Ismael Fernández de la Cuesta, a former cloistered Benedictine monk who left the monastery for the secular life, is one of the world's leading authorities on Gregorian chant.

Known internationally as the director and lead voice for the choir of Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos on the hit CD Chant, Fernández de la Cuesta is a scholar, vocalist and world-famous expert in liturgical music.

Born in 1940, in Neila, Spain, in the province of Burgos, he entered the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in Northern Spain as a student when he was 10. He studied humanities -- with a special emphasis on religious music and Latin -- and was named head chorister. He completed his bachillerato and his novitiate at Silos.

Fernández de la Cuesta left Spain for France in 1958 to live at the Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, where he continued to study Gregorian paleography and plainchant. He received an advanced degree in Theology from the Université Catholique d'Angers.

When he returned to Silos in 1962, he was appointed Choir Director at the Monastery of Santo Domingo. Some of the albums recorded under his direction at Santo Domingo are Codex Callixtiuus/Anifonario Mozarabe, which won the grand prize of L'Academie Charles Cros; Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae of Tomás Luís de Victoria, which earned the grand prize at the International Festival of Fine Arts in Japan; and The Mystery of Santo Domingo de Silos, a collection of Gregorian and Mozarabic Chants from Spain. He remained at Silos as Choir Director until 1973, when he left monastic life.

Currently, Fernández de la Cuesta is a tenured professor at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid. He has written more than a dozen books on ancient music and has arranged and published a wide variety of medieval liturgical chants. He is an officer in the Fundación Santa María la Real, which is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of approximately 280 Romanesque churches and monasteries in Spain.

He tours and performs with the acclaimed Gregorian Chant Choir, of which he is founder and director. He is the President of the Spanish Musicological Society and served as host for the international conference on Gregorian chant, which took place last year in Madrid.

Return to Chant page