Gregorian Chant: Songs Of The Spirit

No one would have predicted it -- the extraordinary success of an album of Gregorian chant recorded by a choir of cloistered Benedictine monks from the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in northern Spain.

Yet succeed it did. As of January 1995, Chant had sold in excess of five million copies, many of them to young people between the ages of 16 and 25. The chant phenomenon -- the popularity of Gregorian chant and other recordings of medieval Latin plainsong -- continues.

Now public television explores this music's popularity in the United States and throughout the world in Gregorian Chant: Songs Of The Spirit. The program features the Gregorian Chant Choir of Spain re-creating the aura of early monasteries, intoning harmonic chants not heard since the 12th century. This is the first time that Gregorian chant is the subject of a performance special on U.S. television.

The choir performs under the leadership of Ismael Fernández de la Cuesta, the former monk and choir director at Santo Domingo de Silos responsible for the best-selling recordings that have kept Gregorian chant at the top of the classical and pop music charts for more than a year and a half.

The mystical music, recorded in September 1995 at the monasteries of Santa María la Real and Aguilar de Campóo and San Isidoro in Leon, was the first major live taping and recording from Spain of Gregorian chant in more than 20 years. Gregorian Chant also features interviews with academic and religious leaders who examine the historical, cultural and religious significance of chant. Striking images of monasteries and historic areas of northern Spain are woven throughout the program.

Ancient music experts interviewed include:

Christian liturgical chant obviously has a proud and specifically religious significance for an enormous audience worldwide, especially the more than 57 million Roman Catholics currently residing in the United States, many of whom still remember the use of Latin in their community churches as an ordinary part of the Mass. Gregorian Chant focuses on one of the most beautiful and universally appealing aspects of traditional Christian faith, an art form upon which all the later, more elaborate music of Western civilization was built. In its original, pure form, plainchant has survived intact from the Middle Ages -- both entertaining and inspiring its listeners.

Gregorian Chant: Songs Of The Spirit allows viewers to escape, however briefly, the frenetic milieu of the 20th century and enter the contemplative serenity of cloistered medieval monasteries.

Gregorian Chant: Songs Of The Spirit is distributed in Stereo.

Gregorian Chant: Songs Of The Spirit is produced by Marcus Productions, WHYY-TV/Philadelphia, KQED Video and Televisión Española. Executive producers: Bruce Marcus, Barry Stoner and Ellen Marcus. Producer/director: Barry Stoner.

Partial funding is provided by public television viewers and PBS.

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