London, Aug 2 : Music knows no bounds, as has been proved by a group of chanting Cistercian monks who have become this year's most unlikely chart sensation around the world. The chants of the monks, from the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Austria, are so soulful that they spent two months in the UK top 20, alongside the likes of Amy Winehouse. Their album of Gregorian chants reached number one in the pop, classical and download charts simultaneously at their homeland, and their spot was taken only after Coldplay released their long-awaited new album.
They topped the Billboard classical chart in the US, and have also found success across Europe and as far away as New Zealand.
It is a far cry from their daily existence at the 12th century Stift Heiligenkreuz monastery deep in the Vienna Forest, where the 80 brothers rise at 5.15am for meditation and prayer.
"It is a very serious and positive thing for us because Gregorian Chant is the expression of our spirituality, it is how we pray. We're not Robbie Williams or Michael Jackson, we are just a group of monks who sing every day because it is our prayer and it is our life," Daily Telegraph quoted their spokesman, Father Karl Wallner, as saying.
But even though they live quite a different life from the rest, they still maintain a healthy interest in the modern world.
They were discovered after responding to an advertisement in The Tablet and The Church Times seeking "men of the cloth" to perform an album of Gregorian chants, and posted an audition video of themselves on YouTube. They beat more than 100 other singing groups to the record deal.
"They have become international pop stars. While their singing is still all about prayer, they are grateful for the opportunity they have had to bring their devotion to a much wider audience," a Universal Classics spokesman said.
Next week, the group, who count Pope Benedict XVI among their fans, will visit the UK where they will be presented with a gold disc by their British-based record label, Universal Classics.
They have sold more than 400,000 copies and are on track to reach platinum status. The band will bring out their second album, a Christmas chant, in November.