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A Taste of Rome

Pope John Paul II: A Celebration of Life and Faith, Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Peter Latona, Director)
I am a member of the resident professional choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Last March, we went to Rome, where we gave several performances and made a recording in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. When we got back from Rome, I put up several posts with pictures about the trip. The CD was a tribute to the life and writings of Pope John Paul II, who at that point, although we didn't know it, was in his final month (see my post on his death, on April 5). We had originally planned a performance for the pope, but because he was hospitalized that week, we went out to Gemelli Hospital (see my first post, from March 12) to sing under his window. We did sing in all of the major basilicas of Rome (see my second post, from March 25) and several other churches, most mornings we were there.

We had spectacular lunches and dinners, and we spent most of our evenings in the absolutely freezing sanctuary of Saint Mary Major. In most of the recording session photographs I have posted here, the choir is wearing their coats, gloves, and scarves. As I wrote before, Santa Maria Maggiore is about as close to the perfect sonic envelope for unaccompanied choir as can be imagined. So, although the conditions were sometimes trying and the hours long, we made a very good recording. Happily, all of this work did leave us some time to do some sightseeing (see my third post, from March 26).

The concept of this tribute CD was to match choral works with short excerpts from the pope's theological readings. Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, recorded a brief introduction to the pope's theological ideas, and Carl A. Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, who funded the project, read the excerpts, which are interspersed with the choral tracks. It concludes with Totus tuus, the minimalist anthem composed by Polish composer Henryk Górecki for the pope's third official visit to his native Poland in 1987, on the words of the pope's motto. Here is the playlist:
1. Introduction (Cardinal McCarrick)
2. Lorenzo Perosi, Tu es Petrus
3. Reading from Evangelium vitae
4. John Tavener, The Lamb
5. Reading from Ecclesia de Eucharistia
6. Juan de Lienas, Coenantibus autem illis
7. William Billings, Brookfield
8. Reading from Salvifici doloris
9. Giovanni da Palestrina, Super flumina Babylonis
10. Reading from Dives in misericordia
11. Richard Farrant, Call to Remembrance
12. Reading from Homily at the Beatification of Mother Teresa
13. Thomas Tallis, If Ye Love Me
14. Giovanni da Palestrina, Salvator Mundi
15. Reading from Redemptoris Mater
16. Serdeczna Matko (traditional Polish hymn)
17. Benjamin Britten, Hymn to the Virgin
18. Sergei Rachmaninoff, Rejoice, O Virgin (sung in Russian)
19. Reading from Sollicitudo rei socialis
20. Maurice Duruflé, Ubi caritas
21. Polly Rupe, Gentle Words (arranged by Kevin Siegfried)
22. Reading from Address to the United Nations
23. Ludovico Viadana, Exultate justi
24. Reading from Novo millennia ineunte
25. Henryk Górecki, Totus tuus
The CD will eventually be available online, but that is still being worked out. For now, if you would like to purchase a copy of it, you have to contact the Shrine Gift Shop at (202) 526-4433 to order it. Since most Catholics who have been alive during the papacy of the former pope have known no other pope, he is a memorable figure. I'm personally planning on giving this CD to most of my Catholic friends for Christmas, and I think it would be especially good for the little old Catholic ladies in your life.

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