Many orphanages are run by Buddhist or Christian monastic communities. Nuns do much of the welfare work in Vietnam that governments would fund in Western countries. Many orphanages are run by Buddhist or Christian monastic communities. Monastic life is important in Vietnam for protection of the socially excluded.

In these sound recordings from a typical day at a women’s Christian monastery (convent), 40 sisters protect their precious 350 year old monastic tradition with song and prayer chants. Their music underpins local culture and spiritualism in the villages.  They belong to the Holy Cross Order and are based in the village of Huong Phuong, Quang Binh Province, Central Vietnam.

These sounds were recorded on a typical day. They include daily rhythms of sisters setting chairs in the dining room; crickets chirping in the convent courtyard; sisters chatting as they wait for the evening bell and choir practice in a poor village.


1. Prayer Bell – At 4.15am the convent bell (a mortar shell from the Vietnam War) calls the sisters to prayer. The day is interspersed with prayer sessions at 5–6.15am, 10.30–11.00am, 1.35-2.30pm and 7.30-830pm, with lights out at 9pm.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”289kb MP3″] 2. Holy Spirit Prayer – At the start of morning, day and evening prayers the sisters sing to the Holy Spirit.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”921kb MP3″] 3. Thanksgiving – Hymn of thanksgiving and praise sung before the mass.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”522kb MP3″] 4. Alleluia – The sisters sing this ancient Hebrew phrase which is often combined with verses of Scripture.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”894kb MP3″] 5. Easter Alleluia – The sisters sing an Alleluia written for Easter, the most important feast day of the Christian calendar, accompanied by their standard instrument, the Yamaha portable electric keyboard.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”2.81mb MP3″] 6. Grace Before Meals – Following prayers, sisters gather in the dining room and stand together, facing the image of the last supper. They chant the Grace and set chairs for the meal.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”674kb MP3″] 7. Prayer to Mary – Morning and evening, the sisters chant a continuous prayer to Mary.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”2.09mb MP3″] 8. CanticleChúc tụng Chuá đi, “O bless the Lord”, finishes each line, sung for morning prayers. The text is from Daniel 3:57-88, 56.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”3.5mb MP3″] 9. Kyrie and Gloria – These two ancient prayers are part of the order of the mass. The venerated Greek prayer Kyrie, eleison (Xin Chúa thương xót chúng con Lord, have Mercy) is used as a response in the mass. The Gloria in excelsis Deo (Latin for Glory to God in the highest – Vinh danh Thiên Chúa trên các tầng trời,) is sung or recited after the Kyrie.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”2.83mb MP3″] 10. Sanctus and Agnus Dei – These two ancient prayers form part of the order of the mass. The Sanctus (Latin for Holy – Thánh) is the final prayer of consecration of the bread and wine. The Latin prayer Agnus Dei (Lamb of God – Lạy Chiên Thiên Chúa) is from the reported exclamation of John the Baptist: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is sung during breaking of the bread.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”1.3mb MP3″] 11. Intercessions to Mary – In preparation for the Rosary chant at morning and evening prayers, the sisters ask for Mary to intercede on their behalf. Each line is chanted in two parts, ending in Cu cho chúng con! – Pray for us!
[mp3j track=”″ title=”2.7mb MP3″] 12. Rosary (segment) – One Hail Mary. The Rosary is an ancient Christian meditative chant. Its centre-piece is the Hail Mary, chanted by the sisters in two parts.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”947kb MP3″] 13. Rosary Chant –The structure of the Rosary chant is the Creed, then Lord’s Prayer, then three Hail Mary’s, then five groups of ten Hail Marys, each representing one of the five Christian faith mysteries, interspersed with a Glory Be and a contrition.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”1mb MP3″] 14. Village Choir Practice – Sr Hien – Sisters are sent to work in poor communities. Here, sister Hien has been posted to the beautiful and remote village of Trung Quan, where she takes the small village choir through a new hymn, to prepare for Easter mass: Chuá nay thc đã phục sinh – Christ is risen.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”1.8mb MP3″] 15. Passion of Christ – Sr Huong – During Holy Week, the lead up to Easter includes eight hours each day of prayer in the chapel. Each sister takes her turn to kneel near the altar to sing a chapter from the Passion of Christ. There are 15 chapters to the Passion. Here, sister Huong, in charge of the novices, takes her turn.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”3.64mb”] 16. Passion of Christ – Sr Quyet – One of the most senior sisters sings a chapter from the Passion of Christ. This sister sings in local dialect.
[mp3j track=”″ title=”1.84mb MP3″] 17. Nuns Chatting – After evening prayer, in the sticky heat of twilight, the young sisters drift off to music or dance practice, or work in the kitchen. Sisters Huong and Nga chat for a moment in the convent courtyard to catch up on village family news, while waiting for the meal bell.
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