Singing nuns of 800-year-old tradition are bringing their vocal music to pop charts

22 March 2024, 08:00

The Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel on Abbey Road
The Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel on Abbey Road. Picture: Chris O’Donovan

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A choir of nuns swap their traditional abbey for Abbey Road Studios, to release a second album of soothing, spiritual music for 21st century audiences.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

During the pandemic, the Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel smashed all chart records to become not only the highest-charting nuns in history, but also the UK’s best-selling classical artist debut, as their first album shot to No.5 in the UK albums chart.

Titled Light for the World, the album was a collection of Latin hymns produced for a 21st-century audience, bringing calm and beauty during a time when so many were separated from their loved ones.

Now in 2024, the heavenly sounds of the world’s highest-charting nuns are back in our lives, as the Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel release their second album My Peace I Give You, with the first single out today.

Sister Graça says: “My longing is for our music to touch people’s hearts, and that’s been the response.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘I don’t believe in God, but there is something about your music that takes me somewhere that I had never experienced before.’ That’s it.”

Aging from 50 to 96, and representing six different nationalities, the nuns live in a rural community in Sussex. Living within an 800-year-old tradition, the Poor Clares work, live, laugh and pray according to the form of life drawn up by St Clare of Assisi in 1253.

Read more: Nuns storm classical charts as ancient plainchant strikes a chord in pandemic times

Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel sing beautiful single ‘My Peace I Give You’

Since the release of their first album, the nuns have been inundated with fan mail from listeners worldwide writing to them with stories of how their music has moved them.

A stunning music video for the first single, ‘My Peace I Give You’, sees the nuns dressed in headphones and habits to evoke what they have called “a divine encore for peace, harmony and nature’s guardianship”, in music.

Recorded at the convent chapel in Arundel, West Sussex and mixed at Abbey Road Studios, the process allowed for the nuns to have a rare photo outside their rural community, on the iconic crossing in north London (see above).

In the background of their newfound music career, the sisters spend their time running a small guesthouse in Arundel, and helping the local community in Bungoma in Kenya, where they have a foundation.

Secluded but not disconnected, they love watching a film to relax, dancing to the tunes of Bob Marley, and gardening.

Almost completely self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables, the sisters also spend their time cooking and baking, all set to the rhythm of services, prayer, and reflection.

Read more: Nimble nuns at enclosed monastery perform viral dance ‘to cheer people up’

The Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel record new single ‘My Peace I Give You’
The Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel record new single ‘My Peace I Give You’. Picture: Decca Records

At the core of the album is St Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation, divided across seven songs. Beginning with biblical texts, paired with the teachings of St Francis and St Clare, the record transitions to celebrate the wonder of the planet.

The label, Decca Records, says: “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.”

The Poor Clares will once again donate all profits from this album, as they did with Light for the World, to charity.

“We are thrilled that the Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel are again inviting us into their quiet sanctuary with much needed messages of peace and hope, providing a place for focus and reflection in a busy world,” says Fiona Pope at Decca Records.

The sisters added: “We unite with you in the tireless struggle to help and heal our world and our planet. To you all we dedicate this album.”

My Peace is Give You is out on 24 May via Decca Records. Pre-order here.