The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) has released a new album of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony entitled "In Sæcula Sæculorum."
Recorded in the FSSP's new seminary chapel in Denton, Nebraska, this CD is an outstanding compilation of chants from throughout the liturgical year, including Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost, with selections from the Mass and Divine Office.
Most of the Gregorian chants sung by the seminarians will be familiar to those who attend the traditional Latin Mass, although some more rare treats like the compline hymn "Te lucis ante terminum" are to be found in the mix.
The singing is excellent, and shows that the Fraternity takes seriously its music program at the seminary. In the earlier Fraternity years, now-Father Michael Magiera, FSSP, successfully led the fledgling seminary singers upon entering in 1998, having spent pre-seminary years as a professional opera tenor in Philadelphia and Germany. Others have worked equally hard in more recent years to train seminarians in chant and limited polyphony, including the current schola leader, seminarian Zachary Akers, FSSP, of Virginia.
What helps is a dedication to the classics, shying away from novelty. Unlike, for instance, the all-male ensemble Chanticleer, known for top-notch, authentic early music, but insisting on recording and performing modernist compositions as well, the Fraternity seminarians stick to Medieval and Renaissance era settings free from dissonance.
The polyphonic composers chosen for the album are each from the 16th century. Christopher Tye, Jacques/Jacob Arcadelt and of course Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. As all polyphony written for liturgical use was scored for male-only voices (as only men and boys were permitted to sing at Mass until reforms by Pope Pius XII / Archbishop Annibale Bugnini in the 1950s), the high parts are often out of reach for most men. But the five pieces of sacred polyphony on this album do not sound stretched in their dropped keys. Rather, they are compositions obviously carefully chosen for non-professionals, and the result is a beautiful performance.
With several FSSP seminarians coming from Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College and other traditional-leaning Catholic institutions of higher learning with established choirs, it is encouraging to hear so many young men sing so much old music well. The college music programs are likely giving several of the seminarians a solid head start.
"In Sæcula Sæculórum" is an excellent gift for a friend or family member in addition to having your own copy, as it is basic, yet varied, covering a range of chants and polyphony with a taste of the seasons. The album, which is available on CD or downloaded (MP3 or iTunes), can be purchased from here. All proceeds support the FSSP's Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary and the formation of priests who will offer, exclusively, the traditional Latin Mass and sacraments for ages and ages.