Monday, March 22, 2010

Monks & Nuns Sing Their Hearts Out

Record label Decca launches singing nuns contest

A record label is launching a talent hunt aimed at religious orders around the globe in a bid to recruit a troupe of chart-topping nuns.

London-based Decca wants to record an album of plainsong and chant in time for the Pope's UK visit in September. The idea for the album was inspired by an old recording of singing nuns rediscovered during an office move. Nuns and religious orders are being asked to contact Decca with examples of their singing within a month.

Decca general manager Mark Wilkinson said: "This is a genuine appeal to find what you could call a 'sister act' for the 21st Century."

Platinum album

Decca executive Tom Lewis, who found the recording as he looked through piles of old records, said: "When you hear the sound of nuns chanting, it's like an immediate escape from the challenges, stresses, pace and noise of modern living.

"You're given a glimpse of another world - a world of peace and calm. This is a sound of something ancient, unchanging and timeless."

Decca is hoping to replicate the success it found with The Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, who won a similar contest organized by Mr Lewis in 2008. The Austrian monks contacted the record label with a YouTube clip of them singing.

Their subsequent album of plainchant singing went platinum.

Record label finds singing monks

A record label's search for a group of monks to record a Gregorian chant album has ended after an Austrian monastery submitted a YouTube clip.

Universal Music, home to Eminem and Amy Winehouse, advertised in religious publications for "monks, men of the cloth and sacred singers".

Bosses were sent hundreds of demos but were impressed most by the clip from the Heiligenkreuz monastery. An album, set for global release, will be recorded next month.

The Cistercian monastery, in the Vienna woods, is home to 80 monks and dates back to 1133. Gregorian chant, which gained a new audience through Enigma's run of chart success in the 1990s, dates back to the early Middle Ages.

'Blown away'

The search for singing monks began in February. Universal A&R executive Tom Lewis told the BBC News website he had been "blown away" by the quality of the monks' singing.

"These guys found about the competition through a friend of theirs in London and they sent a link of their monastery and of them singing on YouTube," he said.

"It was beautiful, beautiful music and they're using the very latest in terms of communication devices available to them to get their music heard.

"They're lovely people, they're very passionate about their music and they're very excited about this opportunity," Mr Lewis added.

"They feel it's an opportunity for this music, that's obviously so special to them, to be heard."

'Prospering' monastery

Universal staff, who have yet to meet the monks, will travel to the monastery at the start of April to begin recording the album. The monastery's Father Karl said the album would feature between 10 and 12 singers.

"It's a fun experience because I didn't think they would choose us - it was just for fun that we wrote to them in an e-mail. It's a good thing because Gregorian chant is part of spirituality and our life."

He said he thought the monks had "a very healthy and prospering monastery", adding they were keen to "show it to the whole world".

Any profits made would be used in the training of Cistercian monks, he added. Universal plans to release the album internationally later in the year.

Decca; NBC-Universal; Sky News, BBC.

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