Poor Clares of Arundel become first nuns with back-to-back classical number-one albums

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They say they are just doing what they do day in day out, but in the past couple of years it has made them the highest charting nuns ever.

Now they have done it again. The Poor Clares of Arundel released their debut album to huge acclaim four years ago. They returned at the end of May with their second album My Peace I Give You on Decca Records. Now it too has now gone to number one, making them the first nuns to enjoy consecutive classical number-one albums.

Sister Leo admits: “We were completely amazed by the response to the first one. It was totally unexpected. But the response was fantastic and the lovely thing was that the response was from the heart. It wasn't just people saying we love your music. People were saying that it really touched them. We had people saying that it really calmed someone with dementia and that it soothed babies and that it comforted people in hospital. We heard of one man who was listening and had to pull over in his car because of the emotions it made him feel. And that's what the great thing was, that it really did speak to people's hearts.”

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And it happened very naturally, as Sister Gabriel explains: “We did the first album over a long period of time. We wanted the rhythm of the prayer and of our life to come through the music. We didn't just record it over a week. The producers came for our singing practice and we recorded a song and then the whole thing was very much part of our lives for six months.

Poor Clares of Arundel (contributed pic)Poor Clares of Arundel (contributed pic)
Poor Clares of Arundel (contributed pic)

“Decca had no idea how it would go and they took a risk running with it. There are many monastic communities throughout the world that produce music but what we wanted to do and what (producer) James Morgan wanted to do was to use our music and to give it a more contemporary feel. That was very astute to do that but it was still a risk.”

Arguably the pandemic – into which the album was released – was part of the reason the album was so warmly received. But as sister Leo explains: “We had no idea while we were recording it that the pandemic was going to happen. We had one more session planned before the pandemic locked everything down in the March but we had been recording it since the previous September.”

Sister Gabriel agrees: “The pandemic was part of the context. We felt that maybe it was a moment in time that touched people.”

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Making the second album was a natural progression: “We wanted to do it because it had such a response and because it spoke to people's hearts. We are just sharing with the public what we do day in day out, year in year out. We are sharing something of who we are and how we pray and sharing our joy.”

Peace is a key theme of the new album: “The title speaks for itself. We live in such a fractured world. But peace has to begin with me. It has to begin with each of us and we spread that peace wherever we go. And by listening to the album hopefully we can spread that peace some more.”

Also central to the album is our relationship to our planet. The Canticle of Creation, written by St Francis of Assisi, great friend to St Clare, is at the core of this album, and was divided across 7 songs. It is a thank you letter for all the beauty we can find on the planet: from the animals to the plants, and the sun to the water. Written in 1224, it is still relevant exactly 800 years later, where everything is at risk with global warming. It is about being in a relationship. We are in the relationship with every living thing. It's a plea to the world to care for our planet, and it is a really beautiful text. We have abused the planet and we need to rethink that relationship.”

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