The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 11, 1994 - 7
,Spanish monks chant their way to the top of the pop charts
MADRID, Spain (AP) - A group of
Benedictine monks have rocketed to the top
of the pop charts with some genuine golden
oldies - Gregorian chants.
MTV has yet to press them for a music
video spot, but the celibate celebrities are
feeling the media squeeze.
"You have to understand, we are monks,
not rock stars," said one reluctant monk at the
@11th-century monastery in northern Spain.
Complied from previous recording by the
monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, "The Best
of Gregorian Chants" compact disc has earned
one platinum and two gold discs with 230,000
copies sold since it hit record stores two
weeks before Christmas.
The double compact disc sells for the
equivalent of $21 and features 38 selections,
including some genuine oldies dating back
"You're telling me it was a surprise," said
Jose Fernandez of Madrid Rock, one of the
Spanish capital's top music stores. "Themonks
have always had relatively good sales in clas-
sical music terms. But this time they struck
For their part, the monks are ducking the
cameras and reporters anxious for interviews,
in an effort to preserve their quiet world.
"I am very sorry but no one can talk about
the recording,"said a monk who answered the
telephone at the monastery that for centuries
has served as a rest stop for pilgrims on their
way to the shrine at Santiago de Compostela
on Spain's northwestern tip.
"We issued a statement after Christmas
asking journalists to refrain from calling us,"
said the monk, who declined to further iden-
tify himself. "Things were getting out of hand
here at the monastery. You have to under-
stand, we are monks, not rock stars."
A Gregorian chant is the monophonic,
liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church
used to accompany the text of the Mass. It
takes its name from the Pope Gregory (590-
604) under whose reign the music was first
"It's very unusual, the first time that we
know of that a classical-type recording has
ever made it onto the top 10, not to mention to
No. 1," said Marisa Ruiz of EMI-Odeon, the
company that produced the record.
EMI's classical music chief Rafael Perez
Arroyo said the company plans to release
another recording of the chants at the end of
the year. The CD has only been available in
Spain, although Ruiz said there are plans to
launch it internationally.
The recordings dating back to 1973 have
been done at the monastery in the tiny town on
the high plains in north central Spain. Perez
A rrovo said some 25 of the monastery's 36
monks-in-residence are in the choir, but usu-
ally only 16 to 20 of them actually record
since some are older than 90.
The double-CD has so far made about $2. 1
million. Perez-Arrovo said between 4 percent
to 10 percent would go to the Santo Domingo
de Silos monks.
"This recording demonstrates more than
ever that there is a growin gulf between the
music many radio stat ion play and the music
people buy," said R amon Trecet, host of Popu-
lar Classics, Spanish National Radio's top-
ranking afternoon music program.
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