Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Monthly Archives: January 2018

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Not Your Usual Music From Religious!

When we hear a venerable religious community has released a new album, the odds are good the music style of that album will be chant and polyphony.  So we were surprised to open a package from our Eastern Dominican Province friars and see an album entitled, “The Hillbilly Thomists”; pictured on the cover is a group of friars in white habits, holding various musical instruments – guitars and banjos, fiddles and clarinets, oh my!

But why not?  As the album liner notes explain, “Traditional bluegrass music is playful and energetic; along with American folk music, it often contains explicitly theological themes: belief in Christ, the goodness of life, the pain of unrequited love, the finality of death and hope in eternal life.  It is a traditional southern form of testimony to the presence of grace in the human heart.”  And hitting play on the CD, we were far from disappointed.

Most of the songs are familiar to many of us and treasured by all Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, young or old.  Yet, while remaining comforting and familiar (particularly for those of us who grew up with them), these classics are rendered in a fresh way.  From the opening count off of a lively rendering of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, to a toe-tapping “Saint Anne’s Reel”, the heart is raised up (we dare you to keep your feet still!).  Slower hymns and ballads, such “Angel Band” and “Steal Away” poignantly give expression to the soul’s longing for eternal happiness.

Brother Justin Bolger, O.P. has given “Amazing Grace” a new a cappella arrangement with tight harmonies and the album includes one of his original compositions: “I’m a Dog” – apropos for an album by Dominicans (a dog holding a torch in its mouth is associated with St. Dominic and the Dominican Order, and a play on the Latin for “Dominican” is often rendered as “Hounds of the Lord”).  And the song is truly Dominican – for only a Dominican could use the word “desiccation” with such a fun, catchy tune.  The lyrics also include a few other word plays and a bridge with bottomless depths of meaning.

If you like good music, well-performed instrumentation and vocals, and that speaks to the human experience as it yearns for the eternal, check out this latest offering from Dominicana Records.  Whether Protestant, Catholic, or “not religious but spiritual,” young or old, this album speaks to all and is exceptionally done.

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