In 1810, the Gregorian chant that filled the town and valley of Norcia, Italy, stopped. Under the new Napoleonic Code, the Benedictine monks there could no longer broadcast religious music, and so the 9th century basilica in the town’s center went silent.
After several hundred years, however, an American from Connecticut named Cassian Folsom brought chant back to this historically sacred spot. Folsom’s passion was music and he had studied at the Indiana School of Music. While he was there, he had a religious conversion and was drawn to the monastery. Since prayer at the monastery is always sung, Folsom’s music training came in handy. When he arrived in Norcia in 2000, Folsom formed a choir with two other monks. The choir grew to 16 monks, half of whom are Americans. After sharing recordings of their traditional Gregorian chant with friends, the monks were surprised to be approached by a record label with a proposal to make an album. Initially reluctant, they eventually agreed, and Benedicta by the Monks of Norcia hit number one on the classical Billboard chart.
“There is something in the music that attracts people, across a huge spectrum,” says Folsom in this video of the choir’s story, produced by CBS News.