The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, will release their first album Aug. 13. Mater Eucharistiae was recorded live from the Dominican Sisters' chapel in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
It is produced by Decca Record Label and De Montfort Music, the same company that brought us two records from the Benedictines of Mary, an order of cloistered nuns in Missouri.
Mater Eucharistiae will feature songs in both English and Latin, and will include ancient chants, polyphony and original compositions. Some pieces are accompanied by the organ, trumpet, and chimes, while others are sung a capella.
ZENIT asked Monica Fitzgibbons, co-founder of De Montfort Music, to tell us about this new record.
ZENIT: This is now the second group of nuns that you've found for a record deal. What makes them unique?
Fitzgibbons: Truthfully, this is the second group of nuns that found us! More specifically, our hope was simply to take our background in the entertainment industry and make available art that is uplifting, and the specifics have been determined by the Holy Spirit! That is the only way to explain how these beautiful records have come to be. We just prepared these entertainment entities and then were led towards these faithful groups of Sisters.
It should be noted that neither one of these groups reached out to us or were looking for a recording deal or anything like this. In the case of the Benedictines of Mary, we had one of their self-made recordings they had prepared for some supporters who had asked for it to be made available, and once we heard it, it swept us into action by its beauty.
In the case of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, many people are very familiar with their community, as they are very active in their charism. However, we experienced the Dominican Sisters of Mary for the very first time by attending their open Vespers at a mission they have located in the Diocese of Phoenix. We had no idea what we were about to experience but were interested in seeing their chapel and participating in a few moments of their lives there. We went and heard the most angelic singing right there, which was unforgettable. We did not feel worthy to be present for such beauty, but there we were. It stayed with us for years. We had no idea if they would be interested in recording the music of their daily lives of praise, but fortunately, they were open to working with us to release it to a broad audience.
ZENIT: What is the role of sacred music today?
Fitzgibbons: From what we've been shown, it would seem that the first part of the invitation of sacred music is simply its ability to inspire and carve out contemplative moments serving to offset/balance the fast paced dynamic of our busy world today. There is no denying the peace that this music brings. From there a deeper experience would be to attract the soul to recall the Beatific Vision, to draw one's heart to thoughts of Heaven and angelic beauty. There is an innocence there, too. Somehow there is a sweet inner beauty that is the gold standard; sacred music offers us a glimpse into it. Many people find this to be high art, like perhaps the art of the Sistine Chapel. We call it, simply put, a gift to the world, a true sign of hope. Since the Sisters are experiencing this music first and foremost in their chapel, it is 100% glorious. There is no layer or intention other than to serve God with the music. They are in this state so it is difficult to imagine finding a more pure ambassador of the music than they who live it round the clock. It's just so truly amazing!
ZENIT: Should parishes or ordinary Catholics draw lessons from these records, beyond just enjoying the music?
Fitzgibbons: Certainly, and it seems evident that this music appeals to those of all backgrounds and faiths! There are marvelous stories emerging from those who have listened to even just bits of the music, and we truly cannot wait to share Mater Eucharistiae, from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, with the world on Aug. 13. What one finds from listening to this music will be his or her own personal experience unfolding, and we hope that people will feel comfortable sharing it with fellow Catholics and really anyone. There have actually already been parishes that have come and pre-ordered the music for their gift shops, etc., so there will be a natural embracing of the music from Catholics. Drawing lessons from the scared through art is going to be at the heart of the listening experience, and we hope to enhance this ability in peoples' lives through this special repertoire and text; there will be an eight-page booklet to accompany the music, so people will have the text right there to go along when ordering the physical CD (although the music is also going to be available for downloading, as well).
ZENIT: Did the very successful release of "Chant" some years ago, open this market? Or was it already there? Why is now the time for these types of records?
Fitzgibbons: I think it is fair to say that the release of “Chant” was a great good for the culture, but this was far from the first big “hit” from sacred music. There have been many releases throughout the years on sacred music recordings. One can only guess, but now may be the time for this to show the continuity of things.
In the case of Mater Eucharistiae, for example, we are going to hear something very unique, which is that the Sisters themselves have written some of their own music for this recording, very beautiful and very Dominican, very Eucharistic and through the lens of Our Lady. These songs stand shoulder to shoulder with other more antiquated tracks on the recording. So one minute you will hear something composed by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, the next you will hear a work by St. Thomas Aquinas -- it is a brilliant compilation of the great artistic treasures of the Church from today's day and from days of old. It reminds one that this music was often very inspired first and foremost by these faithful religious.
Our goal, besides trying to reach out and dedicate ourselves to Truth and Beauty through art, is to make sure that the communities we represent have full approvals over their image and likeness and to serve them as a bridge to the world. These Sisters are living their vocations, so they do not have time to worry about marketing and charts and things. They sincerely would only want to release that which is already happening in their community privately in their chapel as an already organic part of their lives. They allow this music to be recorded, but they would do so to share these rich moments of their religious life with people who apparently are very helped by it. At the same time, the goal is to make the music as widely available as possible so we work to try and make that into a reality.
ZENIT: What or who is next?
Fitzgibbons: God only knows. The Sisters are keeping us very busy! Deo Gratias!