How did a cloistered group of nuns living on a farm in Northwest Missouri become a best-selling singing group? They do not tour; they don’t do public relations. They just sing. But what they sing and how they sing has met a need for peaceful, comforting sound in a busy, chaotic world.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles live a monastic life in a priory called Ephesus in a rural area north of Kansas City, Mo. Their latest album, Lent at Ephesus, recently topped Billboard magazine’s classical music chart and spent seven weeks at No. 1. Lent at Ephesus is the contemplative order’s third best-selling album. Billboard recognized the Benedictines of Mary as the Classical Traditional Artists of the year in both 2012 and 2013.
“It evokes a more contemplative feeling, and people feel that this music is providing a lot of peace for them,” said Monica Fitzgibbons, co-founder of DeMontfort Music, the company that records and promotes the order’s music. The sisters sing for hours a day as part of their spiritual disciplines. The recordings, made on location at the priory, are designed simply to capture the sounds of their daily worship. When the nuns are not singing, they are usually busy with their farm chores. They wear traditional vestments and follow strict guidelines for observing silence in almost all situations.
The sisters are aware that their recordings are making an impact, but they seem to be unaffected by their status as best-selling musical artists.
“They’re receiving all kinds of letters from people who are having chemotherapy or an autistic child or in hospice,” Fitzgibbons said. “I mean, people have been comforted. So, to that extent, they’re aware of it. But, as far as, any charts, I can’t get them to be interested in that. They’re too busy plowing the land and praising the Lord.”
Listen to a sample of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary singing on The World and Everything in It: