Oh, look! The New York Times has an article about Solemnes:
One of the tasks of Roger Server as mayor of this quaint village in western France is to console misguided tourists who want to hear the monks in its 11th-century monastery singing in Gregorian chant. "People come and ask, ‘Can you visit the concerts?’ "
Tourists are restricted to the back of the church, he said, shaking his white hair in mock exasperation. "I tell them: ‘You can visit at the offices. You can admire the sculptures in the church.’ But the monks say, ‘We’re not here to receive tourists; we’re contemplatives.’ "
The monks, 55 of them, inhabit the monastery that hovers over the village like some great granite mother hen over her chicks. But in recent times the monks have gained a measure of fame for their dedication to Gregorian chant, the simple vocal music whose cadences, in Latin, for centuries adorned the Roman Catholic liturgy.
Now, a constant stream of visitors comes to Solesmes to sit in the monastery church and listen while the monks sing the psalms and prayers, seven times a day, of the sacred liturgy.
"They want their calm," Mr. Server, 65, a retired schoolteacher, said of the monks. "And after all, the monastery was there before us."
The monks’ dedication to Gregorian chant dates to the 19th century, when the monastery was refounded as the Benedictine abbey of St. Pierre de Solesmes, after having been closed after the French Revolution. [continue]