Monks sing songs for a song

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The Independent Online
THEY'VE outsold Sinatra and Madonna, so why should the monks of the Spanish town of Silos not make a few bob - or even an estimated pounds 3.5m - from their worldwide Latin-language hit, The Best of Gregorian Chants? But will the monks themselves ever see the money?

The 30 monks of the Benedictine monastery 150 miles north of Madrid were stunned to see their album of 1,000-year-old prayer chants reach the number-one spot in countries around the world.

They maintained a discreet silence but may privately have been even more stunned when they heard there would be no royalties. It had not occurred to them to register the recording with the General Society of Spanish Authors. In any case, argued the distributors who began raking in huge profits from sales, the chants were traditional and surely part of the public domain.

Now, however, two former monks who directed the recording have published the scores of the chants, claimed they are original arrangements and dropped discreet hints that they expect royalties from an estimated 3 million copies sold worldwide so far and from future sales.

'The sound, the rhythm, the phrasing, etc are the fruits of our personal contribution,' said Ismael Fernandez, one of the two former monks who directed the Silos choir. 'I think the success of the recording must be largely due to our interpretation. Previous recordings passed almost unnoticed.'

He and a fellow ex-monk, Francisco Javier Lara, insisted they had published and, of course, registered the scores 'purely for educational purposes, to satisfy the demands of choirs and music students. We have not proposed taking royalties but, of course, if royalties are generated, we will accept them.'