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."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering