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Voices

4.7 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation, from a remote region of France near Avignon, won a worldwide search to find the world's finest female singers of Gregorian Chant. Decca. 2010.

About the Artist

The Nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation

The sisters of the Abbaye Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation live a life that is remote and cloistered. They have chosen never to leave the stone abbey set in acres of green hills in Le Barroux, an hour and a half's drive from Avignon, in Provence. Although they are not strictly a silent order, they can only speak when it is absolutely necessary. They get up at 4:45am for their first prayer which is sung. The sound is as ancient as the hills that surround them. They are separated from the world by a grille. You cannot talk to them except through bars, yet the purity and beauty of their singing cannot fail to touch you, transport you even. Says Tom Lewis, A&R for Decca Records: "Our objective was to find a sound that doesn't sound like anything else and that can make you feel something that you've never felt before. It's a total experience." The nuns won a worldwide search to find the world's finest female singers of Gregorian Chant. The search took in over 70 convents in 15 countries after an advertisement had been placed in the Catholic, National and French press asking for help from anyone who could help find their new singing nun stars. The singing sisters know nothing of the exact nature of the world's troubles, yet they pray for us all through song. They don't know who Angelina Jolie is, if she's on or off with Brad. They don't know politics. Yet they feel never far away from anything because of their closeness to God. They live by the Holy Rule, which is a rule of silence and seclusion. As well as singing they work, making christening robes, bookbinding, marmalade, jam, wine. It's an era where non-enclosed orders find it hard to find postulants, yet here the youngest postulant is 19 and there are several postulants in their early twenties who want to live a life ordered by God and ringing bells. The sisters range in age from 19 to 88. Mother Abbess has a deep crackle of a laugh and a warm chocolaty speaking voice. She looks at least ten years younger than her 44 years. She's a forceful personality. How could she give up her ego, her self, her sexuality, her possessions, as well as her family and friends? She says, "It's a paradox: obedience is freedom." She joined the monastery in her early twenties. "After the age of 30 we can't accept postulants. It would be too difficult for them to take the vow of obedience. None of us enter the monastery to sing, but singing takes on an importance because it is also prayer." They pray in this way five times a day. The oldest nun is 88 and has to be helped to walk, but they all unite in song and it feels very holy. After a while you don't notice the bars that separate them from the world because they communicate so intensely with the eyes. They always defer to each other when answering a question, but they have very definite ideas about the recording process. They need to be with a producer they trust, who respects the way they live. They are a closed order, which means they don't go out and no one crosses the line, not a photographer, not a camera unless the sisters themselves take the pictures/ make the movie. They are strict about where recording equipment can be placed. Dentists and doctors make visits to them and only in a real emergency would they be allowed to leave. There are sisters from Hungary, Poland, Australia and the United States. Their day is extremely ordered. Prayer, study, work and more prayer. There is only 40 minutes recreation a day. The first 20 minutes of which they can walk around the property, and the next 20 minutes they are allowed to talk with the other sisters. Their families may visit them, but they may never visit home, even if there is a family crisis or illness. They are pristine, but they are far from stuffy. Lurking beneath Mother Abbess' formidable presence is a showman. She says, "When I took the habit my family couldn't believe it. My brother-in-law said `I thought you were going to be in the theatre.' I always liked performing. My father wasn't surprised though; he knew it already." Giving up family is a huge sacrifice, not only for the sisters but for the family that they are leaving, at least initially. Mother Abbess says, "All of the parents have now come round, they are very happy. They now feel close to all of the sisters. It's like they gained more family." Not all emotions can be packaged neatly and smoothly. Mother Abbess says, "There are certainly hard times." But the hard times are something that these sisters seem prepared for. It's all part of their devotion which seems unstoppable. A few of them talk about a very distinctive call from God to come to this monastery. Once they have felt that in their being it seems that nothing, no lover, no mother, father, sister, brother, could stop them. "Of course it's not for everybody," says Mother Abbess. "You have to be very comfortable with yourself to do this. You have to be self-reliant and self-contained; otherwise the cloistered life is too much for you." "It's not an escape where people can run to. It's the opposite. It's a search for yourself and God. We all felt a call at different ages. With me I felt a first calling aged about five." Mother Abbess is warm, intellectual and commanding. Not at all meek, but there are many paradoxes that weave themselves in and out of their daily lives. They don't use mirrors. They avoid any close-up photography, except in profile. Solos are at random and are not chosen on merit because the sisters are about the community, not individualism. They take pride not in themselves, but in the power and beauty of their prayer. They have singing teachers: Mlle Claire Leroy, professional singer instructs vocal technique. And for Gregorian chanting they are instructed by M. Claude Pateau, director of the International Academy of Holy Music. "We do everything in our power to make sure that the song of our prayers is as beautiful as possible. Our whole life led by sisterly love and meditation on the word of God also contributes to the beauty of this song, the unity of voice and our understanding and adaptation of inspired texts." She stresses that no gift for singing is required to be admitted, yet the sound is note perfect and beautiful. Mother Abbess says, "You have to therefore look elsewhere than in a love of singing for the reason we seek to perfect every song." "It is not a love of music that induces someone to give up everything and devote herself to a life of singing and praying, which is the Benedictine way. It is not about the song but He that we are singing about. The Person we gave up everything to become close to." "For us singing is a privileged way to meet and love the crucified and resurrected Lord. For Him we experience solitude because even a great love cannot entirely fill the human heart that is made for the infinite." "We would like to say to Great Britain and then to the rest of the world that Decca Music makes us able to speak by means of Gregorian chanting. We want to send a message to our contemporaries, one that is most needed. A message that God loves us madly. And in Jesus we can find the meaning of life and return this love. It is a message of infinite joy which alone can cure the mortal sadness of our times." Mother Abbess sounds even more poetic in French. It is Mother Abbess's passion and determination, as well the beauty of the singing, whether it is instilled by God or man, that attracted Decca. After a long search hearing nuns singing all over the world they chose these nuns. Says Tom Lewis: "The Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation represents everything about modern life that you could escape from. And they are quite simply the best singers. "We looked at nuns in Boston who have a Facebook page and are very media friendly. But almost felt as if they were too accessible. We listened to African nuns in London and they sang African hymns. Although they were amazing it didn't transport you to another world. This is ancient and mysterious and you hear that in the record. It's intriguing why these women would make the choice to wholeheartedly cut themselves off from the world. It's the ultimate mystique."

