Monks from Austria's Heligenkreuz abbey have landed a deal thousands of aspiring pop stars can only dream of. Record label Universal Music, home to stars like Amy Winehouse or rapper Snoop Dogg, is set to produce a CD of the monks' Gregorian Chants.
Universal, which had mounted a global search for masters of the old sacred chants, were impressed by the monks' performance as seen on online video-sharing site YouTube.
"Our liturgy apparently exerts an ever greater fascination on people, especially the Gregorian Chant," Father Karl Wallner from the Cistercian abbey said.
"We don't sing for performance or perfection. The chant is sung prayer, it is part of us, like breathing," Father Karl, who has been at Heiligenkreuz for 26 years and aged 45 is one of the older monks in the thriving monastery.
The clip - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLFN-RVpLtk&feature=related - provides an authentic view of their style, he said. It also shows dramatic images of the monastery's light-filled gothic cloisters and the black-and-white-robed monks praying and singing in their high-ceilinged abbey church.
Universal executives were highly impressed with the high quality of the monks' singing. The monks found out about the label's search for chant-masters by accident, and provided universal with a link to their monastery website and the YouTube clip.
"I heard about it from a friend Feb 29, the day of the competition's deadline. I emailed them at the last second and immediately forgot about it again," Father Karl said. "I had no clue what Universal Music was."
The recording session is scheduled to take place April 1 to 3 at Heiligenkreuz, and the CD's international release is planned for later this year.
The Cistercian abbey, a half-hour drive from the capital Vienna, dates back to 1133 and is one of the country's main spiritual centres, home to 70-odd monks and a large number of visitors each year.
Gregorian Chants, named after Pope Saint Gregory I, are a spiritual form of plainsong, which dates back to the 4th century.
It is not the first record production for Austria's singing monks. A CD featuring the monk's chats was produced in Austria by public broadcaster ORF in 2003.