Woof Guide to Obscure Catholic Music: Magisterium

Music Magisterium is an orchestra of sorts, with full choir, playing original compositions as well as a number of classic standards from every generation. Their members are veteran musicians drawn from every country of the world, much like The College of Cardinals, but Magisterium is a significantly larger ensemble with a great many more releases. Their original choral works are all written in Latin; but most unusually the words are translated and re-recorded in the local language before release in any given country. Their albums are typically released simultaneously all across the globe, which has occasionally led to problems: translations are often hurried, hard to sing, and sometimes laughably wrong. One notable incident in the mid-1960′s led to a complete ban on imports of the group’s albums into Cuba, a ban that is still in place to this day (see J. Augustus Dimwoodie’s The Cuban Missal Crisis for more information).

With a broader repertoire than the Dogmatics and a more frequent release schedule than The College of Cardinals, one would expect Magisterium to be a favorite with Catholics across the globe, but this has not proven to be uniformly the case. Even their biggest fans admit that the group is better in the studio than in live performances, and that the high quality of their source material is no guarantee of competent execution on either disc or stage. Detractors go much farther, insisting that Magisterium’s music is always at least fifty years out of fashion, and that the band members need to get with the musical spirit of the age. (Supporters of the group will then note that this so-called “spirit of the age” is itself a product of the mid-1960′s.)

Magisterium’s day might be coming, however. The group has been acquiring many younger members in the past ten years or so, and there are signs that the ensemble as a whole are brushing up on their skills so as to give their extensive repertoire of songs the performance they deserve. Keep an eye on Magisterium, as they will be an act to watch in the coming decades.

Recommended albums include Counter-Reformation: The Complete Trent Sessions, The Vatican Sessions, Vol I, and The Vatican Sessions, Vol II (a ten-disc set). The group also has a number of singles, including their most recent outing, Lumen Fidei, and although panned by the critics, the avant garde Humanae Vitae is a must-listen.

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