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 22, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca Records
  • ASIN: B003VWDP1U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,316 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When we were touring wine caves, cathedrals, and chateaux throughout France in September and October with friends, we stumbled upon nuns practicing their chanting in one of the cathedrals. All of us were struck by the beauty, and clarity of their voices.

To my delight when we were back home, I noticed an article in a travel magazine about a CD being released in November by the Benedictine Nuns of Notre-Dame de L'Annonciation, from an abbey near Avignon, one of our travel destinations.

The CD's website had an interesting story about how the CD came into being. I found the CD on Amazon, and bought several for gifts. I put my CD in the car, and although I can not understand a word of the chanting - I'm guessing it is in Latin (or some could even be in French) - it acted as a soothing stress reliever for the holidays. You do not have to be a Catholic or a linguist to enjoy this CD; I am neither, yet I enjoy the soothing sounds from the Nuns. I plan on keeping it in the car!

The recipients of the other 3 CD's absolutely were blown away by the unique gift, especially our travel companions.
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Gregorian Chant is a unique form of music that is best described by scholars as 'the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic liturgical music within Western Christianity that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services. It is named after Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, who is traditionally credited for having ordered the simplification and cataloging of music assigned to specific celebrations in the church calendar. The resulting body of music is the first to be notated in a system ancestral to modern musical notation. In general, the chants were learned by the viva voce method, that is, by following the given example orally, which took many years of experience in the Schola Cantorum. Gregorian chant originated in monastic life, in which celebrating the 'Divine Office' eight times a day at the proper hours was upheld according to the Rule of St. Benedict. Singing psalms made up a large part of the life in a monastic community, while a smaller group and soloists sang the chants. In its long history, Gregorian chant has been subjected to many gradual changes and some reforms.' There are times when a bit of historical data aids the listener in appreciating the art of Gregorian Chant.

The various chants on this well-recorded CD are impeccably executed buy both solo and chorus from the Nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation, a remote order of nuns from Avignon, France. This order dates to the 6th century and is a secluded order - once the nuns take the vow to be a part of this Convent they must remain there until they die. Our only connection these nuns is through their music and they are so fine in their use of the Gregorian Chant that they have won awards and earned the honor of being allowed to record their incandescent singing. This is meditative music at its best, but it is also an example for music scholars of the purity of Gregorian Chant. Grady Harp, April 11
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Makes you forget all the challenges stresses of this troubled world I found it peaceful and calming almost like lullabies nice to fall asleep with
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Sought out by record executives from the Universal Music record label, Decca Records, who had identified them as the finest female chant choir in the world, the Benedictine Nuns of Notre-Dame De L Annonciation agreed to make a chant recording. This recording is a Gregorian Chant project, called "Voices- Chant
From Avignon", (Avignon, France is where their abbey is located). "Voices- Chant From Avignon" is a thematic album revisiting the journey of the two disciples of Jesus Christ, on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). It is broken into three parts. Part One is entitled "Sadness in Life". "Sadness in Life" reflects upon the sadness these two disciples were experiencing as they walked along the road to Emmaus. Their sadness came as they recounted the suffering and crucifixion of their Lord. As they are walking along, they are joined by a stranger, they do not recognize. We then come to Part Two. Part Two is entitled "Stay With Us". This part of the recording continues with the Emmaus journey, once they reach their house at Emmaus. By the time of their arrival at Emmaus, it is already nightfall. So these two disciples practice hospitality, and invite the stranger to "Stay With Us". It is in the "Breaking of the Bread", that these two disciples recognize that the stranger is in fact, Jesus Christ. The Benedictine Nuns of Notre-Dame De L Annonciation remind us, that we need to show the same care and concern for others, that these two disciples showed to the stranger they encountered. The stranger they encountered, turned out to be Jesus Christ. The concluding part of the recording is Part Three. Part Three is entitled "Burning Hearts". "Burning Hearts" refers to the state of the two disciples' hearts, as they had journeyed with, and finally recognized the Risen Christ.
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I have been building a collection of Gregorian chants and love to listen to them as background music, while I'm driving long distances or before bed. I've pulled them into a huge playlist so I can keep them going without having to switch CDs. Most of the chants are by Monks, which are great, but this CD is a special treat with the glorious women's voices, excellent recording and clarity of diction. I was lucky because this was available for auto rip, so even though I placed an order for a CD (and haven't even received it yet) I was able to pull it into a playlist before the order even shipped. This selection moved to the top of my Gregorian chant playlist.
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