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HEILIGENKREUZ JOURNAL Sacred Songs Sell, Drawing Attention to Their Source
Some monks posing with copies of their album. ByMARK LANDLER Published: June 26, 2008
Ernst Weiss/European Pressphoto Agency
HEILIGENKREUZ,Austria— As noon draws near, the monks glide into the church, their white cowls billowing behind them. They line up in silence, facing each other in long choir stalls. Wood carvings of saints peer down on them from the austere Romanesque nave.
Herwig Prammer/Reuters Monks sang evening vespers last month at Heiligenkreuz Abbey.
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Bells peal and the chant begins — low at first, then swelling as all the monks join in. Their soft voices wash over the ancient stones, replacing the empty clatter of the day with something like the sound of eternity.
Except, that is, for the clicks of a camera held by a photographer lurking behind a stone pillar.
It has been like this since last spring, when word got out that the Cistercian monks of the Stift Heiligenkreuz, deep in the Vienna woods, had been signed by Universal Music to record an album of Gregorian chants.
When the album, “Chant: Music for Paradise,” was released in Europe in May — and shot to No. 7 in the British pop charts, at one point outselling releases fromAmy WinehouseandMadonna— the trickle of press attention turned into a torrent. (The CD will be released in the United States on Tuesday.)
Now this monastery, where the daily rituals of prayer and work have guided life for 875 years, finds itself in a media whirligig at once exhilarating and unsettling for its 77
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