The nuns at Ephesus Abbey are back after three years, and they haven't missed a beat.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles are back with a new album for 2021. It’s been a long three years since their last release, in 2018, but the sisters have finally finished what may be their best record to date. Their new 20-song album, Christ the King at Ephesus, brings together some of the finest sacred music with an original hymn written by their very own Mother Cecilia.
Since their first release in 2012, the Missouri-based community of Benedictine nuns has enjoyed massive success. Their first four albums — Advent, Angels and Saints, Easter, and Lent — topped the classical charts. In 2013, they became the first nuns to receive Billboard’s Classical Artist of the Year Award. Now, they’re looking to take #1 again with their eighth “studio” album.
Christ the King at Ephesus is a “studio” album, although the term here is a little loose as the sisters recorded the whole thing from the sanctuary of their abbey. Whereas many sacred music recordings work hard to sound like they’re in church, the Benedictines of Mary were actually in a church while performing. The results are authentic, reverent tones that capture the essence of Catholic worship.
Reuniting the choir
According to Our Sunday Visitor, it took a bit of organizing to get the band back together. Over the last three years several of the sisters who have performed on past albums have moved to Ava, Missouri, to establish another community. While the original community, in Gower, has had an influx of new members, these did not meet the high singing standards set by previous albums.
Instead, the sisters of the Gower abbey sought permission to borrow several sisters from Ava. Sister Scholastica told OSV that the reunion and singing together was like “old times,” which can clearly be heard in the album. The sisters call the group a “dream team” and it shows in the precision and clarity of their performances.
It’s not just the combination of voices that makes Christ the King at Ephesus such a great album, but also the nuns’ dedication to detail. The sisters told OSV that they were intent on producing the most perfect recording possible. Each song was recorded without editing, which means that they had to start over any time an undesirable sound, like coughing or a squeaky shoe, happened to occur.
This dedication, which can make the recording process quite grueling, paid off in a big way, as each of the 20 tracks practically rings with perfection. One in particular, “Hymn to Christ the King,” stands out among the rest, as it is an original hymn written by Mother Cecilia. The sisters noted to OSV that the abbess was struck with a sudden inspiration for the song just days before they began recording. They can be seen recording the work in the video above.
Of the work, Sister Scholastica told OSV:
“We draw our strength from being set apart from the world with God and the sisterly support of one another” said Sister Scholastica, “the music seems to be a perfect means to reach out to the world that we are always holding up in prayer. There is no compromise of our life, but we can share what we have, and we are happy to do so.”
Read more about the growing communities of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles (and their six pairs of sibling-sisters) at Our Sunday Visitor.
Hear the whole album at Spotify: