I received the following press release from Dominic Gilmore with Universal Music:
UNIVERSAL-SIGNED YOUTUBE MONKS RELEASE DEBUT ALBUM
CHANT: Music For Paradise
Released on 19th May 2008
The Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz are delighted to release their debut album with Universal Music following an incredible few months in which they were signed to the music company after submitting their demo via a YouTube link. The monks subsequently recorded their unique sound with amazing speed and will release Chant: Music For Paradise on May 19th.
Universal Music, the largest record company in the world who are better-known for promoting the music of Eminem and Amy Winehouse, launched their search for sacred singers in February through adverts placed in UK religious press. The adverts prompted an incredible response with over 100 entries pouring in from religious organisations around the world.
On the closing day for entries Tom Lewis, A&R Manager of Universal Classics and Jazz (UCJ), received a YouTube link from the Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, based in the Vienna woods in Austria. Mr Lewis was immediately bowled over by their sound, saying "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, who count both young and old among their number, reside in 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 prestigious visit to their monastery by Pope Benedict XVI. So when a friend in London spotted the advert on the closing date he encouraged them to hurriedly submit their entry via YouTube to ensure instant consideration.
By Easter the record giant had signed the Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, considering them to be the most accomplished singers of Gregorian Chant, and just a week later recording began. The monks were equally pleased to record their first ever commercial album, as originally planned, in order to bring their voice, and the spirit of their peaceful monastic existence, to a wider audience. Dating from the 7th century A.D., Gregorian Chant is the earliest form of music to be written down but, more importantly, to the monks it is their form of prayer.
Gregorian Chant has recently been popularised by the Xbox game, Halo, driving demand for a 21st-Century recording of the ancient music and reaching out to a whole new generation who don't remember the mid-90s success of Enigma and the Benedictine Monks of Silos. UCJ Managing Director, Dickon Stainer, said of the initiative, "Our aim is to reach singers from outside the X-Factor generation and bring the spirit of the cloisters to the outside world.”
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