Friday, November 13, 2009

Singing Pontiffs

Catholic News Agency reports that Pope Benedict XVI will release an album, featuring him singing chants and reciting prayers to the accompaniment of classical music:
The new album, titled, “Alma Mater, Music from the Vatican,” features eight pieces of modern sacred music with recordings of the Pope speaking and praying in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German. The Pope’s voice is accompanied by the choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome, directed by Msgr. Pablo Colino.

The music was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London.

During the press conference presenting the new CD, Father Lombardi said the idea to make the CD came from Giulio Neroni, who brought the proposal to the Vatican Secretary of State. St. Paul Multimedia agreed to produce the album, with the assistance of Vatican Radio for the recordings of the Pope.

More from Rachel Donaldson @ The First Post:
Sadly, it seems the Pope's debut album, Alma Mater, is likely to disappoint both his ardent admirers, hoping to hear his singing voice, and less devout fans curious to witness the transformation from rock of the Roman Catholic Church to rock star.

In a 50-minute album of Gregorian chants and original pieces of music, the Pope can be heard for a mere 10 minutes. He recites prayers to the Virgin Mary in various languages but his singing voice is not heard until 40 minutes into the record, when he leads the choir in the Regina Coeli chant.

We shall see.

The author claims that with the release of Alma Mater, Benedict "becomes the first singing pontiff to appear on Geffen, or indeed any record label." Well, perhaps as a singing pontiff -- but I still remember the well-received release of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II's Abba Pater, which as I recall even made it to MTV.

Accompanied by a resplendently rhythmic score and including an intriguing blend of classical, world, and contemporary western music, Abba Pater is Pope John Paul II's uplifting message to the faithful everywhere. Released in timely celebration of Holy Week and Easter, and in anticipation of the millennial Great Jubilee pilgrimage, this sacred inner expedition of sound explores universal themes of spirituality such as praise, forgiveness, and brotherly love. Abba Pater is the first musical CD ever to feature the most famous man in the world, whose dramatic and moving words delivered on these tracks are culled from archival recordings from the first 20 years of his papacy. In five beautifully expressed languages, the Pope sings, chants, and prays for the healing of humankind, all of which is perhaps best summed up by the words in Psalm 26: "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." -- Paige La Grone

Update - Dr. John Meyers remarks:

Actually, the first recording of a singing pontiff was that of Pope Leo XIII (!) in 1902 or 1903, chanting the 'Ave Maria" in plainsong, and may be found on the Opal CD - 9823, "The Last Castrato" featuring Alessandro Moreschi which may still be available. I purchased it about fifteen years ago.


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