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Monks rock the charts with plainchant hit


Only a fortnight after releasing their debut album of plainchant, the Cistercian monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria have reached number one on the UK Classics charts and number nine in the pop, rock and and dance charts.

The surprise hit band was discovered after Universal Music launched a search for sacred singers in February this year, through adverts placed mainly in the religious press.

More than a hundred entries poured in from around the world. On the closing day, Tom Lewis manager of the Classics and Jazz department at Universal, received a YouTube link from the monks, who are based in the Vienna Woods.

Lweis told reporters that he was "simply bowled over" by their sound. He said: "They are quite simply the best Gregorian singers we have heard. They make a magical evocative sound which is both immediately calming and deeply moving."

The Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz live in a large and thriving community in what is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited Cistercian monastery in the world. and put their selection down to divine intervention.

They had been due to record an album last year but cancelled plans because of a visit to the monastery by Pope Benedict.

"In his speech to us, he encouraged us to sing" Abbot Gregor Henckel Donnersmarck explained.

When a friend in London spotted the advert on the closing date he encouraged them to submit their entry via YouTube. By Easter they had a record contract.

Abbot Gregor said: "The album consists of excerpts from the Latin Bible. The Word of God. Monks sing words back to God which he has given to us. On this record we sing Compline, the night prayer built around psalm 90 and also the peaceful setting of our funeral Mass. which points towards the wonderful mystery of life after death."

He added: "When the monks sing, the chants open our hearts. We hope it purifies our souls and and helps us regain clarity . light, strength and peace. Where there is chaos we seek to restore order. Where there is emptiness we try to find meaning. And where there is sadness joy can return."

Ekklesia www.ekklesia.co.uk (This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England &  2.0 England & Wales License)