ADORATION FROM CARMEL
Eucharistic Hymns from the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
In the teeming, sprawling, very 21st-century metropolis of Los Angeles, California, there is a group of women – the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles – who lead quiet, contemplative lives of service to others, devoted to their faith. These Catholic Sisters spend hours in prayer each day, in addition to pursuing spiritual work through education, retreats and eldercare. Prayer leads to song, and the voices of these Carmelite Sisters regularly rise and ring out in unison, the sounds of their devotion into a living music drawn from a millennia-old sacred tradition now made new. Today, these Sisters are sharing their singing with the wider world, through a heartwarming new album: Adoration from Carmel: Eucharistic Hymns from the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Recorded in the beautiful acoustics of the community’s St. Joseph chapel at Santa Teresita, in the City of Angels, the album features the Sisters singing pieces both a cappella and arranged with a seven-piece chamber ensemble. The repertoire, having flowed from the Sisters’ daily prayer together, has an intimate, timeless, radiant feel – ideally captured by top producer-engineer Brad Michel, winner of multiple Grammy and Gramophone awards.
The Wall Street Journal describes the music of the Carmelite Sisters as “sung with unalloyed joy and a sweetness devoid of even a trace of irony – rare traits these days, not only in popular music but also in the culture at large. These are glimpses into the tranquility found in a life dedicated to the service of others and of God.”
To Brad Michel – who has shepherded hundreds of acclaimed classical recordings into the world over the past 30-plus years – the essential beauty of Adoration from Carmel stems from the communal spirit one can hear in the voices of these Sisters, as well as the warm, clear acoustics of their St. Joseph chapel. “What I love to do is to go into a space where beautiful sounds are made and then sort of bottle them, to capture musical magic so that it can be shared with the world,” Michel says. “The acoustic in the St. Joseph chapel is amazing, and the sisters blend so well within it. What makes a performance of music truly sound good is a cohesive spirit, which is deeply evident with this group, they have the willing ability to listen and work together without ego – you don’t always get that even with a group of professional performers. All these elements came together for this recording, so that the sound of the music is like silk. Moreover, the recording was designed to reflect an immersive experience, so you that feel like you’re really present with the voices in the church. Even if you’re just listening through a TV soundbar at home or on headphones traveling, the recording is compatible with Apple Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos so that you can get that immersive effect.”
Sister Gianna directed the choir and orchestra for Adoration from Carmel. “I had the blessing of arranging much of this music,” she says. “The repertoire for this project is really diverse, both traditional and contemporary, and very much how we Carmelites sing. We have chants and a cappella choral pieces, as well as music accompanied by instruments. There are mystical sounds and some that are more modern. It has been wonderful to see our sisters so engaged, so full of love in our singing and making a warm, family-like sound. I view our recording as an offering to anyone who will listen – and who is open to being touched by the music. A recording is a way that we can reach into the hearts of people who have no opportunity to visit us here in Los Angeles. Through an album like this, listeners can step inside our chapel, as it were, through sound alone. I’ve seen how music can touch hearts, and it’s a joy to share our music far and wide.”
To Sister Mary Scholastica, the special sound of the Carmelite Sisters on Adoration from Carmel comes from that sense of communal togetherness that Michel experienced. “As we pray together every day, a natural cadence and unity grows from that,” she says. “We’re singing together – and singing can be an expression of how we’re living together. If we’re struggling one day, that can be reflected in our music. And when we’re really united, that’s also reflected in our music. I think that’s why the power of song is so great. Its reach can be deeper than just words by themselves. When I was sitting in the pews and just watching our Sisters sing and hearing our music, what really struck me is how much we all love each other. You can hear the beauty of an individual Sister and then you can hear the unity of all our voices, all those Sisters, coming together. It is very moving.”
Mother Gloria Torres points out that singing marks the passing of the days for the Carmelite Sisters, as well as a vision beyond daily existence. “We begin our days chanting the Divine Office, singing,” she says. “Then midday, we come together again for prayer. We’re not necessarily singing then. But, hopefully by midday, we already have a feeling welling up within us to praise the Lord for something that is awesome. That can happen in our days, when we just can’t help but thank Him for the ways in which He’s working. As we go about our work and prayer, silence can be a form of praise, too. But then when we get to the end of the day, we have this beautiful time of prayer where we actually sing together again, at our time of adoration. So, from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun, there are moments through the day for us when we sing. And, ultimately, music is our way of saying, ‘We love you. We know life is so much bigger than our own little world, and we want to unite our voice with that of eternity’.”
The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is a Catholic religious institute of the Carmelite Order, founded in 1927 by Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament and based in Los Angeles county’s Alhambra, California. Persecuted in her native Mexico during times of revolution, Mother Luisita established a new community in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, one that has grown from just three sisters to 120. “Carmel” means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells.