When the album, Chant: Music for Paradise was released in Europe in May, it shot to #7 in the British pop charts, outselling releases from Amy Winehouse and Madonna.
Maybe Pope Benedict is on to something, trying to rekindle interest in Catholicism by reestablishing some of the old traditions and cultural touchstones. If the popularity of Gregorian chant cuts across all ideological lines, and brings old and young together in a secular society, perhaps the Pope would do well to remember one thing: restore the beauty without the baggage. The beauty brings people in; the authoritarianism turns people off.
Gregorian chant has made pop celebrities of the monks of Heiligenkreuz, Austria. While not all of the monks are thrilled at the idea of sacred music being repackaged for a secular society, most seem to believe the music has the great potential to stir feelings of faith in a society that has drifted far from religion.
In 1994 the Benedictines of Santo Domingo de Solis in Spain prompted the last big revival of Gregorian chant with an album, Chant, that became a phenomenon. Within a year of its release, it had sold over 5 million copies, many of them to young people between 16-25.
For now, the monks of Heiligenkreuz seem sanguine they can balance their celebrity with monastic life. “If the problem becomes too big,” the abbott said, “I’ll take a plane down to Santo Domingo de Silos and ask the abbott there for advice.”