France: Priests and religious picked up by record companies

Source: FSSPX News

After Les Pretres, Les Soeurs are releasing their album, entitled “In paradisum”. One of the most important record companies, Universal Music, has indeed just produced a disk with the community of the Benedictine sisters of Barroux, in Vaucluse (southern France), after a contest organized in all seven continents.  Les Soeurs take advantage of the fascination for musical groups of a religious nature.  It is doubtless the success of The Priests that incited the big french retailers to invest in the promotion of the talents coming out of the Catholic universe.  This Irish group of three ecclesiastics in clergyman suits, performing classic songs from the Christian repertoire (“Ave Maria”, “Silent Night”, “Amazing Grace”), has sold close to 2 million albums since 2008.  Their french counterpart, Les Pretres, from the diocese of Gap, have sold more than 500,000 titles.  With a style much more traditional than that of the three french priests, the sisters of the Abbey Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation of Barroux should nevertheless sell a few tens of thousands of copies of their disk consecrated to gregorian chant.  The profits to come will be given to charitable works, according as the Mother Abbess chooses.

The Nov. 9, 2010, edition of La Croix tried to analyze this phenomenon.  For Bishop Jean-Michel Di Falco, at the origin of the group Les Pretres, “to see, in this shattered world, members of the clergy happy to sing is a comfort, and not only for Christians.  They answer a need for hope.”  The Bishop of Gap sees in this a sort of persistent demand for religiosity in a secularized society.  For Tom Lewis, the artistic director of the company that produced the religious' music, “when you hear the sisters sing, it is as if you immediately escaped from the tensions and noise of modern life; it is an evasion from the stress, the challenges, the speed of this life”.  La Croix journalist, Gwenola de Coutard, remarks that the religious dimension “serves here as a marketing argument: the sentiment of evasion from stress, of disconnecting from the modern way of life, is played up.  The very names of these groups (…) are revealing.”  Christianity will thus have been picked up by the commercial services of Universal Music.  For Yann Ollivier, director of the classical music and jazz department in this company: “The fact that the religious themselves sing gives an authenticity.”  What is more, the commercial target aimed at, middle-aged adults, makes up an important number of customers.  In these days when music is available online for download at low prices, “seniors” are still ready to buy the “disc”.  Religious music would thus be a perfectly profitable “niche”, a good gold mine to exploit.

This pick-up does not, however, frighten Les Soeurs.  From their cloister, at the foot of Mount Ventoux, they claim to consider the experience as a means of evangelization: “We wish to send a message to our contemporaries, a message of which they have great need, a message of infinite joy.  Too bad if most buyers and sellers do not realize what these chants represent for us, if they serve as background music.”

(Sources: Apic/La Croix – DICI #230, Feb 9, 2011)