Reclusive nuns seal record deal
An order of Benedictine nuns which is cut off from the outside world has signed a major record deal with the company behind Lady GaGa.
The enclosed order from a remote region of southern France won a worldwide search which took in more than 70 convents from communities in Europe, the US and Africa.
The new chart hopefuls communicate with outsiders through a grille to avoid intrusion into their daily lives. And it means they will have to photograph their own album cover, as well as their TV ad.
They have signed a deal with Decca Records - part of Universal Music, which counts Lady GaGa, U2 and Amy Winehouse among its acts.
The Nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation are based near Avignon and won a search to find the finest female singers of Gregorian Chant.
Their ancient order dates back to the 6th Century and they follow a tradition of leading a hidden life behind closed doors. Once they have taken their vows, the sisters remain there until their deaths.
The Reverend Mother Abbess said: "We never sought this, it came looking for us. At first we were worried it would affect our cloistered life, so we asked St Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered, and we thought that this album would be a good thing if it touches people's lives and helps them find peace."
The nuns are self-sufficient and include a plumber, an engineer, an electrician, a silk-weaver and a dental assistant. But their strict rules meant that even Decca Records managing director Dickon Stainer was unable to enter their home to congratulate them.
"I passed the contract through the grille, they signed it and passed it back," he said. "Although the nuns do not leave the Convent, the whole world will now hear the true beauty of their singing."
London-based Decca launched their search earlier this year and the sisters - who sing their chants eight times a day - will release the album Voice: Chant From Avignon in November.