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The most famous jazz album ever made, and rightly so. The Catholic life involves finding freedom within structure. So does jazz. Melodic and contemplative, this album, released in 1959, is and will be regarded in centuries to come as one of the single greatest products of American culture. And pianist Bill Evans's liner notes provide perhaps the most profound concise summary of the spirit of jazz improvisation yet written. Audio CD and MP3.
These gorgeous Marian pieces are among the greatest works of the Renaissance composer Josquin, a contemporary of Palestrina. They are extraordinarily rhythmically complex yet natural and moving. Recorded by the Weser-Renaissance ensemble under Manfred Cordes.
The legendary pianist’s homecoming concert, recorded live. Emotional performance, ecstatic crowd response. Features works by D. Scarlatti, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Liszt, Chopin, Schumann, and Moszkowski.
Chanticleer is a Grammy Award winning ensemble of twelve male voices from countertenor to bass, founded in 1978 and still going strong. This is the 2004 release of their beloved Christmas album, featuring music from the 15th through the 20th century. It is a joy to listen to at any time of year. Directed by Matthew Oltman, Our Heart's Joy includes tributes to Our Lord and his mother from Mouton, Handl, Gabrielli, Praetorius, Britten, and more, including Franz Biebl's stunning and beloved “Ave Maria” (written in 1964). Words included in the CD booklet. Audio CD, MP3 and streaming.
French keyboardist, composer and mystic Olivier Messiaen fought in, and was held as a prisoner of war during World War II. He wrote and premiered his beautiful and at times unsettling musical meditation on the apocalypse while in a German concentration camp. Audio CD and MP3.
Lunasa is one of the world's greatest traditional Irish bands, and this album is on Thomas Mirus's top ten list. A mix of traditional and original tunes with arrangements that offer many surprises and reward repeated listening, performed by a superbly tight and grooving instrumental group. Enjoy the uillean pipes and melodious low whistles, and try and catch them on their next American tour. Audio CD.
This album by Catholic pianist and composer Mark Christopher Brandt features eight totally improvised pieces: seven named after the gifts of the Holy Spirit and an eighth titled "Come Creator Spirit." This beautiful and exciting music was created on the spot in the studio, with no editing afterward. While few musicians have the skill and even fewer have the courage to do this, the artist does not boast in his own abilities but instead attributes all creativity to the Holy Spirit.
Infectious melodies, old-school vocal harmonies and rich, warm instrumental arrangements. The Duskwhales are one of the most unique bands to emerge in recent years, and with the fourth album (dedicated to Mary, Mother of Sorrows) this indie rock trio has reached a new level of maturity. Aside from the high quality of their music, the band is unique in that they wear their Catholicism openly while playing for secular audiences. That is, they are not a "Christian rock" band, just a great band whose Catholicism informs their art. Check out our interview with the band.
And then there's folk music from the islands. Harry Belafonte was born in Harlem, but both his mother and father were born in Jamaica. Gifted with a beautiful voice, he also mastered the inflections of Calypso as few have done. A best-selling vocalist in the 1950s and early 1960s, he was eclipsed by the Beatles and all that followed. But he never lost that infectious island sound. The Essential Harry Belafonte includes 37 of his most famous songs, including the touching “Mary’s Boy Child“. You need never say Jamaica Farewell! Available on audio CD, MP3 or streaming, which is included with Amazon Prime.
Those of us who came of age in the Beatles' era ought also to know that just before Beatle Mania there was Kingston Mania. The Kingston Trio's renditions of American folk music seem timeless now, and always bring a smile. This Capitol Collector's Series album includes twenty of the group's biggest hits, beginning with Scarlet Ribbons and Tom Dooley. So don't wait. Maybe you'll be the one to finally get Charlie off the MTA! Available on MP3, audio CD, streaming, and even on audio cassette.
The English Concert and Choir's 1988 recording of George Frideric Handel's Messiah, directed by Trevor Pinnock, using the instruments and sounds proper to the eighteenth century (Handel wrote it in just three weeks in 1741.) The Oratorio is the setting for Scriptural texts portraying the promise of a Messiah, the coming of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. The accompanying CD booklet includes introduction, notes, and choral text in English, German, French, and Italian. Next year, wake up on Easter to the Hallelujah Chorus! 2-CD set. Available on CD, MP3 and streaming.
A 49-minute-long programmatic suite inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story by the same name, and a truly beautiful and impressive work of art. The album seamlessly blends ambitious, through-composed thematic development with moments of improvisation. The music is performed with great dynamism and chemistry by flutist Yana Nikol, cellist Katherine Colburn, and the Catholic composer himself on piano. See our interview with Brandt on The Nightingale.
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