Austria's Gregorian chanting monks land major recording contract


An Austrian group has won a major recording contract with Universal Music. The group was selected after a world-wide competition and their first recording is expected to be an instant hit. But this is no new-wave band - in fact it can claim an 800 year old tradition - because it's the monks of Heiligenkreuz Abbey who've been chosen by Universal to record their Gregorian chants. The contract is coming their way after one of their number sent Universal an mp3 recording and a link to a youtube clip. Kerry Skyring has been speaking to Father Philip - one of the Gregorian chanting monks at the monastery in Heiligenkreuz near Vienna.

"Gregorian chant is some sort of spiritual music, it is known as the music of the western church, you hear the voices, very soft voices - in a big chapel. In a church of stones you are working with the room like an instrument".

So it's very much developed with the venues, the great stone chrches?

"Yes exactly even when they build these churches they build as if you have mixed overtone, some special stones, so yes they know how to build a church for chanting".

Do you get special sound at Heiligenkreuz?

"I don't know, I'm not so expert in listening and knowing what is special and so on but I love this church. We are a very old church, romantic and gothic parts and yes it is very wonderful".

How much of each day is devoted to chanting?

"As a community we are praying three and a half hours. Gregorian chanting is a little bit different. When there is a big feast we are chanting all the day and if it is a normal day, until vesper we are usually singing at one tone".

So I wonder if you can try and explain, what is this thing about joining together with other voices in a particular chant?

"I can feel how is the community today - is it working properly - is it functioning - do they feel well - do I feel well? Or are there some conflicts? This is also reflected in the prayer in the way of chanting. Like a good football team, are they playing together or are they playing against?"

What do you think the recording contract will mean for you, your fellow priests, for Heiligenkreuz?

"For Heiligenkreuz? I don't know. Maybe we will get a little more famous or maybe - hopefully - people will get to know Gregorian chant much more and they will get much more interest in this and that there is some sort of revival in the church and the chant and this big tradition. And yes that's what we want to do with this".