Let there be sales – Universal puts its faith in 'plainchant'

They will soon be sharing a record label with the fast-living singer Amy Winehouse, but they are probably the last people on earth to contemplate drugs or "Daddy's Girl" tattoos.

Yet change is inevitable for the monks at Austria's Holy Cross monastery, who for more than 800 years have lived lives devoted to prayer. They have been given a recording contract after "blowing away" executives at Universal Music with singing that numbers Pope Benedict XVI among its fans. Earlier this year, the 80 brothers at the Holy Cross, a Cistercian abbey dating back to 1133, answered an advertisement placed by Universal in The Tablet and The Church Times. It sought "men of the cloth" to sing on an album of Gregorian chants.

Universal was persuaded that a Gregorian chants album would be a winner by the runaway success of the computer game Halo, which uses the singing – a plainchant sung without musical accompaniment by male choirs – as a soundtrack. The album is to be recorded next month. The monks compiled a clip of their singing and put it on YouTube as an audition. Tom Lewis, a Universal executive, said the company received hundreds of videos but the Cistercians were clear winners.



"I was blown away by the quality of their singing," Mr Lewis said. "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 opportunity." The monks' video is professionally edited and looks as if it has been designed to advertise the Gregorian chant. It opens with tasteful shots of altar candles, then switches to images of monks clad in white habits walking serenely through ancient cloisters in double file. The final shot is a picturesque aerial photograph of the Holy Cross abbey, set deep in the Vienna woods.

The monks found out about Universal's search for Gregorian singers through a contact in London. "It is an opportunity for this music, that is why it is obviously so special for them that they are heard," said Mr Lewis. The monks, who have described their success as "divine intervention", were scheduled to record an album last year but the session clashed with the Pope's visit to the monastery. A spokesman for the abbey, Father Karl, welcomed the news. "Gregorian chant is part of spirituality and our life," he said. "Any profits will be spent on training future brothers."

Gregorian chant –named after Pope Gregory I – has hit the charts before. In the 1990s, the band Enigma released several successful CDs featuring it. However, plainchant has recently resurfaced as the soundtrack to Xbox games which have sold more than 16 million copies.

Dickon Stainer, boss 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."

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all faied
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Year 4 Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?