Posted by: christinelaennec | July 19, 2016

Plainsong recommendations

Thank you for enjoying my special weekend with the Scottish Plainsong Choir on the Isle of Cumbrae!  A couple of you have asked where you can hear the kind of music we sang.  I’ve asked Alan Tavener, the conductor of the Scottish Plainsong Choir, to give you some recommendations.

He and his wife Rebecca formed the professional choir Cappella Nova more than 30 years ago here in Glasgow.  Cappella Nova is now well-known for its performances of early, as well as contemporary, choral music.  In 1998 Rebecca Tavener created Canty, “Scotland’s only professional Medieval music group”.

"Wings of Wisdom" and "Apostle of Ireland" CDs by the group Canty.

“Wings of Wisdom” and “Apostle of Ireland” CDs by the group Canty.  (I don’t generally leave my CDs out on the lawn, but I thought the clover made a nice backdrop!)

I can personally recommend two CDs by Canty:  “Apostle of Ireland:  An Office for St Patrick” and “Wings of Wisdom,” which includes Scottish medieval music and chants by Hildegard of Bingen.  I find this music both haunting and also very soothing indeed, if that makes sense.  A tremendous amount of scholarship and study has gone into these performances.  Certainly from reading the CD booklets, I can see that I have a great deal to learn about plainsong and medieval music!

Two CDs featuring Scottish plainsong performed by Cappella Nova are “The Miracles of St. Kentigern” and “Columba, Most Holy of Saints”.

If you would like to hear plainsong without plumping for a CD, here is a link to a video of the well-known chant “Veni Creator Spiritus” with accompanying images of medieval music.

When we were singing Vespers, I found it very moving to think that this music has been sung for well over a thousand years.  At a time when the news seems to offer so little to celebrate, it is comforting to me to know that certain things are enduring.  I suppose this is why music is so often associated with heaven – it speaks to us of transcendence.

If you do explore medieval choral music, I hope you will enjoy it!



  1. Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing the YouTube link.
    Enjoy your day ♥

  2. Thank you for the link, I actually found it quite uplifting, yet soothing at the same time. Hope all is well with you all.

  3. Merci pour ces conseils et ce lien, qui m’a permis une pause pleine de paix, dont nous avons tellement besoin en ce moment ! Rien n’est plus apaisant que cette musique qui nous donne l’impression que notre coeur s’ouvre à ce qui devrait être “la vraie vie” : une vie pleine !

  4. Thank you so much for the recommendations Christine. I’ve started with “Veni Creator Spiritus” — beautiful! — and will explore more!

  5. Thankyou so much. I’m glad to have your suggestions.

  6. Will undertake further investigations, Christine. A few years ago, we were blown away by a Janet Cardiff installation in the Great Hall, Winchester. The 40 Part Motet. This music absolutely lifts the spirits.

  7. Love plainsong, and how wonderful to be able to be part of making this glorious sound. We have heard a fair amount from daughter’s university choir, the St Andrews Madrigal group. The thing that I love most is that these young people dedicate time to exploring and performing this music. You can hear a snippet of them (tho not plainsong) on my Instagram @occasionalscotland. It’s the clip from 1 June. You can access it on the web without being on Instagram yourself.

    Will we hear your choir at some point?

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