Latin Hymns of Sublime Beauty

At the end of my yawp against emotionally manipulative, phony, crass, pseudo-Christian pop culture, I linked to a clip from Beth Nielsen Chapman’s home-made album of traditional pre-Vatican II Latin hymns. A lot of people who should know about this album may not, so I wanted to give it it’s own post.

Chapman is an extremely gifted song-writer and performer who penned a number of hits for artists like Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, and others. Her solo career peaked with her album Sand and Water, a profound, deeply moving meditation on the loss of her husband, grief, and moving on. It’s sad and beautiful and life-affirming and everything good music should be. It yielded a minor hit called “Sand and Water” which became famous when Elton John adapted it in honor of Princess Diana. Her work is pretty consistently strong, but she’s never really found a large audience.

A cradle Catholic, Chapman has a deep affection for the Latin hymns that characterized the pre-Vatican II church, and which we trashed in search of a mess of pottage from the likes of OCP. We could be singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” at mass. Instead we get crap like “Gather Us In.” Chapman’s versions of these songs for the album Hymns are simple, beautiful, and incredibly moving. She refers to them as the “greatest hits” of her childhood, and she sings them with a deep and abiding love. I honestly cannot think of a better contemporary album of Catholic music.

Here are few more samples (ignore the video: it’s the music that counts):

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You should really buy it. (Use this link and I get a very small commission.) It would make a perfect Christmas present!

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Maggie Goff

    I did buy it based on the previous post and listening to the video there. I should have it on Wednesday.
    I grew up in the Church (I’m 67), but left for a very, very long time when I was in my 20′s…occasionally dipping my toe back in the water. I jumped in all the way in July 2008 and am here to stay. I really, really miss the good hymns of yesteryear and am happy that you recommended this. I am also very happy and GRATEFUL for God’s forgiveness.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Me too. I was out for 15 years, and came back about 10 years ago, so I know whereof you speak.