Discover the Singing Nuns Who Have Turned Medieval Latin Hymns into Modern Hits

We now live, as one often hears, in an age of few musi­cal super­stars, but tow­er­ing ones. The pop­u­lar cul­ture of the twen­ty-twen­ties can, at times, seem to be con­tained entire­ly with­in the per­son of Tay­lor Swift — at least when the media mag­net that is Bey­on­cé takes a breather. But look past them, if you can, and you’ll find for­mi­da­ble musi­cal phe­nom­e­na in the unlike­li­est of places. Take the Poor Clares of Arun­del, a group of singing nuns from Sus­sex who, dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, “smashed all chart records to become not only the high­est-chart­ing nuns in his­to­ry, but also the UK’s best-sell­ing clas­si­cal artist debut,” reports Clas­sic FM’s Mad­dy Shaw Roberts.

“Music is at the heart of the nuns’ wor­ship,” writes the Guardian’s Joan­na Moor­head, but the idea of putting out an album “came about ini­tial­ly as a bit of a joke.” Not long after receiv­ing a vis­it from a curi­ous music pro­duc­er, the singing Poor Clares — skilled and unskilled alike — found them­selves in a prop­er record­ing stu­dio, lay­ing down tracks.

Roberts describes the result­ing debut Light for the World as “a col­lec­tion of Latin hymns pro­duced for a twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry audi­ence, bring­ing calm and beau­ty dur­ing a time when so many were sep­a­rat­ed from their loved ones.” Just a few weeks ago, they released its fol­low-up May Peace I Give You, the video for whose title track appears at the top of the post.

May Peace I Give You comes from Dec­ca Records, a label famous in part for their rejec­tion, in 1962, of a scruffy rock-and-roll band called the Bea­t­les. Pre­sum­ably deter­mined not to make the same mis­take twice, they’ve since tak­en chances on all man­ner of acts, start­ing with the Rolling Stones; over the decades, they’ve reached beyond the well-trod­den spaces in pop­u­lar and clas­si­cal music. The suc­cess of the Poor Clares goes to show that this prac­tice con­tin­ues to pay off, and that — like the pop­u­lar Gre­go­ri­an chant and gospel booms of decades past — ven­er­a­ble holy music retains its res­o­nance even in our trend-dri­ven, not-espe­cial­ly-reli­gious age. And as the pro­mo­tion of their new Abbey Road-record­ed album proves, even for the monas­ti­cal­ly dis­ci­plined, some temp­ta­tions are irre­sistible.

via Clas­sic FM

Relat­ed con­tent:

A YouTube Chan­nel Com­plete­ly Devot­ed to Medieval Sacred Music: Hear Gre­go­ri­an Chant, Byzan­tine Chant & More

Expe­ri­ence the Mys­ti­cal Music of Hilde­gard Von Bin­gen: The First Known Com­pos­er in His­to­ry (1098 – 1179)

10 Rules for Appre­ci­at­ing Art by Sis­ter Wendy Beck­ett (RIP), the Nun Who Unex­pect­ed­ly Pop­u­lar­ized Art His­to­ry on TV

Man­u­script Reveals How Medieval Nun, Joan of Leeds, Faked Her Own Death to Escape the Con­vent

Reli­gious Songs That Sec­u­lar Peo­ple Can Love: Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Sam Cooke, John­ny Cash & Your Favorites

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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