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From the Back Pew: Nuns, priests take center stage

July 28, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

What do Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, U2 and the nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation from France have in common?

Well, musically, nothing. But the nuns recently signed a contract with Decca Records, the classical music label of Universal Music that counts Winehouse, Lady Gaga and U2 among its acts.

This order of nuns, founded in the sixth century, is very reclusive but "deemed to have the finest Gregorian chant singers," BBC News reported. The signing comes after a global search by Decca of more than 70 convents across Europe, the U.S. and Africa for the world's best Gregorian chant singers.

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Vows they have taken mandate that they never leave their homes. This meant that Dickon Stainer, Decca's managing director, had to pass the record contract through the grill of the convent's front door so the nuns could sign it. Their reclusiveness means they won't be performing at Staples Center any time soon. And for the nuns to record their first album, a special studio will have to be built inside their convent.

Another group I've been introduced to is called the Priests. These three men from Northern Ireland — Father Eugene O'Hagan; his brother, Father Martin O'Hagan; and Father David Delargy — have two albums under their belts. Their first self-titled full-length dropped in 2008. Their second, "Harmony," dropped in 2009. Their first album peaked at No. 1 in Ireland and No. 66 on the Billboard 200. Their second album peaked at No. 7 in Ireland and did not chart in the U.S. Their albums have sold 1.5 million copies.

Their first album contains many classic hits, such as "Ave Maria" and "O Holy Night." Their second features songs like "How Great Thou Art," "Silent Night" and "Amazing Grace."

In every performance, they appear bedecked in their blacks, polished shoes and clerical collars. In a way, they remind me of the Three Tenors, who have performed some of the songs the Priests are performing now. I first saw their second album in the music and DVD department at Barnes & Noble in Glendale, and I had to do a double-take. I had never seen three priests on an album cover before.

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