July 09, 2015
You may remember Nuns Who Rock. I featured the big 1963 hit “Dominique,” sung by Soeur Sourire or ‘The Singing Nun,’ and then the Sicilian nun-rocker, Sister Cristina Scuccia.
Now I’d like to spotlight a nun of another order: Soeur (or Sister) Marie Keyrouz, who has recorded numerous albums over the years with her Ensemble de la Paix (Ensemble of Peace). Based now in Paris, she has yet to appear in Los Angeles, and I don’t know that she’s ever performed in the U.S. I tried to bring her group to Los Angeles back when I worked for the L.A. Philharmonic, thinking that the Walt Disney Concert Hall would be an ideal venue, but unfortunately, the cost of doing so was prohibitive.
Soeur Marie Keyrouz was born in 1963 in Deir el Ahmar, Lebanon. She relocated to Paris and received her doctorate from the Sorbonne in both musicology and anthropology. She belongs to the Congrégation des Soeurs Basiliennes Chouerites and is president of the National Institute of Sacred Music in Paris.
She sings hymns from the Lebanese Maronite Christian church, as well as sacred songs and chants from the Greek, Syriac, and Arabic liturgies. In her crystal clear soprano voice, Soeur Marie Keyrouz embellishes her song with exhortatory ululations and other Arabic touches. I find her music to be utterly mesmerizing, even levitational. The term, ‘otherworldly,’ would not be overstating it.
Start with Soeur Marie Keyrouz’s glorious Cantiques de l’Orient.
Hers is a version of “Ave Maria” unlike any you’ve ever heard before.
Tom Schnabel, M.A.