Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cistercian Monks in Austria sign major recording contract to record chant

I still have not gone through the photos taken at the Easter Vigil yet. In the meanwhile, I thought you might find this of interest.

It is delightful story about the Cistercian Monks of Holy Cross Monastery (Austria), which dates back to 1133. This monastery has a relic of the True Cross, donated by Duke Leopold V in 1188. It's still venerated and is the largest relic of the True Cross north of the Alps. As an aside, Grotto has a very small relic of the True Cross which I recently posted on, as well.

From Catholic News Agency:

Berlin, Mar 24, 2008 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- After “blowing away” music executives with their performance of Gregorian plainchant, a group of Austrian monks has been given a record deal with Universal Music, the Independent reports.

Universal had been persuaded that there was a market for albums of Gregorian chant by the success of the video game Halo. The game, which has sold over 16 million copies, uses in its soundtrack a plainchant sung by male choirs without musical accompaniment.

Dickon Stainer, head 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."

The music company placed an advertisement in The Tablet and The Church Times seeking “men of the cloth” to sing on an album of Gregorian chants.

After a contact in London informed the Cistercian monks of Holy Cross monastery about Universal’s search for Gregorian singers, the 80 monks compiled a clip of their singing and put it on YouTube as an audition.

The professionally edited video begins with a shot of altar candles and then switches to images of monks clad in white habits walking in double file through the ancient cloisters. The video closes in a picturesque aerial shot of the Holy Cross abbey, set deep in the Austrian woods.

"I was blown away by the quality of their singing," said Tom Lewis, an executive at Universal. "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."

Lewis said the company had received hundreds of videos in response to its advertisements, but the Cistercians were the clear winners.

The monks have described their success as “divine intervention.” They were scheduled to record an album last year, but the recording session was cancelled after it conflicted with a visit to the monastery by Pope Benedict XVI.

The monastery, which dates back to 1133, has been famous for its relic of the True Cross.

Father Karl, a spokesman for the abbey, welcomed the news. "Gregorian chant is part of spirituality and our life," he said, according to the Independent. "Any profits will be spent on training future brothers."

Gregorian Chant, which is named for Pope Gregory I, had some popularity in the 1990s and was featured in several successful CDs by the group Enigma.

This is all well and good, but hopefully it doesn't land in material that is less than graceful. Only Lord knows how the chant will be used by the secular world. However, the bulk of it is likely to be used simply for listening, which is good.

I'll bet there is a rise in vocations inquiries at this monastery and others like it..... Wait, I just found the website and note the word about vocations....

From the English section of the monastery's website:

Cistercian Abbey Stift Heiligenkreuz
"Stift Heiligenkreuz" means the Abbey of "Heiligenkreuz" (= "Holy Cross") in the Wienerwald. It is a very beautiful living Cistercian monastery. Stift Heiligenkreuz is situated very close to Vienna, it is only 15km to the west of the Capital of Austria, in the middle of the "Wienerwald". It is one of the most beautiful medieval monasteries of the world. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI. visited the monastery, which is full with young vocations.

Stift Heiligenkreuz is the second-oldest Cistercian Monastery in the world. And it is the oldest one, that exist without any destruction or interruption... It was founded in 1133 by St. Leopold III of the House of Babenberg. Leopold’s son, Otto, had been sent to Paris to obtain an international education. In Paris, Otto came in contact with Cistercian monks and soon decided to enter a Cistercian monastery. When Otto visited his father in Austria, he asked him to build a similar monastery for Lower Austria. This was the reason why St. Leopold built Heiligenkreuz; he also founded Klosterneuburg in the northwest of Vienna.

In 2008 the monastery had 77 members, 18 affiliated parishes and one Pontical Theological Academy (founded 1802) with about 180 students.

As the world happens to think it is just a passing fad - this attraction to chant, I think it is yet another example of how the Holy Spirit blows where He wills. Young people who enjoy chant may be drawn into the faith through it. Deo gratias!

More on this story at

h/t to Fr. Z who wonders if they will sing Gregorian or Cistercian Chant

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