‘Magical’ monks win recording contract with Universal Music

30 Apr 2008

By The Record

After “blowing away” music executives with their performance of
Gregorian plainchant, a group of Austrian monks has been given a record
deal with Universal Music, the Independent reports.


Pope Benedict XVI poses for a photograph with monks at the Cistercian Abbey of the Holy Cross in Heiligenkreuz, Austria, last year. Photo: CNS


Universal had been persuaded that there was a market for albums of
Gregorian chant by the success of the video game Halo.  The game, which
has sold over 16 million copies, uses in its soundtrack a plainchant
sung by male choirs without musical accompaniment.
Dickon Stainer, head of Universal Classics and Jazz, said, "Young
people have an awareness of Gregorian chant, even though it’s not
something you come across in everyday life. It made us think that there
was something in it."
The music company placed an advertisement in The Tablet and The
Church Times seeking “men of the cloth” to sing on an album of
Gregorian chants.
After a contact in London informed the Cistercian monks of Holy
Cross monastery about Universal’s search for Gregorian singers, the 80
monks compiled a clip of their singing and put it on YouTube as an
The professionally edited video begins with a shot of altar candles
and then switches to images of monks clad in white habits walking in
double file through the ancient cloisters.  The video closes in a
picturesque aerial shot of the Holy Cross abbey, set deep in the
Austrian woods.
"I was blown away by the quality of their singing," said Tom Lewis,
an executive at Universal. "They are quite simply the best Gregorian
singers we have heard. They make a magical sound which is calming and
deeply moving. They are using the very latest communication devices to
get their music heard. They’re very passionate and excited about this
Lewis said the company had received hundreds of videos in response
to its advertisements, but the Cistercians were the clear winners.
The monks have described their success as “divine intervention.” 
They were scheduled to record an album last year, but the recording
session was cancelled after it conflicted with a visit to the monastery
by Pope Benedict XVI.
The monastery, which dates back to 1133, has been famous for its relic of the True Cross.
Father Karl, a spokesman for the abbey, welcomed the news. 
"Gregorian chant is part of spirituality and our life," he said,
according to the Independent. "Any profits will be spent on training
future brothers."
Gregorian Chant, which is named for Pope Gregory I, had some
popularity in the 1990s and was featured in several successful CDs by
the group Enigma.