One of the discs I received over Christmas was this recording by the monks of Fontgombault. I`m glad to say that I`ve been there once when I went for a retreat with a group of English priests in the 1990`s. This disc is a re-issue of recordings originally issued in 1973 with five pieces added from the 1990`s which include the opening and closing organ pieces.
I`m no expert on chant. I have been to a number of `chant for beginners` days which only left me more confused and increased my admiration for those who can sing it. Being used to a five line stave I never really understood why it`s easier to sing chant from a four line stave but I`ve no doubt it is. The last introduction I went to said it was simply a matter of remembering the tonic sol-fa but that didn`t help very much either.
The Fongombault monks sing with a meditative mellifluous style. All the chant both the propers and ordinary are accompanied by the organ. I like this as it gives warmth but I have had differences of opinion with others who believe chant should be sung unaccompanied. However for me the discreet organ accompaniment is a plus. The highlight of the Mass for me was the gradual Audi Filia. I love hearing the full setting of the gradual at Mass and value the opportunity for reflection between the epistle and the Gospel but I have met people who don`t think it`s suitable in a parish setting. I`m not sure why. The soaring notes of this gradual moved me.
There is a technical problem in that although the track listings on the cover are in the right order something has gone wrong with the disc so that the gradual is followed by the Creed and then comes the Alleluia verse. Strangely there is no recording of the offertory antiphon. I know it`s not in the missal for the Ordinary Form although I understand it is in the new chant books but I thought it would be here given that the conventual Mass at Fontgombault is not Novus Ordo but a 1965/67.
Second Vespers begins with track 11. Here again the running order gets confused as the second psalm (Laudate pueri) precedes the first (Dixit Dominus) on the disc. Similarly after the Magnificat the track listing gives 21 Salve Regina, 22 Organ recessional and 23 Angelus bells (followed by general bell-ringing) but on the disc the bells come immediately after the Magnificat after which there is the Salve Regina and closing organ music.
I`ve listened to the disc twice now and am very pleased to have a reminder of Fongombault and hope one day to visit again.