Cyprian Consiglio’s newest release Awake At Last captured me immediately on first listen. A Camaldolese Benedictine monk, Consiglio has a keen interest in meditation and prayer. Following in the footsteps of Thomas Merton, he has traveled extensively to dialogue with monks of other religious traditions. His journey of contemplation and outreach is reflected on this CD, with a wide musical palette being used to present several psalm settings, Gospel acclamations, a nearly eight minute Litany of the Holy Cross, and other hymns.
Awake At Last opens with an enchanting contemporary rendering of the Gregorian chant “Attende Domine”, using lush vocal harmonies that build slowly, drawing the listener into prayer. Consiglio has added new English text that supplements the traditional Latin, continuing a trend in recent Catholic music to introduce the musical treasures of the Church to a new generation. I was wanting much more of this piece, but it soon transitions into another beautiful track, a Lenten hymn that offers wisdom for all of us: “Leave the past in ashes / and turn to God / return to God / with tears and fasting.”
As producer of Awake At Last, Consiglio chose to employ several other vocalists and choirs to assist him in delivering the material, so it’s easy to envision the majority of these pieces being sung by choirs at Sunday Mass, as well as being used for personal prayer. Several upbeat hymns express the joy of the Easter season, completing the presentation of a seasonal journey, and complementing the more meditative songs. I found the arrangement of one piece (with saxophone and Gospel-style singing) towards the end of the CD to be out of place, but this is a minor complaint to an otherwise wonderful recording.
I recently had the privilege of attending an evening prayer service that Consiglio led on acoustic guitar, and it was deeply moving. He is a talented musician, yet his guitar playing on this recording is humbly understated as he allows other instruments (cello, flute, oboe, horn, eastern percussion) to tastefully enhance the beauty of the melodies he has composed, several of which are now engrained in my memory.
You can purchase Awake At Last through OCP at http://www.ocp.org/products/20561
reviewed by Matthew Baute