Monastery of sound goes universal

Mon Mar 24, 2008 10:00am EDT
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By Andrew Hough

LONDON (Reuters) - A group of Gregorian chanting monks are on the cusp of international fame, after being signed by one of the world's biggest music labels.

The Abbey of the Holy Cross monks, whose heavenly notes are enjoyed by Pope Benedict, have signed with London-based Universal Records, the company told Reuters on Monday.

The record giant, home to international artists including Amy Winehouse, Bryan Adams and Eminem, will produce the Austrian-based choir's album, which is due for worldwide distribution later this year, it said.

The company discovered the choir, from the world's second oldest Cistercian monastery and based 15 km (10 miles) west of the capital Vienna, after they responded via YouTube to advertisements calling for medieval chanters.

They beat more than 100 other entries which had flooded in from all over the world from countries such as the United States, France, Italy, Ireland and Canada.

According to the monks' Web site, Pope Benedict made a rare visit last year to the Austrian monastery, founded in 1133 by St. Leopold III of the House of Babenberg.

Because of the Pontiff's visit they were forced to postpone releasing their own album, Universal officials said.

The monks' spokesman, Father Karl Wallner, said they had initially responded to the advertisement for fun.   Continued...