The happy people at the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) Colloquium in Chicago have been posting recordings of their various Masses and Liturgy of the Hours services. (The idea is that you go to classes and workshops about sacred music, but you also go to Masses and prayer services where you sing and play the music. The other idea is that the music gets more complex and there’s more Latin as the week goes along.) You’ll find all sorts of different eras of composition to listen to.
Obviously not everyone will be interested in this music for its sacred qualities, but I think any music lover would be interested in hearing pieces of music in the context for which they were intended. (And if you are interested in music as worship… you’ll appreciate it much more.) But the point is to give this music to God as part of worshipping Him, and hence to make the music as good and suitable as you can. Beyond that, it is to help other people participate in worship as they hear it.
However, bear in mind that while there’s a strong core group of highly experienced and knowledgeable singers, many of the attendees are absolute beginners at chant, absolute beginners at choirs or singing (whether or not they have expertise in other musical areas), or are even absolute beginners at attending Mass or Christian worship. So it’s a lot more like going to Mass with “here comes everybody” than some incredibly flawless album. (Especially when people are singing Morning Prayer or Mass before breakfast, and while unacquainted with the Loyola chapel’s acoustics; or while their voices are feeling rusty after a long journey and an early morning.) For learning about a musical tradition through participation, though, this is just what you want. You don’t learn Celtic music from listening only to virtuosi at the perfect moment. In fact, musical traditions usually live only because lots of mediocre musicians are able to do a serviceable job within it, even when feeling cruddy and sounding less than their best. 🙂
Recordings at :chant.dierschow.com, Vox Feminae (see widget in the sidebar on the right)., and at The Recovering Choir Director. Eventually, there’ll be more stuff up at the CMAA site. You can also download the official Colloquium music packet and follow along in it; it’s all public domain stuff. To paraphrase one organizer, “This is an open source music conference.”