention: firstly the troped Kyrie Fons Bonitatis: not only is this beautifully sung, it also brings to life an entire strand of chant history and finds it very much at home in our present age, despite having been suppressed by the Council of Trent! Secondly there is the hymn Rerum Deus fons omnium, notable for its flow and movement. The vocal tone is both strong and mellow, and the bare fifth in the organ on the final note is a good and clever stroke. In fact, throughout this disc, where there is organ accompaniment it is very well done. This is important, as even the best chant singing can be undermined by a lack of artistic sensitivity in the organist. Both my first selections are accompanied so, as representative of the unaccompanied chants I’ve chosen the fine Communion Multitudo languentium in the 2nd mode, with its two attendant psalm verses, where we hear fervent, disciplined  and committed singing of a high order.

The CD contains 29 chants, lasts about an hour and a quarter, comes with a full and informative 32-page booklet, and is very good value at £11.90.

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