Cistercian monks of Holy Cross sign Major Record Contract to Sing Gregorian Chant

This just in.  My emphases and comments.

Cistercian monks of Holy Cross sign Major Record Contract to Sing Gregorian Chant
3/26/2008

Catholic News Agency

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 audition. [Take note!]

BERLIN (CNA) – 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.

Universal had been persuaded that there was a market for albums of Gregorian chant by the success of the video game Halo. [Sigh…] 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 audition.

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. [What a great sing-off that would be!] 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 opportunity."

Lewis said the company had received hundreds of videos in response to its advertisements, but the Cistercians were the clear winners. [Will it be Cistercian chant or Gregorian?]

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.

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20 Responses to Cistercian monks of Holy Cross sign Major Record Contract to Sing Gregorian Chant

  1. Rudy B says:

    LOL. Wow. This is great! I won’t lie- Halo’s a great game, though. I’m definitely going to buy that CD!

  2. Anonymous in Michigan says:

    Here is the YouTube clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLFN-RVpLtk

    I have never heard the Alleluia sung in that manner before. Nevertheless it is very beautiful.

  3. Melody says:

    Ironically, I wrote a letter just this morning to a liturgist on YouTube in which I asked, “Why is it that the most popular video games (Final Fantasy and Halo) have Gregorian chant, but the Church doesn’t in most places?”
    The subject was regarding a “Teen mass” to which I had expressed my gut reaction of “horrifying.”

    Incidentally, most professional choirs never seem to sing chant as well as real monks do. Even if they get the unique cadences right, the Latin often ends up sounding flat and lifeless, without the feeling of those who sing it knowing its meaning.

  4. Jacob M. says:

    The YouTube video can be viewed by clicking on or copying & pasting the following link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLFN-RVpLtk
    (source: Catholic News Agency, ““Magical” chants win Austrian monks recording contract“)

    I can see why they attracted the attention of Universal!

    – Jacob M.

  5. Jacob M. says:

    The YouTube video can be viewed by clicking on or copying & pasting the following link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLFN-RVpLtk
    (source: Catholic News Agency, ““Magical” chants win Austrian monks recording contract“)

    I can see why they attracted the attention of Universal!

    – Jacob M.

  6. Matthias says:

    Well if Halo can get more people interested in Chant then I say great. God works in mysterious ways.

    JMJ
    Matthias

  7. Chris Molter says:

    I’m not a big HALO fan, but the music WAS my favorite aspect of the game. Now I understand why!

  8. Jacob says:

    Father,

    If it /wasn’t/ Gregorian chant, but rather Cistercian, do you think they’d admit to that and jeopardize their deal? They’re giving the record company want it wants and labeling it as necessary. ;)

    Good singers and savvy too.

  9. Eric says:

    What about call of duty 4? Or, for us traditionalists, nintendo greats like Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda? ;)

  10. techno_aesthete says:

    “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.”

    As well as CDs by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain.

  11. Optimist says:

    “What a great sing-off that would be!”

    Time for “Gregorian Idol”!!!

  12. Maureen says:

    Naw. Gregorian Champ. :)

  13. Margaret says:

    Practical question– is it ever possible for a congregation that knows the piece to chant like that? (Okay, not even anywhere close to the beauty of the Cistercians, but, you know– so it sounds like chant.)

    A well-meaning parish nearby tries to incorporate some chant from time to time, but it inevitably turns into a messy, dragged-out dirge. Musically, I have a pretty good sense of the phrasing and “pulse” (not beat, mind you) that the pieces should have, but apparently a lot of my fellows in the pews have concluded that piety = sloooooow speed. I’m wondering if it’s even possible to pull this off, as a congregation, rather than simply with a choir providing all the music.

  14. Karen Russell says:

    I have to agree with Melody above. I love Gregorian chant but to my ears, when done by professional choirs, no matter how good, it sounds like a performance. Done by monks (or nuns), it sounds like prayer. I no longer even think of buying a recording by a professional group.

    This sounds like it will be excellent.

  15. Leopold Stotch says:

    Blockbuster still hasn’t purchased Into Great Silence. Argh!

  16. Jef says:

    was just in a music shop there today looking for some good gregorian chant, very poor selection good to hear those who know how to sing it/pray it will be making a cd

  17. Dan O says:

    I love the Compline from the Vatican website. It is prayed by the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, the same ones who put out the CD a few years back. It is very nice to pray along.

  18. Anon-ae says:

    Is there much of a difference between Cistercian chant and Gregorian? And, can’t you hear the faint heartbeat of the “Culture of Life” coming through?

    I wonder if the average joe knew what was being said in these Latin chants would they be as poplular? I doubt it. But, talk about subversive warfare! Or, is it subliminal?

    Just goes to show how “harmonious” and attractive truth is!

  19. Melody says:

    You all need to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXNiZ5xG4_M It’s a cure for liturgy induced depression. ^_^

    Margaret:
    From my limited experiences at the abbey and St. Mary’s I think it relies on the regular use of chant. Since people there get to hear it every Sunday it sounds a heck of a lot better than at the Novus Ordo parish I also attend. The congregation keeps silent for the sining of the psalm, but usually does well on the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Pater Noster.