An order of cloistered Benedictine nuns in France has signed a deal with Universal Music to produce an album of Gregorian chant. The abbess said that after time in prayer the nuns decided the effort could touch people’s lives.
The nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation (Abbey of Our Lady of the Annunciation), near Avignon, France, won a worldwide search to find the world’s finest female singers of Gregorian chant, Decca Records reports. The search surveyed over 70 convents, including some in North America and Africa.
The nuns’ order dates back to the sixth century and their convent remains closed to the outside world. Vowed sisters remain in the convent until their death and any visitors must communicate with them through a grill. Those women who choose to live in a cloister do so to fully offer themselves to God and to commit themselves to praying for the world and the Pope.
When it came time to hold negotiations with the record label over the album, the Benedictine nuns maintained their cloister.
"I passed the contract through the grill, they signed it and passed it back,” reported Dickon Stainer, managing director of Decca Records.
The prospect of producing an album while respecting the rules of the convent means that record company bosses will not be allowed into the abbey, and that the nuns will film their own television commercial and photograph their own album cover.
"We never sought this, it came looking for us," said the abbess. "At first we were worried it would affect our cloistered life, so we asked St. Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered, and we thought that this album would be a good thing if it touches people's lives and helps them find peace."
The album will feature the most ancient form of Gregorian chant, the first music ever to be written down.
Other artists on the Universal Music label include Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse, U2 and Lady GaGa.
“Although the nuns do not leave the convent, the whole world will now hear the true beauty of their singing,” Stainer commented.
Decca Records executive Tom Lewis was also enthusiastic about the prospective album.
"When you hear the sound of nuns chanting, it's like an immediate escape from the challenges, stresses, noise and pace of modern living. You're given a glimpse of a secret world of peace and calm," he said.
The nuns’ album “Voices – Chant from Avignon” will be released worldwide in November.
In 2008, the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz released their Universal Music album “Chant: Music for Paradise,” which sold over one million copies.