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Music CD - Encircling Alleluias

When two Benedictine monks met in Rome as students in 2002, little did they imagine that three years later they would be combining their musical talents in a unique recording venture which has resulted in an hour-long CD recently released in England and Poland.

Fr Paulinus Greenwood (Abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey, Ramsgate) and Fr Bernard Sawicki (Abbot of Tyniec Abbey, Crackow) were both theological students living at Sant’Anselmo, the Benedictine Headquarters in Rome, when they began to get together once a week to play music from the Baroque and Classical repertoire, with Fr Paulinus on the treble recorder, and Fr Bernard accompanying him on the piano or organ. “Initially”, says Fr Paulinus, “it was purely recreational: something to do for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.” But then, Fr Bernard conceived the idea of making a CD, called ‘Encircling Alleluias’, to be produced by the publishing house attached to his own monastery back in Poland. He selected thirteen Alleluias from the ‘Gradual’, the book of Gregorian Chant used by monks at daily Mass, and devised a series of semi-improvisations on these melodies for treble recorder and organ. The order in which the Alleluias are played reflects the seasonal cycle of the Church’s liturgical year, beginning with Advent, then Christmas, Easter, through to Pentecost

Fr Paulinus describes how the CD came into being: “The recording was made in Poland in April 2005 over three consecutive nights, after Compline, the last prayer-service of the day, in the church of Fr Bernard’s monastery near Crackow. We were up in the organ loft with a microphone on a long pole strategically positioned between us, and the sound technician was an old friend of Fr Bernard’s from Warsaw. Each of the thirteen Alleluias had to be recorded three or four times, then, when that was finished, we had to listen to all the recordings again, and select what we considered to be the best of each version. It was tiring work, playing from about nine o’clock until midnight for three days, and then having to be up the following morning at the crack of dawn for Lauds, the first prayer service of the day! But we were pleased with the result which is sixty minutes of relaxing, meditative listening. It’s a very unusual CD for several reasons. For example, the combination of recorder and organ is rare on account of the instruments’ presumed incompatibility, with stark contrasts in power and tone. The recorder has a delicate, sometimes brittle tone, whereas the organ is strong and majestic. Also, while there have been many vocal recordings of Gregorian Chant over the years, this instrumental rendition is a new departure.”


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