Gregorian, who are interpreting pop, rock and also classic tracks in a Gregorian music style, is indeed a quite fascinating project. Since more than twenty years, they maintain a certain market share. On 17th December 2021, they release their latest album Pure Chants, which is concentrating on vocal performance and does not use any instruments – for at least half of the tracks. I was curious about this release.
Gregorian – About The Artists
The roots of Gregorian already go back to 1991, when the Hamburg producer Frank Peterson decided to found the project Enigma together with Michael Cretu. That was the first time the sound of Gregorian music as sung by monks was part of successful pop music in Germany. In the same year, he also released a first album Sadisfaction, which was not successful at all. One single, So Sad, however, sold well in Switzerland. Almost a decade later, in 1999, he reactivated the idea. The in-fact debut album Masters of Chant suprised with Top 40 album chart placements in Switzerland and Germany, where the project also received a golden record. Even though Gregorian is a German project, most singers are in fact British.
From then on, Gregorian became a successful project. Masters of Chant Chapter II went up to the sixth spot in the German album charts. The project released records regularly. There were rarely rarely Top 10 albums (one was, for example, the 2010 The Dark Side of the Chant), but Gregorian steadily kept maintained good chart positions. The last Gregorian release, 20/2020, peaked 21st in Germany. By the way, the project uses Sarah Brightman and her sister Amelia partially as female vocalists. Overall, Gregorian sold over ten million units worldwide.
Gregorian – Pure Chants – Track by Track
The sixteen song album lasts 45 minutes. There is also a blue-ray version of the album, which is allowing to listen to Pure Chants with surround sound.
1. My Little Welsh Home
The album is opening with a British music classic. This track has some background strings in the track – a bit of weird to start with it. Good sound, though.
2. Kyrie Victoria
Pure Chant is more than a semi-a cappella album. Songs like Kyrie Victoria really come with a religious background. To me, this is a bit of confusing and takes away the entertaining and pop of the sound of Gregorian. Not the first time they record songs like this one – but overall, there will be quite many (too many?) of these tracks on their 2021 album.
3. Waiting For Life
Another traditional song on the third track. Much more Gregorian as I enjoy to listen to them (with quite strong rhythmic guitar support), but still also very traditional. Good listen, but not giving my brightest smile.
4. Pie Jesu (feat. Narcis)
For two tracks of the album, Gregorian is supported by the Romanian countertenor Narcis. Pie Jesu is the first of them. At least, the song makes me smile – but majorly because the Pie Jesu lyrics are used in a Monty Python movie. Good musical quality.
5. Miserere Mei, Deus
At least not another requiem, but just a interpretation of one of the psalms (as far as I got from a short research). I feel that Gregorian does good vocal quality here – but the more I struggle with the message? Do they want to reinvent and head towards classic choir sounds? Not sure if that would be successful – there are a lot of very good peers in the market. Let’s listen on.
6. Ode To Joy
Ode To Joy, Freude schöner Götterfunken, (inofficial) European anthem or 9th symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven (who is not even given in the credits, there is just a “traditional”). Hmm, the Gregorian style is at most minimal in this interpretation, the song comes with orchestral support partially. To me it neither feels extremely good nor really well-fitting into this album.
7. In Trutina
This time, Gregorian is at least giving the original author in the credits – also because their have to: Carl Off, author of the world-famous Carmina Burana, to which this song belongs to, died in 1982, so that his copyrights are still active. Again, this track feels so much like Carmina Burana, but not like Gregorian. If they want to re-brand themselves that significantly after millions of records sold, that will be quite an effort.
Ameno has been a song of popular culture since its release in 1996, so having this one on a Gregorian album is not too surprising. To me, Ameno is not adding that much of a change compared to the original, but it spreads this special touch of the choir project. To me, it is finally one of the best songs of the album (unfortunately, not one of the a capella tracks, which might be really cool).
9. She Moved Through The Fair
The list of interpretations of this folk classic is really long – now we add another version to it. Might sound a bit bored – but in fact, this is why I feel people listen to the music of this band. There is this special spirit, the traditional flavor… But still the track feels familiar. I feel they did really good here.
10. Kyrie XI, A
A classic Gregorian chant is at the tenth position. I could simply copy and paste my comments from above – I feel there are too many of them. And I feel that the combination of songs like this one and its predecessor just do not fit well. Would love to read your comments about that.
11. Bailero (feat. Narcis)
Bailero has its background as a shepherds’ song performed in France. The a capella sound with the female voice in the lead is well performed, but we are again talking about a very different kind of music and musical entertainment. This version of Bailero is rather a track for an opera or big theater stage, while Gregorian used to do concerts people almost dance to.
12. Adoramus Te Christe
Another thing which I see critical about Pure Chants is that it is too religious. Adoramus Te Christe is a song which is having a background in the crucifixion of Jesus.
13. Gamenni Kardia (There Are Stars)
This track has a Greek background. The song could be a song sung at church. Thus, the contrast to the predecessor is not that huge, even though the song is very melodic and comes with a nice ease. The signature element of the sound of Gregorian, the male background choir, just plays a very decent role here.
14. Beata Viscera
Back to Latin, back to religious voices. Back to a song which will indeed be great if Gregorian one day perform it in a church or a similarly monumental building. I won’t be at this place then, likely.
15. The Sound Of Silence (Pure Version)
After listening to fourteen songs of this album, it feels even weirder that Gregorian actually chose this Simon & Garfunkel classic as the single of the album. It may be exactly the kind of track people will expect when they read about an a capella album by the project. Unfortunately, hardly any song is less characteristic for Pure Chants than this one. Even though I like it.
16. Non Nobis Domine
This chant, which has its origin in thanksgiving, closes the album. It is having a nice melody and does not feel that much of a chuch song. The song is sung as a round. Again, a nice statement of the skills of that choir, but a bit of a suprise.
Gregorian – Pure Chants – Spotify
Here is Pure Chants on Spotify:
Gregorian – Pure Chants – My View
I am sure that there are people out there who exactly waited for this kind of Gregorian album. Nobody would argue that the choir is untalented in singing. However, most people who bought the album on release day might be really surprised and confused about it. The album is extremely religious, extremely Latin, extremely traditional – and does just come with a very limited touch of pop music. I don’t understand the concept of this album at all. Thus, my rating is much lower than the skills and talent of the performers in fact is.
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