Women’s Voices

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Program: #16-43   Air Date: Oct 17, 2016

Music of Hildegard von Bingen from the Oxford Girls’ Choir and Vajra Voices, and Benedictine Nuns in Poland.

I. O Eterne Deus: Music of Hildegard von Bingen (Vajra Voices/Karen R. Clark). Music & Arts CD 1291.

Hildegard: O eterne deus

Women’s vocal ensemble Vajra Voices presents their debut recording, O Eterne Deus- Music of Hildegard von Bingen. Also known as Saint Hildegard, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, composer, philosopher, writer, Christian mystic, and polymath. She composed some of the earliest liturgical dramas and morality plays. Vajra Voices is directed by Karen R. Clark, and the ensemble is joined by multi-instrumentalist Shira Kammen for this recording. “One cannot help but be deeply moved by the exquisite rendition of Hildegard’s music by Vajra Voices. Their singing brings Hildegard into the room with all her passion and power and the Spirit arrives too along with angels eager to wake us up.” (Matthew Fox)

“The Vajra Voices, 7 in all, are a Berkeley-based all-female group who have Hildegard’s music at the centre of their repertory. Their strengths, apart from beautiful voices, include precise articulation and the confidence to be simple in expression. Voices blend beautifully, and Karen R Clark has a contralto well-suited to the spiritual depths of the music – a truly splendid voice.Listen either to the opening or the final pages, and one is touched by a depth and beauty. All in all, this recording belongs with the very best Hildegard collections, one for late night reflectiveness.” — Michael Wilkinson, MusicWeb International, July 26, 2016

1. Quia Ergo Femina;
2. O Quam Magnum Miraculum Est;
3. Ave Generosa;
4. O Frondens Virga;
5. Ispariz (instrumental. Arr. Kammen);
6. O Ignis Spiritus Paracliti;
7. O Ignis Spiritus Paracliti;
8. Laus Trinitati
9. O Eterne Deus;
10. Instrumental on Kyrie (arr. Shira Kammen);
11. Rex Noster Promptus Est;
12. Kyrie;
13. O Virtus Sapientiae;
14. O Viriditas Digiti Dei.

II. Musica in Monasteriis Femineis in Polonia Minore Vol. I: Staniatki. (Flores Rosarum/Susi Ferfoglia). Dux CD 1242.


The history of the Benedictine Abbey in Staniatki goes back to the thirteenth century. It was founded between 1228 and 1238. It was from silence and in silence that the many melodies included in the old manuscripts have been created down the centuries. All composers remain unknown, as do the origins of the songs on this release.

"Flores Rosarum sing with both a warmth and clarity of tone and an admirable ensemble sense." --Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist, July 2016

Venite, exultemus Domino

[Church bells]
Venite, exultemus domino
Songs for Advent

[Instrumental improvisations]
Dominum salvatorem nostrum
Gabriel angelus apparuit marie
Maria dixit
Respondit angelus
Ecce dies veniunt
In diebus illis
O Sapentia
O Adonai
O Radix Jesse
O Clavis David
O Oriens
O Rex gentium
O Emmanuel
Songs for Christmas

[Instrumental improvisations]
Gaude et laetare
Orietur sicut sol salvator
Sancta et immaculata virginitas
Beata viscera
Dies sanctificatus
Parvulus Filius hodie
Hodie Christus natus est
Songs for Lent

[Instrumental improvisations]
Pueri Hebreorum
Osanna filio David
In monte oliveti
Ecce quomodo moritur
Tamquam agnus
Pange lingua
Songs for Easter

[Instrumental improvisations]
Regina celi
Virtute magna
Repleti quidem
Hec est Iherusalem
Porta eius
[Church bells]

Bonus track
Ave Maria

III. Music for a Medieval Abbey (Oxford Girls’Choir/Richard Vendome). The Gift of Music CD CCL CDG1289.

The Gift of Music 1289

From Classical Net: If you're "converted" to the angelic and ethereal world of the actually very real and amazingly varied gifts and skills of St. Hildegard of Bingen, who lived a deservedly long life, from 1098 to 1179 – over 80 years – you will probably not mind that recordings of her ecstatic yet communicative music continue to be released apace.
Here is a collection of 15 mostly familiar pieces, none of which is unavailable elsewhere. It's sung with dedication by the Oxford Girls Choir and unnamed male vocalists with unidentified instrumentalists on some tracks, and directed by Richard Vendome.

The selection of Hildegard's works is a good one: there is the very familiar and oft-recorded as well as some more rarely heard works. There is variation in pace as well… Studium divinitatis [tr.2] and Laus Trinitate [tr.12] last barely a minute each while Ordo virtutum [tr.14] is over ten. What's more – for all this music's ready availability on disk – the girls in this choir sing with a freshness and evident attachment to the music, and even to some of the many wider acts of creativity and devotion which Hildegard has come to represent.

It's all the more disappointing that their roughness and inability to caress and respect the music consistently seems to take second place to their enthusiasm. It's true that Hildegard's work can be performed far too languorously; it could be argued that here the approach is an opposite: too "businesslike". It focuses less on uplift and subtlety than realism. It could well be that such was the way in which it was performed almost a thousand years ago. But one feels that there is just a touch too much haste and perfunctoriness where perhaps something of a gentle sidelong glance would have served better. These are not bad performances (some of those high notes notwithstanding); but a little undistinguished.

The acoustic, the chapel of All Saints Convent in Oxford, is slightly resonating and would be just what was needed to elicit both passion and precision from this music. The two page sheet that comes with the CD is decidedly minimal with a brief background possibly intended for those completely new to the world of mediaeval monasticism; and a track listing. Not the CD to put at the top of your list if encountering Hildegard for the first time. But one that has its merits.

O vos angeli
Studium divinitatis
O successores
O quam mirabilis
O viridissima
O orzchis ecclesia
Columba aspexit
O nobilissima viriditas
O pater omnium
Vos flores rosarum
Laus Trinitate
O Euchari
Ordo virtutum
Procession: In principio omnes

Composer Info

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

CD Info

Music & Arts CD 1291, Dux CD 1242