Benedictine Monks From Spain: The Latest Music Sensation?

Authored By: The Wanderer

Article taken from the March 3, 1994 issue of "The Wanderer".


NEW YORK (RNS)--Forget the "Fab Four." This spring, America's hottest music sensation could be a Spanish order of Benedictine monks.

Following their astonishing climb to the top of Spain's pop charts this winter, the monks of Santo Domingo De Silos are set to release a repackaged version of their CD in the United States this month with Angel Records.

And just what is the monks' musical forte? Gregorian chant, of course--the traditional music of the Roman Catholic liturgy, sung in Latin.

The 20-monk choir has released four recordings since 1972. But no one anticipated the huge success of their latest venture, "The Best Works of Gregorian Chant by the Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos Abbey."

Released in December, 1993, the double CD captured the number one spot on the Spanish album charts for five weeks in a row and sold over 250,000 copies--earning the monks a platinum record in the classical category.

Gregorian chant consists of a single melody without accompaniment or harmonizing parts. The name is a reference to Pope Gregory I (590604), who is believed to have encouraged development of the chant in its early years.

Steve Murphy, president of Angel Records, predicted in an interview here on Feb. 16th that the repackaged U.S. single CD, "Chant," will also become an enormous success and even outsell the Spanish release.

Defining a target audience has been difficult for Angel because the monks' appeal seems to defy age demographics. But, since 60% of Spain's CD sales came from the16-25 age group, American marketing efforts will be geared primarily to a younger crowd.

"In a world full of natural and human disasters, this album seems to give people a little peace, a little hope, something to grab onto and help them through the day," Murphy commented.

He theorized that the monks' chanting taps into young peoples' spiritual need, a need currently unmet anywhere else in contemporary music.

"I think that with most people, especially young people, there has always been an interest in and a need for uplifting music-- religious in source and ethereal in presentation. Happenstance has provided us with this record, and the youth are just waiting for it."

But Angel is not counting solely on the purchasing power of the young to make "Chant" their number one best-seller.

Murphy predicted that the monks' 1,300-year-old melodies will appeal to a broad audience of people who tend to gravitate to the newest sounds.

Yet Angel is banking on the talent of the artists themselves to replicate in the U.S. the kind of success their recording achieved in Spain.

"The monks are an incredible talent, the best in their genre, which completely sets their chants apart from other Gregorian chants.

"Everyone feels good about this CD succeeding," Murphy said.

After all, this is not just another bunch of highly paid, self- centered, self-promoting, spoiled pop stars.

Murphy puts it simply: "The monks are such good people."

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