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Plainsong soars up the charts

David Lister
Monday 28 March 1994 23:02 BST

HOW frustrating for the record company. Their new artists are about to become the surprise success of the year but will not tour, make a video or appear on Top of the Pops. They do, though, sing their hit seven times a day, writes David Lister.

Canto Gregoriano, a pounds 17 double compact disc of 10th century Gregorian chant sung in Latin by monks from a Spanish monastery, is number one in the classical music chart and today will appear at number seven in the national album pop chart.

EMI Records, which hoped to sell 10,000 copies worldwide to students of monastic plainsong, has sold 50,000 in Britain and nearly 700,000 globally. While EMI refuses to discuss royalties, the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, high up in the mountains north of Madrid, will have made several hundred thousand pounds, which they have pledged to share with other Spanish monasteries and third world projects.

The Abbot of Santo Domingo de Silos, Fr Clemente Serna, who is one of the singers on the record, said: 'This has not influenced us in the sense of being proud of it, because we are not professional singers.

'We are monks who sing to pray better. It has a certain indifference for us. It has surprised us more. We never expected this.'

Nor did EMI, who have commissioned research to find out who is buying the CD. It turns out to be largely 25-45 year olds in the higher social classes. Roger Lewis, head of the classical division, speculates that one reason is that the chant is an antidote to stress.

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