I’m spending most of this Lent on the Isle of Wight, at two Benedictine monasteries belonging to the Solesmes Congregation, Quarr Abbey (monks) and St. Cecilia’s Abbey (nuns). Both houses sing full Gregorian propers at every Mass, besides the entire Divine Office every day.
Quarr is a marvel. I’ve been there for a week now and amazed by the sheer amount of labora this small community is able to accomplish every day, in addition to their sublime ora. They have bees, pigs, ponies, ruins, construction, gardens, and a very full guest house, besides all the work that must be going on behind the scenes. The singing is wonderful, and the tune for the Lenten responsories is particularly haunting, and sung by the very able cantors.
St. Cecilia’s is a very full house, as they are offering hospitality to the nuns who left their Anglican monastery of Wantage in order to become Catholic. The singing of 40 very accomplished nuns is a stunningly beautiful sound, and the small group who sang today’s Gradual had me simply mesmerized.
The nuns have made a number of recordings, and sample tracks may be found here.
It’s a lovely island, and nowhere is far from the sea. The poetry of the scenery is helpful to my work, but the poetry of the chant is why I came, and it was an excellent choice, and I am very grateful.