Monks sell more albums than the next 20 classical releases

Monks sell more albums than the next 20 classical releases


norman lebrecht

June 11, 2015

This week’s Nielsen Soundscan charts will be greeted with cheers at Decca, whose latest monastery recording cleared more than 3,000 albums in the US. That’s the good news.

The bad is that the next two best-sellers sold around 300 each and anything below number 7 sold fewer than 100. The US market is kaputt.

Which monks? The beer brewers. Here’s their press puff:


monks of norcia

The moving music of BENEDICTA was recorded by a group of 18 men; half American citizens and half representing a variety of cultural backgrounds who collectively are heralded as one of the most authentic active singing communities of Gregorian Chant today. They are led by Fr. Cassian Folsom, Prioran American who studied voice at the venerable Indiana University before joining the monastery.  Fr. Cassian will make a rare visit to the United States on June 15 and 16, offering an unprecedented opportunity to learn about this community’s intriguing story first-hand. 

The story of The Monks of Norcia’s youthful (average age 33) members remains the stuff of legend: in 1998 they journeyed to the quaint Italian village of Norcia, and resurrected the historical holy ground of the birthplace of Saint Benedict.  There, the monks became master brewers and standard bearers of Gregorian Chant, after Monastic devotional singing was not heard in the town for nearly 200 years. Says Fr. Cassian, “Music is important to us, especially for the sake of the prayer. Even someone who listens to this without any background will be drawn to it, I think, by its pure beauty and its mystical quality.” 

In addition to the monks daily monastic life devoted to prayer and music, they also strive to communicate their vision of life by way of “earthly experiences.”  To that end, The Monks of Norcia operate a craft brewery at the monastery, Birra Nursia, where they produce brews that have gained devotees from distant countries, bringing new visitors to Norcia, adding to their compelling backstory in an unexpected way.   



  • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

    It just makes sense. Music has been now commoditized, and the people who are buying these CD’s have no interest whatsoever in this industry. They simply need music for meditation or yoga.

    Its full circle now. Western music began with monks 700 years ago, it ends with them in Yoga parlors or as a way to make crying babies sleep. A utilitarian nuisance.

    • JBBaldwin says:

      Are you suggesting that nobody wants to listen to chant for its own sake? I beg to differ: we have a professional schola cantorum that performs Mass propers every Sunday.

      There is a young (not me) and growing demographic here in the U.S. for such things, i.e., chant used as originally intended and not just in a utilitarian or extra-musical way as a soporific for children. If the Benedictines who have preserved chant all this time can use their fine recordings as a way to support their apostolate, who’s to complain? (Beats selling coffee in my book.) You don’t have to buy it, you know.

  • Adam Crane says:

    Quite an observation –“The US market is kaput!” Perhaps one day a new ‘Guido’ (when no longer adhering to a oath of silence), will sing out and proclaim — “Can’t – US (Stand) Firm – US’ and save music. But till then, thanks for keeping us up to date, Norman!

  • Christy says:

    I don’t see that the Monks at number one. I am surprised that Bocelli didn’t sell more than 100…..

  • Steve says:

    That is the overall classical chart. It combines the traditional classical chart where the Monks would be along with more “pure” non crossover titles vs the classical crossover chart (the tenors/ most Bocelli albums, etc).