EWTN’s viewers are cordially invited to what may legitimately be called the most historic music concert to hit U.S. soil in decades! In September 2017, for the first time in more than 30 years, the Sistine Chapel Choir traveled to the United States for a three-city concert tour. EWTN was there – and you can be too if you tune in this week to “In Concert: Sistine Chapel Choir,” which was recorded at the gorgeous and acoustically immense Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C.
Others may have snippets, but EWTN is the only place to see the entire concert as well as behind-the-scenes video and interviews. This 90-minute special will air 6:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 21; 1:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 22; and 10 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 27.
“In Concert” Host Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, Chair of the Department of Music at Birmingham-Southern College, as well as the Artistic Director of its Conservatory of Fine and Performing Arts, called the performance “world class,” a return to a “golden era,” and an evangelization tour de force.
What follows are a few of the reasons the Sistine Chapel Choir is so highly regarded:
- The Sistine Chapel Choir is the Pope’s Choir.
“Their sole duty is to sing at all of the liturgical celebrations of the Holy Father,” Leary-Warsaw said. The papal choir has existed from the first centuries of the Church, but when Pope Sixtus IV commissioned the building of the Sistine Chapel in 1471, she says “the choir was reinvented and became a bigger and more important part of the papal liturgies.”
- The Pueri Cantores (Latin for child singers) who make up the “white voices” section of the choir are the pride of the entire choir.
The term “white voices” refers to the fact that the young voices don’t sound like a man or a woman, but like a child. “Their origin dates back to the 6th Century when Pope Saint Gregory the Great founded a school of children’s singers to support the adult singers in these papal celebrations,” Leary-Warsaw said. “It’s incredibly competitive for a child to become a member of the five-year program.”
- Maestro Msgr. Massimo Palombella, Master Director of the Choir, is a “music director of firsts.”
“The choir is not only the oldest choir in the Church, it one of the world class choirs in the world.’ Leary-Warsaw said. Thanks to the reputation that the choir has developed under Maestro Palombella, who was appointed in 2010, the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon approached him several years ago about making a commercial recording. “Maestro Palombella was the first director to make commercial recordings and, for the first time in history, recordings were made of the choir in its home: the Sistine Chapel. One of them, “Cantate Domino,” received an award as an outstanding recording.”
- The Sistine Chapel Choir’s purpose is evangelization through music.
To understand how music evangelizes, Leary-Warsaw provides a little history. The choir’s repertoire consists solely of Renaissance music; that is, music from the 15th to the 17th centuries, much of which was written exclusively for the Sistine Chapel Choir.
“Every day Maestro Palombella works with the repertoire of the choir. Everything they do has texts that are taken from Holy Scripture so he says that he gets his inspiration from the music itself. In working with the music, the Maestro has constant contact with Biblical verse. So he says he has no doubt in his mind that when people hear the Sistine chapel choir that music can be a door through which others can meet God!”
You won’t want to miss this special evening, which was hosted by The Catholic University of America.
“It is the first event sponsored by the newly formed Catholic Arts Council, which was created to promote, support and sustain the arts at Catholic University,” Leary-Warsaw said. “They are very happy to invite anybody who would like to be a patron of Catholic arts in the Church to support the artists, particularly young artists who are students at Catholic (https://music.catholic.edu/alumni-and-friends/catholic-arts-council/index.html). And we certainly have the Basilica to thank for the use of that venue.”
Leary-Warsaw extends an invitation to this historic musical event to one and all: “It was quite something to have the Sistine Chapel choir perform at the Basilica,” she said. “It’s just a superb concert!”