Monday, May 19, 2008

We Don't Want to Become a Boy Group

~the Cistercian monks of Heiligenkreuz Monastery talk about their recording contract with Universal. From Times Online
Father Karl, “band” spokesman, meets us beside the monastery shop. Clad in a winter jacket over his habit, he is in his fifties with a grin so warm it embraces you. “We shall find a silent place,” he says, without a flicker of irony. We head to the refectory and over strong coffee and mini doughnuts (monastic preconception No 1 shattered; what happened to bread, water and denial?), discuss the extraordinary new chapter in the life of the 875-year-old monastery.

“We do not want to become a boy group,” begins Father Karl, refreshingly off-message. “First it’s only good news, then only bad; but for the record producers, they sell in any case. Look at Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears.” For a man who has lived in holy orders for 26 years, Father Karl has an astute take on fickle fame. He has also listened to PR advisers: “They tell us, ‘You are monks and now everybody will love you. But don’t get proud.’ ”

Humility isn’t a quality associated with the record industry and one wonders if Stift Heiligenkreuz hasn’t made a pact with the Devil. What brought the secular and godly together?

Father Karl credits various “miracles” and the story is incredible. In February, Universal advertised in the Catholic press for a group to record plainchant. On the day before the closing date, Father Karl received an e-mail from a friend in London: “It was three words: ‘Schnell schnell, Karl!’ And a link to the advert.”

Father Karl replied with a YouTube clip of the order singing for the papal visit last year. (What do monks watch on YouTube, by the way? “I like to see the Popes. For instance, a beautiful clip of the last Holy Mass of Paul VI.” No dogs on skateboards, then.)

From hundreds who applied, Universal chose Stift Heiligenkreuz. But the deal has met resistance from some younger brothers who asked not to sing. “They lived a very secular life without God and then had a big conversion,” says Father Karl. “They are afraid this media tum-tum could bring them out of godly life.”

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