I am not a fastidious tracker of the Billboard charts, but this one caught my attention.
This week, the Cistercian Monks Of Stift Heiligenkreuz (near Vienna), ascended the classical charts with "Chant: Music For The Soul" ( Decca/Universal Classics Group).
Please don't let this be the start of another chant fetish!
Look, I love chant (note: not "Gregorian chant") and studied it in undergraduate and graduate school -- even sung it. But music labels' commercialization of sacred chant in the 1990s made me queasy and I don't want to see a return of it. The way that Universal is marketing this and publicizing this disc makes me nervous: "Chant is the ultimate in relaxation and stress relief; the perfect antidote to our fast-moving modern world." an e-mail blast exclaims.
Approaching chant this way -- as relaxing sound and not as expression of religious belief or function -- is so out of context from the original function that it almost seems voyeuristic to me, especially when used by people in the background at home or in the car or whatever. To me, chant is different than other sacred music that reaches the concert hall because chant was/is so tied into a religious service -- it is the mass service, really -- opposed to other music that is inserted in.
Oh well. At least the disc brings some recognition to Stift Heiligenkreuz, the second-oldest Cistercian monastery. And, from what I hear from audio clips, its monks do sing with warmth and exceptional ensemble.