A memorable recording of hymns and carols, thanks to the flawless vocal blending of these teaching nuns
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, a youthful and growing community of teaching sisters out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, have released a 2017 Christmas album entitled, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring: Christmas with the Dominican Sisters of Mary. They’ve gathered together their favorite carols and traditional Christmas repertoire to share, and what better way to celebrate the season, than with a choir of such angelic voices?
The album has a diverse mix of popular and little-known Christmas Carols. They include many seasonal standards, like Joy to the World, Emmanuel, and Away in the Manger, but the album also includes some unfamiliar songs, like Of the Father’s Love Begotten, Madonna’s Lullaby, and Gabriel’s Message.
The strength of an album like this is that we get to enjoy perfected renditions of our favorites and learn new carols for the years to come, and it’s all delivered with the sort of lovely tone that religious communities develop as they sing their way through liturgies, day by day.
The sisters open the album with the Christmas Proclamation (also known as the Christmas martyrology) which is sung in the lead-up to the midnight Mass of Christmas. The Proclamation relates the history of the Jewish people up to the birth of Jesus Christ, further emphasizing Jesus as the fulfillment of all messianic expectations.
The title track, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, was recorded using the nuns’ own organ in the chapel of the motherhouse, in Ann Arbor. The sisters bring Bach to life with this wonderful recording, full of overtones given assist by the high chapel ceilings. An overtone, for those who do not know, is created when an acoustic ring echos back and creates a sound that is actually an octave higher than what is sung. Many of the tracks on this album achieve that effect thanks to the flawless vocal blending of the sisters.
Sleep, Little Jesus was a pleasant surprise. The tune begins with the classic melody to Silent Night and turns into the 17th Century Polish carol, Lulajże Jezuniua, a lullaby for the baby Jesus. The two melodies rotate back and forth until they intertwine by the end. This reimagining of two beautiful carols as one is alone worth the price of the album.
We also appreciated Oh Come All Ye Faithful rendered in the traditional Latin, Adeste Fideles. Along with the Gaudete, it is a nice break from the English-language carols.
That said, one our favorite tracks was the English translation of the German, Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying.
The Sisters of Mary have produced a really great Christmas album, here. Each track is filled with the pious love of Christmas. Their voices exhibit a genuine holiday cheer and dedication to their craft, which will make Christmas with the Dominican Sisters of Mary an album you’ll listen to every year.