Chart-topping nuns Poor Clares of Arundel offer Christmas single

After hitting the number one spot in the classical charts with their Light for the World album, the Poor Clares of Arundel are releasing a Christmas single on December 4.

The Poor Clares of Arundel

O Come O Come Emmanuel will be released on their album label, Decca.

James Morgan, who lives in Haywards Heath and is also the conductor of the Brighton Festival Chorus, has brought the whole project together – with remarkable success.

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The Poor Clares are offering the album as a “place of peace and inner calm.”

The nuns describe themselves as “sisters, who share prayer, work, laughter and struggles, and live according to the Form of Life drawn up by St Clare of Assisi in 1253.”

“The album was just an idea I had,” James explains.

“I grew up a Catholic, and I love Gregorian plainchant. I thought it would be nice to introduce it to a younger generation.

“We were looking for a convent that could sing it well. I was recommended the Poor Clares through a friend of my mother’s, and they were really good. They sing every day.

“I approached them with Decca to see if they would like to make a record.

“They were not at all sure at first. They were extremely suspicious.

“But it has turned into the most remarkable journey.

“We talked about what we wanted to do. The Poor Clares came back and said they would do it but they also wanted to do some settings of the words of St Clare and St Francis that would reflect what they do every day.

“We recorded it every week when they would normally have their singing practice, from last autumn until lockdown in March.

“We had nearly finished the album when lockdown came. We had just one session to do, but when we went back to the studio, we realised that we had enough to make the album.

“It came out (on November 6) and instantly sold out. It has been a remarkable reception.

“The nuns have touched a lot of people, particularly because of lockdown and isolation. People have found it very comforting and calming.

“The nuns wanted to make music where you didn’t have to believe in God to be touched by it.

“They were aware of the stresses young people are under.

“They wanted to touch people of different faiths or no faith at all. They wanted to spread some peace and some calm.”

And no, their success certainly won’t change them: “They have had to do endless interviews on TV and radio, and I said to them that they are very professional at interviews. They said ‘We are not professional at interviews. We are just truthful about who we are.’ It has not affected them in any way at all. One of the nuns went on Radio 2 and the interviewer said ‘Do you listen to Radio 2?’ The nun said ‘I have never listened to Radio 2 in my life.’

“But they are very switched on to life. Politically they are very motivated and interested in the world. They are not at all cloistered in terms of knowing what is happening in the world.”

Now comes the single – because there wasn’t anything particularly Christmassy on the album, James says: “And because everybody is still wanting to hear them, but I don’t think there is any pressure on them to do anything else. They are not going to be changed by this.”