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Thursday, July 17, 2008

"We're not pop stars, say chart-topping monks"

From The Australian

By Iain Shedden, Music writer

BROTHER Johannes Paul and Brother Edmund are not the only monks visiting Sydney this week, but they must be the only two whose debut CD is in the charts across most of Europe.

The two young men, along with 15 others from the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria, have shocked the music industry - and the church - by becoming pop stars with their Gregorian chant music, recorded in their 12th-century monastery near Vienna.

Even more surprisingly, their success has come after they posted a home-made video of their chanting on YouTube for the benefit of tourists.

Yesterday in Sydney the brothers, who are leading a group of 40 Austrian teenagers on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day, were playing down their new-found fame.

"We don't feel like pop stars," said Brother Johannes Paul, 25. "We are monks. As monks, what we do is pray. We published this CD with these prayers. We're happy that many people have listened to it and that we have made people happy. But we don't want to be pop stars."

The monks' CD, Chant: Music For Paradise, came about after Father Karl Wallner from the monastery entered their video in a talent quest organised by record company Universal.

The CD, released in Australia last week, entered the British charts at No7 and topped the Austrian charts when it was released in May.

They can count the Pope among their legion of fans; the pontiff visited the monastery last year to hear them chant.

"The Pope is very devoted to the ancient forms of Christian prayer," said Brother Edmund, 24, "especially the Gregorian chants that we practise in our monastery, so he wanted to come and pray with us."

Unlike most musicians, the monks' day-to-day devotion begins with prayers at 5.15am.

"Life in the monastery is very beautiful," Brother Edmund said. "We dedicate that life completely to God in a harmonious way. With these beautiful ancient chants, we express this life."

Money raised from the CD will be used for the monastery's theology training program.

"We have a papal college for theology students, many from Third World countries, so the more CDs we can sell, the more we can support these students," Brother Johannes Paul said.

The brothers' main source of excitement this week, he added, was "to celebrate our faith and to see the Pope".

"So far (this week) we've only seen him in the newspaper," said Brother Johannes Paul.

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