(ANS – London) – Sunday May 6. For the first time in its history, the Sistine Chapel Choir performed in Great Britain, giving a concert in the Cathedral of Westminster in London. This was a historic and highly prestigious event, both for the choir and for the choirmaster, Fr. Massimo Palombella, SDB.
The programme of the concert contained selections used historically in Pontifical celebrations and it developed following the order of the liturgical year. In particular the audience enjoyed a variety of works in Gregarian Chant, besides famous pieces by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Lorenzo Perosi.
Expert commentators noted the difference in style between typical English and Northern European Choirs, traditionally very precise and restrained, and the Sistine Choir, which in some selections took on a majestic and almost operatic tone. The “Tu es Petrus” of Perosi, in this sense, particularly impressed the listeners.
For its last piece, by way of goodbye, the choir sang a moving and refined motet, written by Fr. Palombella himself, in thanksgiving for his appointment as Choirmaster of the Sistine Chapel choir.
Addressing the audience at the end of the concert, Fr. Palombella praised the choir of Westminster Cathedral and its director, Martin Baker. He also said that the Pope, himself expert in music, would like to see a greater collaboration between the Sistine Choir and the choirs of Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. During his visit to Great Britain in 2010, Benedict XVI was deeply impressed by the musical quality of the two English choirs, and hence urged the Sistine Choir towards a practical collaboration. Fr. Palombella added that the Holy Father hopes that church music might serve also as a means of promoting truly ecumenical initiatives.
The wish of the Pope is finding a positive response. For the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, next June 29th in Rome, the choir of Westminster Abbey will sing alongside the Sistine choir in the liturgical celebrations. The two choirs will sing together at the first Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, on June 28, and again next day at Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter. These two performances will also be historical events, since it will be for the first time in its 500 year history that the Sistine Choir will have sung together with another choir.