25 February 2014
Abigail Frymann Rouch
English Catholics hit the right note in Rome
When Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals on Saturday, British Catholics' attention was focused on Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who was one of only four Europeans to receive the red hat. But London was also represented by the choir of Westminster Cathedral.
The 10 lay clerks and 25 choristers sang at both pontifical events at the weekend - Saturday's consistory and Sunday's Mass which the Pope celebrated with the newly created cardinals. The senior boy's chorister sang the Psalm in St Peter's Basilica on Sunday.
After Sunday's Mass, Cardinal Nichols said the choir went to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the guesthouse where Pope Francis has made his residence, Independent Catholics News reported. Francis came out and greeted every single one of them, and they sang for him again.
"It was a wonderful moment. The quality of their voices just echoed round the buildings there. It was a very personal and intimate meeting and a gift," Nichols said.
Master of Music Martin Baker said: “We have seen recently the strength of English choral music finding favour in Rome.”
“I think the particular appeal of English choral music, apart from its obvious musical quality, is its daily pattern: rather than being reserved for special occasions, it forms the backbone of worship in our cathedrals every day of the week. Choral music is thus an integral part of prayer.”
Cardinal Nichols said the choir's invitation to sing in St Peter's dated from the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Benedict was so taken by the quality of the music from Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral at the various papal events that he invited both choirs to Rome then.
In November 2012 Westminster Cathedral Choir sung at a papal liturgy on an exchange with the Sistine Chapel Choir. Five months earlier, the boys and men from Westminster Abbey sang in St Peter's Basilica in an historic collaboration with the Sistine Chapel singers.
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