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God of Music, in the first place, is an expression of gratitude to God for the nine decades of life of Mount St. Benedict. Over that time span the people, the landscape and the activities associated with the Mount have taken on many forms. Each year has had its own theme, rhythm and melody prompting its own response; the composition of the community, size and character, has constantly been in flux; welcoming new members, ushering to their eternal reward those who have completed their sojourn in this earthly exile. The community, responding to opportunities and needs that knocked at the monastic door over the years, has been involved in parish work, education, agriculture, sports, retreats, and hospitality. Individual monks have contributed to the wider community either through special skills or through involvement in work and apostolate at the diocesan level (for example, Scouting, Building, Liturgy, the Charismatic Renewal, Music). A very important outreach in its recent history is the establishment of a daughter house in Guyana. We give God thanks for all these varied expressions of life; initiatives and responses at different times to different needs, as resources would permit. Often, in faith, resources were stretched and multiplied.
The groups that assisted the monks in the production of this CD did so spontaneously and generously. It captures the mood in which so many people over the ninety years have similarly shared themselves and their resources with the community. For this too we are most grateful.
We give God thanks for the constants. The first monks from the first day came together to perform the work of God; the recitation and chanting of the divine office (today called the Prayer of the Church). This has been constant until the present where the community comes together five times a day to sing the praises of God, to sanctify the day and keep in place the primacy of prayer in the monk’s life of ora et labora (prayer and work). The vespers for the feast of St. Benedict, recorded for this CD, is a taste of the daily offering of prayer.
Pilgrims to the Mount is another constant. From the first days until the present the faithful have made their way up to the Mount each journeying with their own special purpose. There is never a shortage of people that present themselves to a monastery, says St. Benedict. The monks on their part must welcome them as they would welcome Christ and the monastery must be the Domus Dei (the dwelling place of God) where things ought to be arranged and managed in such a way that the pilgrim can experience that dwelling and feel welcomed by God.
The first note of Benedictine presence was struck in 1912. The early community, listening carefully to the reality in which they placed themselves, sought to grow in tune with the needs and appropriate responses to that reality. In the 1950s a symphony of activity, orchestrated by a community of over fifty members, filled the hills and filtered into the wider community. Today the God of music directs a small ensemble of fifteen members (not counting the four members in Guyana) in quiet persevering praise, faithful to the prayer and work in the spirit of St. Benedict and listening with the heart to formulate and bring forth a new song to the Lord.
iArchbishop Dowling accepted the Benedictines into the Archdiocese on the condition that they help in parishes. In the 1970s Archbishop Pantin removed this requirement.
iiThe Bosco Boys was an in house apprenticeship programme active from the 1930s to the 1950s teaching trades. The Abbey School began in 1943 and closed in 1985. The Seminary began in the 1943 and was managed by the monks until 1970. St. Benedict’s college in San Fernando (now Presentation College) was started by the Benedictines in 1930 and handed over to the Presentation Brothers in 1948. St. Benedict’s College in La Romain was also a Benedictine initiative of 1956. The last Benedictine presence there being 1968. St. Bede Vocational School, a brainchild of Fr. Bede Thuenissen, had its beginnings in nearby St. John’s village and was established on its present site in 1967.
iiiFrom the very beginning the lands around the Mount were cultivated especially in the traditional crops of cocoa, coffee, tonka beans, provisions etc. and the community was cited for various awards and commendations from the agricultural society in the 1920s. Many people remember the Mount for its honey, the production of which ceased in 2001, and others remember the turkey, chicken and eggs that were available to customers from the 1950s until 1974. The Abbey also looked after estates away from the Mount; Guico in the 1930s and in the 1950s Kedell in Tobago,
ivA large sports facility was developed for the Abbey School. Athletes from the Abbey School, St. Bede and the Aqua Lads and Lasses swimming club went on to compete at national and international levels.
vBrother Paschal, in his music, seeks to articulate the faith in a manner that best captures the rhythms and expressions of life unique to the Caribbean culture.
BROTHER PASCHAL JORDAN O.S.B.
Brother Paschal Jordan was born in Guyana in 1944 and entered the Abbey of Mount St. Benedict, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1964. He is at present a member of the Abbey’s monastic foundation in Bartica, Guyana.
His early musical education in piano and violin took place in Guyana and he subsequently studied plainchant, organ and further piano in Trinidad and Tobago. A scholarship from the French Government took him to the Institut de Musique Liturgique and the Institut Superieure de Liturgie in Paris where he majored in psalmody, graduating cum laude.
Brother Paschal Jordan is well known throughout the territories of the Antilles Episcopal Conference as a liturgist and composer of liturgical music. He has served as a liturgical music coordinator to the Caribbean Conference of Churches and on the Worship Committee of the World Council of Churches. Brother Paschal Jordan is writer of the lyrics and composer of music for all selections on this CD.
© 2002 Abbot Francis Alleyne O.S.B.
God of Music is more than an expression of gratitude to God for the ninety years of the existence of the Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Trinidad & Tobago. The CD is also a remarkable manifestation of the talent that is so bountiful in the twin island nation, and the West Indies. It is extraordinary, and laudable that a recording of this type and quality is produced. Beyond the relative few, we all now know that there is more than calypso and steel pan in that land.
"The groups that assisted the monks in the production of this CD did so spontaneously and generously. It captures the mood in which so many people over the ninety years have similarly shared themselves and their resources with the community". So true. One hears it and feels it in the joyful presentations. One does not have to be religious to get the feeling of the melodious singing of varied voices and groups.
The monks are at the beginning and their renditions are as to be expected: staid, Gregorian chant-like conveying a tone and atmosphere of tranquil surroundings. The popular and accomplished chorale, Lydian Singers, perform the last four selections, tracks 14 through 17. Their short recital synchronizes with the Monks' Vespers and gives the recording a well-rounded feel. Money well spent, you say, if you listen to the beginning and the end. But you would deprive yourself of much.
In the middle, are a number performances that confirm the abundance of quality and variety of the talent. Track 4 - Les Petits Enfants presents the children's voices. Track 7 - In God's House is the Caribbean folk style. Track 10 - As The Potter's Clay is similar in character. On tracks 12 and 13 - We're Family and As Bread That Was Broken, respectively, there is the contemporary Christian intonation.
The God of Music showered blessings all around so that the music is presented in a manner befitting a deity. [eCaroh/Ron]
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