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Thursday, November 13, 2014

“Habemus Papam”: first historical documentation of the music of a Conclave

Vatican City, 13 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the CD “Habemus papam”, a compilation of the music of all the celebrations of the 2013 Conclave performed by the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir under the direction of the maestro Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B. and issued by Deutsche Grammaphon. The speakers at the conference were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir; Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director general of Vatican Radio, and Mirko Gratton, director of the Classical Division of Deutsche Grammophon Italia.

Maestro Palombella explained that in September 2014 an exclusive agency contract was signed between the record label Deutsche Grammophon and the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir two produce two musical collections. The first, “great ecclesial events”, which opens with the CD “Habemus papam”, is dedicated to live recordings by Vatican Radio of celebrations at which Pope Francis has presided. The second consists of studio recordings by the Sistine Chapel Choir of its characteristic repertoire, music composed throughout history for papal celebrations.

The double CD “Habemus papam”, on sale in Italy from 11 November and in the rest of the world from 28 November, contains all the music performed during the celebrations of the Conclave in 2013 (Mass for the election of the Roman Pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica, entry into the Conclave, Mass with the Cardinal Electors in the Sistine Chapel and Mass for the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry in St. Peter’s Square), along with the “Habemus Papam” announcement and Pope Francis’ first address from the Loggia of the Blessings. This publication is presented as the first historical documentation of the music of a Conclave”, commented Msgr. Palombella. “They are all live recordings, with the qualities and limits that this entails. Indeed, one perceives the freshness of “authenticity” along with the background noise, coughs, the clicks of cameras and even a helicopter circling above St. Peter’s Square”.

The prelate remarked that the Pontifical Choir is the oldest choral institution in the world and is composed of 20 permanent adult singers and around 30 child choristers. The Choir normally performs at Celebrations presided at by the Pope, providing a primarily ecclesial service. Its concert activity is therefore directed exclusively towards evangelisation and to the promotion of ecumenical dialogue. To this end, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Choir sang alongside the Anglican Choir of Westminster, in 2013 with the Leipzig Thomanerchor, and in 2014, with the Orthodox Choir of the Patriarchate of Moscow. In September 2014, the Choir made an historic tour in China, performing in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei.

“For the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir, the agreement with the prestigious German record label Deutsche Grammophon is a tangible response to its mandate, which requires it on the one hand to safeguard the great musical heritage of the Church, and on the other, especially in the liturgical sphere, to participate in fruitful dialogue with modernity”, concluded the maestro.

The director of Vatican Radio, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., spoke about the experience accumulated by the radio station in the field of sound recording and broadcasting of numerous concerts in the Vatican, especially in the Paul VI Hall. “We all recall the concerts of exceptional quality during the pontificate of Benedict XVI”. He offered the example of the extraordinary Christmas 1937 concert in the Hall of Blessings, broadcast live to 23 countries. “A concert directed by the Maestro Lorenzo Perosi, Msgr. Palombella's predecessor, with the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir, recorded by Vatican Radio and broadcast with the help of German technology”, as during that year the new Telefunken transmitter was inaugurated.

Fr. Lombardi also highlighted the activity of Vatican Radio in the production and exchange of quality recordings within the framework of the EBU/UER, the European Broadcasting Union, which brings together the public broadcasters of all European countries. Vatican Radio offers on average around ten high quality recordings per year as part of the EBU concert exchange circuit. Vatican Radio is also engaged in research and experimental activities in the field of sound recording, using new generation microphones, in collaboration with the Centre for Technological Research and Innovation of the Technological Strategies Directorate of the RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana).

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