Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 05/22/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/22/1995 01:00AM

>P. Laurentino Saenz de Buruaga

A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS

It's tempting to think of the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain as pop-star ascetics in rhinestone-studded habits, but the multi-platinum success of their Chant album did not shatter the monastery's peace—or its coffers. Though details of their financial arrangement with EMI are in dispute, choirmaster P. Laurentino Saenz de Buruaga, 70, says the monks were never in danger of breaking their vow of poverty.

How does the abbey support itself?

Most important is the intellectual work: publishing scholarly books and articles on art, music, archeology, literature. We also have lots of hives, producing masses of honey. And we make jewelry reproductions of our collection of medieval gold and silver.

Are you angry at not sharing more in Chant's success?

No, it doesn't upset us. This is the kind of time we are living in, when powerful companies step on the weaker to squeeze them and obtain money without any kind of consideration. But we know that this not only happens in the world of music but in every field of human activity.

What will you do with the royalties on the new album?

If it's a small amount, it will just be spent on the upkeep of Silos—a huge building that has thousands of square meters of tiles and roof. Reroofing in the traditional way is very expensive. If it is a large amount, we will also help nuns in the area who live in 13th-and 14th-century buildings that are falling down from lack of repairs.

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