Those who have experienced Gregorian chant first-hand know the fascination the sound and voices of the monks can inspire, the calming effect of the sacral chant on the human soul and spirit and the spell the choral style of the complex chants casts over many people - just as it did at the time of Pope Gregory I around the year 600. The music offers people solace and tranquillity not only in deeply religious countries, but all around the world as well.
In a time in which hectic and stress are part of the daily routine and the refuges where people can collect and reinvigorate themselves are becoming increasingly scarce and valuable, the successful producer Frank Peterson from Hamburg has created something very special. He takes the voices of the chorales of the past and makes something completely new and contemporary out of them in a unique project: Gregorian.
This project harmoniously unites past and future and ventures a look into the new millennium. "I wanted to create something unique, something that would last," says Peterson, who at the beginning of the 90s was a member of Enigma and even then worked with sacral tones. "Timeless."
He has certainly succeeded in this with Gregorian. The project involves ten English singers who are at home in the world of classical music and are considered some of the best and most successful interpreters of traditional English church and choral music. Together with Peterson, who signed for world-wide hits such as "Time to Say Goodbye" (Germany's most successful single ever) with Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli as well as millions of copies of the albums of Marky Mark and Sandra, these musicians have with Masters Of Chant recorded an album whose synergetic effect between some of the greatest pop songs of the past 40 years and Gregorian chant makes it a true innovation in music.
Nobody knows better than Frank Peterson how difficult it is to reinvent pop music these days. Peterson combed through the world's opulent pop archive for suitable songs which on the one hand are easily recognisable and on the other were suitable for a rearrangement harmonious to the chorale's Gregorian chants. "We had noted hundreds of songs which we discarded. But the selection we finally settled on is first-class." It is also a small time trip through the past 40 years of pop music.
Timeless 60s songs such as "Still I'm Sad" from the Yardbirds (who even then used the chorus as a stylistic medium), the timeless ballad "When A Man Loves a Woman" from Percy Sledge and even "Sound of Silence" from Simon & Garfunkel can be heard in a new light - classics of pop history in sacral ambient sound, interpreted by ten top-class classical experts and arranged with the greatest care and brought to the scene with the most modern studio technology by Peterson. The 70s are also represented with Steve Harley's brilliant opus "Sebastien". Songs from the 80s including the electro-pop hymn "Vienna" from Ultravox, the elegiac "Brothers in Arms" from Dire Straits, the New Romantic classic "Fade to Grey" from Visage, as well as Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" are featured. Finally, the 90s are another rich source for the album; REM's classic "Losing My Religion", Metallica's jewel of a ballad "Nothing Else Matters", Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven", U2s "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Save A Prayer" from Duran Duran are interpreted with an artistic determination which leaves one with goose bumps.
"I thought that now, at the beginning of a new millennium and ten years after Enigma, it was again time to work with music in the Gregorian style," says tonal artist Peterson. "The combination of traditional and contemporary music seemed absolutely suitable for that." And how right Peterson is. The combination with Gregorian music opens a completely new dimension of sound and intensity in the selected pop songs.
That the music stirs the heart is ensured by the ten selected English artists who hail exclusively from the tradition of Christian church and choral music: Philip Conway, Thomas Barnard, Jeremy Birchall, Andrew Busher, Mark Bradbury, Timothy Holmes, Roger Langford, Gregory Moore, David Porter Thomas and Christopher Tickner. In England they are the most sought-after artists of classical traditional church music, and they sing in the greatest cathedrals of the country, including those in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and Edinburgh. Every one of the singers has had the benefit of a classical education from the most renowned schools of the country such as the Academy of St. Martin, the Royal College Of Music, King's College Cambridge, the Royal Academy Of Music and the Royal Northern School Of Music, so that alongside the music, the chant arrangements themselves prove to be an enjoyment and extraordinary tonal experience. "We have ventured onto absolutely new terrain in music with Gregorian; it was a great deal of fun," says Gregory Moore. "It was good to have a look beyond the borders of traditional church music and to unite two styles of music which are fundamentally different. An outstanding idea."
The album was recorded in an old English church which was quickly converted to a studio. "We set up a lot of candles to create a truly authentic atmosphere," says Frank Peterson. The atmospheric fullness can be felt with every sound of the album. Peterson and his team, Jan Eric Kohrs, Carsten Heusmann and Michael Soltau, have brilliantly succeeded in combining the Zeitgeist of pop songs of the past 40 years with the ancient tradition of Gregorian chant. In this sense the project Gregorian involves not only an unusual chorus and an unprecedented album, but it also presents a completely new perspective and form of expression for the pop music of this millennium.