Traditional Benedictine Nuns in France sign major recording contract

It is hard to resist this story in the Independent.

What the story does not report is that these are the very traditional Benedictines of the Abbey of Sainte-Madeleine who are associated with the monks of Le Barroux on the next hill over.  My old chief and mentor, the late Augustine Card. Mayer, OSB, consecrated their first abbess.  They use only the old office and Mass and their vocations are through the roof.

Secluded order of nuns signs record deal behind closed doors [They missed the chance to say "behind bars".]

Members of an order of nuns so secluded they are rarely seen in the outside world have found a new vocation as recording artists with the record label of Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse and Eminem.

The Benedictine nuns of Abbaye Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, near Avignon, France, signed a "major deal" for an album of their songs, and did so in a fittingly modest fashion. Since no visitors are permitted to enter the convent, the sisters had to be passed the contract through a grille, through which they posted it back signed.


The nuns’ new career originated in Decca’s search to find the world’s best female singers of Gregorian chant after a company executive was charmed by an old recording he discovered of nuns singing. The Avignon nuns, who sing together eight times a day, beat off competition from more than 70 convents worldwide. Tim Lewis, head of A&R at Decca, said: "When you hear them chanting, it’s like an immediate escape from the stresses, noise and pace of modern living." [I have written many times on this blog that I find Gregorian Chant sung well by women to be absolutely transporting.]

The album, called Voice: Chant from Avignon, will be released on 8 November. The nuns, who have no access to newspapers, TV or radio, now have their own Facebook page and feature in several YouTube videos.

Decca is hoping to repeat the success found when it signed the Cistercian monks of Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Austria, in 2008. The monks, who won the deal to record an album after uploading a video of their singing to YouTube, sold a million copies of Chant: Music for Paradise.

Singing monks and nuns are nothing new – in the Sixties a Belgian nun known as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) found international fame with her single "Dominique", and a group of Spanish Benedictine monks sold 16m copies of their album Chant in the 1990s.


I hope these sister make millions.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. becket1 says:

    Does the truth hurt.

  2. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    We have a Schola Cantorum. We are all Ordinary Form; we are a “Say the Black, Do the Red” parish of about 2,000 families. The Schola prays the Introit and Communio every week. During the summer, the women’s half of the Schola chants, sans men. During their pre-Mass practice two weeks ago, I was reading in the sacristy. I felt intensely relaxed as I was reading. Only after I paused did I realize that the amazing sounds of their practice session were coming out of the choir loft office, past the 19th century pipe organ, through the marble sanctuary, up to our high, vaulted ceiling. I was moved almost to tears.

    Good luck and God bless these Sisters.

  3. Jerry says:

    “Singing monks and nuns are nothing new – in the Sixties a Belgian nun known as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile) found international fame with her single “Dominique””

    Let us pray that success doesn’t have the same impact on these nuns as it did on Soeur Sourire, who left her convent, became an advocate of birth control (she recorded a song entitled “Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill”), was in a long-term lesbian relationship, and ended her own life.

  4. teaguytom says:

    Jerry beat me to it. I was going to say I hope that these nuns greatly influence the music world with their beautiful chant. Sister Smile left the monastery to praise birth control and agreed with John Lennons comments about Jesus. She later took drugs and overdosed with her gay lover. Maybe their albums will help non-catholics experience real Catholic music.

  5. frjim4321 says:

    Yes, I believe dear Soeur Sourire is no longer with us. Her life was very tragic. She and her companion ran a school for autistic children; she never recieved the proceeds of her recording and ended up with major tax and financial problems. I believe it is true that tragically she ended her own life. It is very sad. I hope that Jerry and teaguytom never have a loved one suicide; undoubtedly if they do they will no longer be so prone to ugly callous remarks as seen above.

  6. Tim Ferguson says:

    I don’t see anything ugly or callous in Jerry or teaguytom’s remarks. The truth is sometimes stark and no amount of politically correct language can soften that reality.

    But back to the point of the post – I think it is interesting that popular culture keeps returning to chant. It shows how fundamental it is, and what a treasure worth preserving the Church has in her chants. The mellifluous sounds these women make in chanting is more than just professional polish – it shows a life of interior beauty, brought forth in song. I do hope these sisters do well with their contract, and that their music inspires many other young women to consider such a holy vocation.

  7. Theodorus says:

    “ugly callous remarks”? frjim, can you really read or not? Please show us what those “ugly callous remoarks” are in jerry and teaguytom’s comments. I think you owe them an apology because of your false accusation!

