Beauty for the Glory of God
Addressing his Choir, the Cappella Sistina, H.H. Benedict XVI asserted with his customary clarity and conciseness, that “…we are absolutely certain of one thing: the creative fecundity of the Faith will neither be exhausted before the end of time, nor before all the dimensions of the human spirit will be explored”.
To improve upon this admirable statement is next to impossible. We do not intend to do so. What we intend to do is what we have been doing all along: let the statement speak for itself through top class initiatives which are not intended to capture Beauty, but to release it! The splendid Faith-Beauty initiatives which are being celebrated at St George’s between the 22nd and 24th of this month want to be just that: an encounter with supreme beauty, an expression of Faith, to the Glory of God.
Following an official request to H.E. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sdb, Secretary of State of the Holy See, by H.L. Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo and Dean of the Collegiate Chapter in urbe, the famous Papal Choir Cappella Sistina will be performing a Concert of Sacred Motets at St George’s Basilica on the occasion of the celebrations to mark the Inauguration of ERDF-supported Museum: Il-Ħaġar| Heart of Gozo, focusing on The Making of a People through the perspective of the history of religions.
The highly prestigious cultural-religious event will be the highlight of a series of high-powered cultural-religious-educational initiatives. The unique concert, Super Fundamentum Apostolorum, to be held on Saturday 23 February, featuring one of the top choirs in the world in its genre, will feature some of the greatest motets composed by the “Princeps Musicæ Sacræ”, Pier Luigi da Palestrina, such asMagnificat, Stabat Mater, and Credo from the famous Missa Papæ Marcelli. Other outstanding composers whose works are being performed are Luca di Marenzio, Orlando di Lasso and Lorenzo Perosi.
The Choir, considered as the first one of its kind, came into being in 590 at the express wishes of the Pope Gregory the Great. In 1471, the Choir was re-structured by H.H. Pope Sixtus VI, hence its appellation “Cappella Sistina”. It is the Pope’s official Choir and has been conducted by such all-time greats as Pier Luigi da Palestrina and Cristobal de Morales. Currently, the Choir is under the direction of Mgr Massimo Palombella sdb. The Choir, and the entourage featuring prominent Vatican officials, is 72-strong. The Choir has contributed in no uncertain way towards projecting a rare style of interpretation which unites an artistic/aesthetic sensibility with a religious/spiritual one. Projecting a most endearing timbre and an unmistakable style, the Choir is the supreme ambassador of the power of beauty as a privileged vehicle of evangelisation. This year being the Year of Faith, this superb religious-cultural initiative sets the wider ecclesial universal context. It is of a particular significance that the Musuem-cum-cultural-centre is being inaugurated within this context, as it wants to be an eloquent testimonial to the contemporaneity of the “past”: roots, like beauty, never grow old!
Also, the visit of the Papal Choir to St George’s consolidates that sound tradition with the Basilica, and deep friendship between the Choir and the Basilica’s own Choir, Laudate Pueri. In fact, the treble section of the Papal Choir, known as thePueri Cantores, had sung at the Basilica in 1956 under the direction of Padre Vittorio Catena. More recently, in 2006, the Papal Choir performed a Concert of Sacred Motets in the Basilica under the direction of Mgr Giuseppe Liberto. On the occasion, the Papal Choir were visiting Malta, accompanied by the Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, to celebrate the Apostle of the Gentiles and Malta’s spiritual father, St Paul.
The Basilica’s Choir, Laudate Pueri, is very well-known for its untiring efforts to promote the Papal Choir’s Roman School of interpretation on our islands. In fact, there are extremely strong professional ties between the Laudate Pueri Choir and the Choir of the Cappella Sistina. Mgr Massimo Palombella sdb, the director of theCappella Sistina Choir, has been invited to conduct the Laudate Pueri Choir on different occasions. The most recent was on April of last year when the Missa Papæ Marcelli was performed.
The 23 February Concert will definitely go down in the annals of St George’s Basilica as another significant landmark blending high culture with religious dimension. At the heart of the Making of a People, St George’s has always been the front-line promoter of excellence and beauty.
Indeed, is will be the creative fecundity of the Faith at its finest…