Blessings, Peace and Harmony is an album of chant sung by the Monks of the Desert, an ensemble consisting of Brothers from the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert, based in Albiquiu, NM. The 2012 release is made up of tracks recorded over a period of 15 years. The thing that sets this album apart from the dozens of recordings of similar repertoire that purport to induce tranquility in the listener is the fact that the performances are genuinely effective and affecting, and it might have come closer than most in realizing its contemplative intent if not for the mediocre sound quality. The Monks convey an unselfconscious, unstressed attitude and don't seem at all troubled by, or even especially aware of being observed in their daily worship. Blessings, Peace and Harmony may not have the flawless precision of similar albums, but the singers' serenity is infectious and just might inspire a mood of relaxed meditation.
Most of the singers are not professionally trained and the group has the sound of disciplined and musically sensitive amateur choir. The voices are pleasant and the group maintains a smooth blend. The chants are all unison, and usually the intonation is secure but there are occasional instances of differing opinions about the pitch. Most of the tracks sound not like a professional musical performance, but like the work of an unpretentious real-life choir that is going about its business of devotional observance, and the listener is privileged to eavesdrop on their very private worship, warts (various stray notes and the ancillary sounds of moving about and turning pages) and all. The listener who doesn't expect perfection in either performance or engineering and who approaches the CD with this awareness may very well be transported. A drawback is that the engineering for the release seems to have been minimal; the varying ambience and volume level between tracks is a distraction, and some tracks are just plain noisy.