  8. @ frjim4321,

    Jerry and teaguytom are speaking the truth without adding any kind of callous remarks. What was so ugly and callous, if you don’t mind me asking?

    Now, I was going to mention the same things that they did and it just so happens that I HAVE lost someone to suicide almost a year ago, August 3rd. My 13 yr. old nephew hung himself. My family is still suffering greatly from this but it doesn’t keep any of us from speaking the truth, as Jerry and teaguytom have.

    kind regards

  9. AnAmericanMother says:


    Sometimes the truth is unpleasant. That isn’t ugly or callous. Sentimentalizing a series of bad decisions, on the other hand . . .

    And yes, our family has experienced suicide as well.

  10. TJerome says:

    frjim4321, as I recall you are a lefty with a huge left-wing agenda. I recall the Singing Nun with fondness as she was displayed on the American Movie scene by Deborah Reynolds. But you ruined that with your political agenda. Thanks.

  11. PAX, to all.. there is an video Interview promo with the Nuns in English, along with the news in English video at the following:
    AS well, you can pre-order the CD at

  12. ps, a sample of their chants can be heard at and at
    Le BARROUX~Nuns/Consecration of new ALTAR.2005 »

  13. Riverside says:

    Sometimes combox people just need to relax…if you want a laugh go to Youtube and look up the early 80’s disco version of “Sister” trying to make a comeback with the same song walking through destroyed cathedrals.

  14. becket1 says:

    The real sad thing is that in most Roman Catholic parishes in the world. The first video is the Ordinary Form of Music. And the second video, is the Extra-Ordinary Form of music. Extra – Ordinary, meaning NOT the ordinary. That’s whats real sad!.

  15. Jerry says:

    @Uber — Thanks for the links!

  16. Hieronymus Illinensis says:

    May our Lord have mercy on Sr. Luc Gabrielle (or rather, may she in her last moments have turned to His mercy, always offered). She can be said to be a victim of smoke inhalation, the smoke of Satan that entered the Church’s open windows. Would that she had followed her own advice in “Fleur de Cactus,” to defend her vocation against temptations from the body, the mind, and the heart. That and “Entre les Étoiles,” which invites us to bless the night of our begetting, the day of our Baptism, and the evening of our death, are her two best songs of all.

  17. In the 1970s and 1980s, Fr. Godehard Joppich and the monks of Munsterschwarzach recorded the Gregorian propers for the entire liturgical year. These recordings were late released on the Archiv label (a subsidiary of Deutsche Grammophon) as five or six albums. Having listened to these recordings numerous times, I can safely say that the record company and Fr. Godehard did the world a great service for their recordings were made and released during a period when the Extraordinary Form was in grave danger of being forgotten.

    When reading this story, I was also reminded of Mother Benedict and the nuns of Regina Laudis Abbey in the United States. Their recordings are also extremely beautiful and they made them precisely so that more people would hear this beautiful music which glorifies God.

  18. Maltese says:

    I just hope by giving their God-inspired transcendence they can transform the world, “brick-by-brick”!!

    God knows we need habbitd and holy nuns!

  19. becket1 says:

    They better have a couple of tractor trailer load of bricks.

  20. Tradster says:

    They do sound beautiful and I will definitely be buying their CD. But I am still partial to the Daughters of Mary

  21. Catholic girl Kate says:

    I visited this convent for Sunday morning Mass while touring France a couple of years ago. The chant was glorious on that frosty morning. I wish these wonderful nuns well.

    P.S. I recommend a visit too !

  22. albizzi says:

    What these Benedictine nuns are doing is great. I hope that it will spiritually enhance us an many tepidous believers or even unbelievers.
    I have a Benedictine niece in an associated convent in Jouques (100 km east from St Madeleine convent). Here there are a lot of young sisters (who says that France is spiritually dead?) who recently founded a new convent in Africa (Burkina-Faso).
    They show us the right way the sisters must protect themselves against the temptations of the modern world: Follow the rule as it was since centuries and nothing else.
    My mother who died in January often lamented about the “Sisters of the Sacré Coeur” who educated girls in their catholic schools (where she was grown before to marry): These sisters began to give up their educational vocation in the sixties to indulge themselves in all kinds of novelties and fantasies: Now their order has almost disappeared.

  23. irishgirl says:

    I went to the link and heard the Sisters sing-so wonderful to hear! I hope they sell lots of CDs!

    Tradster-I know the Daughters of Mary. I’ve been to their convent many times and have all their recordings. Another one is coming out in the near future.

