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French Benedictine nuns bring ancient chant to the isolated world

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Their website will have thousands of chants before summer, with an app planned for the Fall.

Sisters from the community of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fidélité of Jouques, in Provence, France, have released recordings of their wonderful Gregorian chant in order to help ease the hardships of global isolation. The recordings are from one of the largest audio production efforts ever to be commenced, which took 3 years to compile.

American musician John Anderson recorded the French nuns singing their daily offices for three whole years. At a pace of 8 chants recorded per day, that’s roughly 8,760 recordings of the various chants sung throughout each year. The Guardian reports that Anderson was left with over 7,000 hours of music to mix and master.

When the sisters were forced to close their abbey to the public due to the coronavirus world isolation, they thought it would be nice to release some of their recordings for Holy Week. They brought to the faithful seven beautifully performed chants on their Neumz Youtube Channel, but they intend to release the majority of their recordings over the next several months.

Their catalog of thousands of sacred Catholic chants will be launched on the Neumz website, which is the official site for what they refer to as the largest recording project in history. The Neumz site plans to be active before summer, with an app for Android and IOS coming in the fall. The app will provide the user with the recordings and sheet music to follow along. It is not only an invaluable educational tool, but it will preserve these ancient chants for as long as the internet lasts.

Anderson explained to The Guardian that the idea arose after his aunt joined the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fidélité of Jouques. While visiting his aunt he experienced the sublime chant and wished to share it with the world:

“The community is living in communion with nature and in quiet contemplation. Their life is regularized by the rhythm of prayer and work,” he said. “The simple beauty of their singing” had had a profound influence on him, he said, and “on the sensation of time, the amount of focus it was possible to achieve in such tranquility.”

Anderson got permission from the order and set up discreet microphones in their chapel. The sisters would start the recording when they entered the room and stop it when they left, which means that Anderson got every note of every chant, every day.

All proceeds from the project will go toward supporting the nuns, as well as their sister convent in Africa. Interested parties can sign up for their newsletter on the Neumz website to receive notification when the music and apps launch, as well as news from the community of Benedictine nuns.

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