UNITING JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN FAITHS THROUGH MUSIC

This week, deep in the Vienna Woods at the Cistercian Abbey, home to the Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, an exciting new project, Chant for Peace, was announced. It’s a unique collaboration between the monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz and Timna Brauer, a celebrated Jewish singer uniting the Jewish and Christian faiths through music.


Pater Karl Wallner, Timna Brauer, Pater Kilian Müller
On the rooftop of Austrian Hospital, Jerusalem
© Stephan Boehme

Chant for Peace mixes the Cistercian brothers’ ancient plainchant with Old Testament texts sung by Timna Brauer. It recreates the historic charity concert staged at the abbey last year, on 9 November (coincidentally, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 pogrom against Jews throughout Germany and Austria). The album will be released on 8 May – another date of symbolic importance, marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe.


Pater Karl Wallner, Timna Brauer, Pater Kilian Müller
Judaean Desert (close to St. Georg Monastery)
© Stephan Boehme

For Timna, the secret to the success of their collaboration is that they are, literally, singing from the same hymn sheet. “The Jewish Yemeni and Hasidic music comes from Old Testament psalms, just like the Gregorian chants,” she explains. Fr Karl adds: “We made the decision to record the album after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. There is a new kind of anti-semitism spreading around theworld, and we have to deal with it. But we don’t open doors by force. We wait until God opens them.”

The monks became reluctant superstars after the release of their first album, Chant – Music for Paradise, and Fr Karl admits they struggled to come to terms with their new-found fame. They received many offers to perform around the world, some of which could have made themmillionaires, but turned them all down. “We were invited to do concerts at La Scala, in Japan and in America. Arnold Schwarzenegger even offered to fly us to California in his private jet,” says Fr Karl. “That was very tempting because he is Austrian, like us, and I would have liked to go to California. But we’re monks and when we sing, we don’t sing for money. These are our prayers – songs of our love for God – and we never sought this fame or attention.”