    I remember ‘Soeur Sourire’ and her song ‘Dominique’. She performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show. So sad what happened to her in later years.

    albizzi-hear hear! What you said!

  24. Hieronymus says:

    I have actually been to the convent, I walked there from Le Barroux while I was there on retreat. Not only is their chant beautiful, but the valley that separates them from the Monks is astoundingly beautiful. Walking from one to the other I had the impression that I had found the original garden of Eden. There are all manner of fruit trees and grapes and the like, with mountains surrounding . . . It is the perfect location for these foundations of religious.

  25. Stu says:

    Father Z said…”I have written many times on this blog that I find Gregorian Chant sung well by women to be absolutely transporting.”

    While not chant per se, I did once visit the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville with my family. Upon arrival, we walked straight into the church in the middle of adoration and I was immediately confronted with the nuns in song. I was immediately brought to tears by it’s beauty.

  26. irishgirl says:

    Stu-I’ve been to Hanceville too, and heard the Poor Clare nuns singing at Mass! I also have a CD they recorded. I love them!

  27. techno_aesthete says:

    UberUltramontanist, I like your blog. Well, except for the flame background. The monastic chant content is great.

  28. Jane says:

    “Dominique” was played on the hit parade on Sydney radio, when I was young. I have always loved it, even though I could not understand the words, which I think are in French. I enjoyed the movie (The Singing Nun) staring Debbie Reynolds, which gave some English lyrics to the song.

  29. Jayna says:

    Chant from Avignon. I see what they did there. I appreciate a good word play (I can’t imagine that was unintentional).

  30. Tradster says:

    Jayna: OK, for the sake of all those readers who are waiting for someone else to ask: please explain the “word play”.

  31. Esther says:

    Squee! When and where can I buy this?

  32. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    My guess about the wordplay is’Avignon but my French is not good enough to tell how similar the vowel-sounds of ‘pont’ and ‘chant’ are. Nonetheless we used to sing “Dominique” in French in music class at my state/public school: I wonder if that is possible anywhere in the English-speaking world today?

  33. irishgirl says:

    Venerator Sti Lot [what a cool screen name you have]-I remember singing the English version of ‘Dominique’ when I was in school!

    One time I heard the original French version as a request on a ‘Saturday Night Oldies Show’ radio program! [hey, go figure!]

    And on a local radio station that used to play ‘easy listening ‘ music, I heard an instrumental version with a flute-like instrument [maybe a recorder] and a guitar! Pretty cool!

  34. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear irishgirl thanks!: I haven’t managed to find out yet when he started to get such an unjustly ‘bad press’, but I think it good to ‘push back’!

    I lately ran into a 2005 EMI compilation of another Benedictine and popular singer, whom I had not known before: Frei Hermano da Câmara. As far as I can see, he is both still(or once again)performing and has been ever a faithful member of his Order. Unfortunately, my Portuguese is even weaker than my French…

    My little imagination (fulled by Wikipedia browsing) has waxed rhapsodical about the wordplay Chant/Pont [bridge] from Avignon: if you-all will excuse me:

    Chant as setting Inspired Words and prayers, as a bridge between Heaven and earth, earth and Heaven

    as setting Latin translations and original ancient and mediaeval texts to early (and, down the centuries, early style), as a bridge through the life of the Church in history to the present

    unlike the now fragmentary bridge of Avignon, as a thoroughly lively, fully ‘working’ bridge

    as bridge variously ‘Benedictine’: as the bridge was built thanks to the dedication of the young shepherd boy, St. Bénezet (Provencal form of ‘Benedict’), so the singers are Benedictine nuns, under the Pontificate of the Pontifex Maximus (literally, ‘Greatest Bridgebuilder’) Benedict,

    as bridge from these enclosed Sisters employing this music for its proper purpose to those who can appreciate it aesthetically – and so may come to more…

  35. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Oops! Sorry! Hit submit instead of preview:

    Read “fuelled” not “fulled”, “early (and, down the centuries, early style) music”

  36. PAX, i was just informed that one of the downsides about a cloisterd Abbey being so heavily in the media, is the ‘hidden life’ can be interrupted, and where the Light shines the dark, tries…to overcome it.
    the Sisters have been receiving death threats and other unseemly threats towards them since being chosen for this recording, and Provincial police have stepped up a surveillance on the Abbey for their, lets all pray more.

  37. Revixit says:

    Soeur Sourire made everyone smile with the beautiful song “Dominique.” I would have preferred not to have known how her life ended. It wasn’t information any of us needed to know.

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