Liberal Arts Blog — Gregorian Chant (Part II): Spanish Benedictine Monks Score Pop Hit (1994)
Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is the Joy of Music Day
Today’s Topic: Gregorian Chant (Part II): Spanish Benedictine Monks Score Pop Hit (1994)
One of the oddest moments in modern music history was when the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo De Silos of Burgos, Spain issued an album of Gregorian chant that reached the #3 slot on the Billboard 200 and sold six million copies worldwide. You know when you have arrived when you are parodied. And they were — by comedy rock band, Big Daddy in album entitled “Chantmania: the Benzedrine Monks of Santo Damonico.” Today, a few more details, several links, and three questions. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
PACKAGING AND TIMING ARE EVERYTHING IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS
1. The recordings were actually made in the 1970s but did not sell until they were repackaged as “an antidote to the stress of modern life” by Angel Records in 1994.
2. “The monks of Santo Domingo de Silos have been singing Gregorian chant since the 11th century (before that they used Mozarabic chant). There was a break in the tradition in the 1830s when the abbey was closed by the government as part of the so-called Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Menizabal. The abbey was reestablished with the help of monks from Solesmes Abbey in France. Solesmes is known for its commitment to plainsong and the Solesmes style of singing as influenced the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.”
3. These monks are not professional singers. “Technically, the Silos monks are surpassed by other choirs, but they are undoubtedly authentic in the sense that they sing Gregorian chant as part of their daily worship. As a reviewer in Gramaophone puts it: “The ensemble is not always perfect, but if these are not professional singers, they are, and they sound like, truly professional monks.”
FAME TURNS THE MONASTERY INTO A TOURIST TRAP
1. The record company launched a promotion for a chance to spend a night at the monastery.
2. But women were excluded “because of the monks rules.”
3. “If a woman wins, she’ll have to stay in a nearby hotel and be taken on a guided tour.”
NB: All the fuss was too upsetting to the monastic community and when EMI offered them $7.5 million to make a new album they turned it down.
CHANTMANIA: tasteless? hilarious? offensive?
1. “They’re thinking about getting the brothers in other kinds of genres. Which I never knew what that word means, butwhen you say it people think it’s french…”
2. “I am a record producer. You guys are monks. We can trust each other….You guys can pull this off…Country music… big hats…”
3. “Maybe a children’s album…maybe nursery rhymes…”
NB: “We see this phenomenon as extending even to the breakfast table. The Crunchy Monk which is a cereal which might be tasty in the morning, a kind of pious religious experience to start the day. Or for appetizers, The Holy Wafers in different flavors — barbecue, cheese, nachos — we’ve even mocked up something here for Holy Wafers Lite — same Holy Spirit content but 25% less calories…” Check out 5th link if you like this sort of thing.
CONCLUSION — three questions
1. Your candidate for biggest surprise in music history?
2. Your favorite Gregorian chant?
3. Your pick for greatest musical parody of all time?
Last four years of posts organized thematically:
Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.
This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters to you.