Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Sister Enya, MD and the Trans-Siberian Riverdance"

or "Sometimes the Nun Gets You."

By Larry Beane (cross-posted at Father Hollywood)

On a visit to the bookstore of the Daughters of St. Paul today, I picked up a Chant CD.  It is called "In Paradisium" by the Daughters of St. Paul.  The cover depicts a beautiful vaulted cloister courtyard along with the title "In Paradisum" in Latin as well as the subtitle "Chant" and "Ever Ancient Ever New."

The clincher was that the CD was 40% off.  I thought it would be nice to hear some Gregorian Chant sung in the female voice register by nuns.  The back cover depicts the choir of nine habited sisters.

And so, I took the bait.

Upon listening in the car, it wasn't quite what I expected.  The music did feature (nearly all) Latin chant by the female choir - but there was more.  The vocals were overlayed with New Age licks reminiscent of Enya.  Don't get me wrong, I like Enya.  I know I'm probably not supposed to, but I don't really care.  I also like pineapple-amaretto daiquiris and little umbrellas in my drinks.  You want my man card? Μολὼν λαβέ, tough guy!  But Enya is not sacred music.  I didn't dig the whole Gregorian Chant thing with massage music going in the background.

Other tracks sounded like the theme from House, MD.  Hugh Laurie is a talented guy, but I don't think he can pull off the whole singing nun thing.

Still other tunes sounded like blatant ripoffs of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Again, I like the TSO.  I don't care what the trendsetters have to say about it.  But TSO is as compatible with singing nuns as is BTO.  Still other riffs called to mind Riverdance or some of the soundtrack of Braveheart. Again, nothing against Celtic tuneage.  I'm of Celtic heritage myself.  But Celtic dance tunes are just not compatible with the ancient dignity of Gregorian Chant.  Finally, there is the last tune, which goes disturbingly overboard regarding the mother of God - but what's even stranger, it is set to the Lutheran hymn tune "Erhalt Uns Herr" - otherwise known as the "Muderous Pope and Turk" song.

What a trainwreck!

It didn't have to be this way.  There were clues.  I should have paid better attention.  Had I had the Lutheran traditionalist defender of Lutheran traditionalism(tm),  Br. Latif, on speed dial, he could have "talked me down" and saved me ten bucks.

Our conversation would have gone something like this:

Me: "Hey, Brother Latif.  Larry here.  I'm looking at a chant CD."
Latif: "Hi Father Larry.  Okay.  Latin or English?"
Me: "Mostly Latin."
Latif: "Nice.  Who's it by?"
Me: "The Daughters of St. Paul."
Latif: "Ooh.  Uh, habited?"
Me: "Yes."
Latif: "Hmm.  Traditional?"
Me: "Well, I'm not sure..."
Latif: "Are their necks or ears exposed?"
Me: "Um, I see a little bit of lobe on one of them.  Yes, necks are exposed."
Latif: "No whimples?"
Me: "No whimples."
Latif: "I see.  These sound like Vatican 2 habits with modified veils.  Could be trouble.  Color?"
Me: "Navy and white."
Latif: "Okay.  That's enough.  I don't need to hear any more.  Father Larry, put the CD down, take three steps backward, turn, and run to the nearest bar or juke-joint where you can find some Springsteen or Evanescence..."  (Of course, Brother Latif would be referring to the good Evanescence with the deep lyrical themes from the time before the Christian guy left the band, not the inferior-quality post-Christian Evanescence where Amy Lee just whines virtually monosyllabically about her inebriated boyfriend...).

Brother Latif would also have picked up on the fine print on the back of the "In Paradisum" CD: "new arrangements."  I mean, what more needs to be said?

Yes, my bad, mea culpa.  I was foolish.  I hoped for traditionalism, and instead got a Vatican II Baby Boomer blend of Latin Chant and New Age, TV Soundtrack, Big Dramatic Drums, and Synthesized Bagpipes.  It happens.  But it doesn't have to.

Next time, I'm calling Brother Latif.


  1. Funny funny post! Moral: When it doubt call Latif! I like that.
    Deo Vindice

  2. Howz about some Polish chanting?


Comments are moderated. Neither spam, vulgarity, comments that are insulting, slanderous or otherwise unbefitting of Christian dignity nor anonymous posts will be published.