Members of the Sistine Chapel Choir, under the direction of Msgr. Massimo Palombella, perform at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Sept. 20. (CNS photo/Dana Rene Bowler, The Catholic University of America)

Sistine Chapel Choir will perform in Miami

MIAMI | Miami is among the stops on the Sistine Chapel Choir’s first-ever U.S. tour this summer. Also known as the “Pope’s Choir,” they will perform at the James L. Knight Center, 400 S.E. Second Ave., Friday, July 13, at 7 p.m.

The group’s July 3-23 tour also has stops in Atlanta, New York City, St. Louis, Detroit, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“We’re preparing step by step and we’re very excited to come here and do the first concert tour ever from coast to coast in the U.S.,” said choir member Diego Gaston Zamudio, speaking via phone May 8 with the Florida Catholic. “It will be a dream to see Miami.”

Zamudio is the first Argentine member of the group. It is composed of 20 professional singers from all over the world as well as 35 boys, ages 9 through 13, who are known as the Pueri Cantores. That means “children singing” in Latin.

Raised in a musical household, Zamudio grew up with a mother who danced, a father who sang tangos, and a grandfather who played the violin. After singing in the conservatory for years, he moved to Europe in 1996 to pursue a higher musical education.

“I feel I am more European than Argentine,” Zamudio joked.

He performed in operas in England, singing in Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte,” Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” and more. At the same time, he also sang in various choirs.
“They have a great cultural appreciation for choral music,” said Zamudio of Europeans.

In 2013 he auditioned for the Pope’s Choir with its director, Maestro Msgr. Massimo Palombella, and in 2015 he came on board full time.

He believes the Sistine Chapel is the cradle of all great Church chorale pieces. “During the Renaissance, the greatest artists wrote and performed there. It is where prayer became music to evangelize and to pray with,” said Zamudio.

He said Pope Francis has expressed his encouragement and support for the choir’s U.S. tour. “He supports everything we do,” said Zamudio. “The program we have selected is the most important music written for the Sistine Chapel.”

He guarantees that the performances will be impressive and impactful. In Miami, he is also hoping for a Hispanic and Latin presence at the concert. “It’s a unique experience to go see and listen to the Sistine Chapel Choir. It’s going to be amazing for everyone,” Zamudio said.

It will certainly be a thrill for the archdiocesan Jubilee Choir, which is scheduled to perform in the same program. “We’re looking to do a very good presentation along with them as well,” said Gustavo Zayas, director of the Jubilee Choir, which consists of vocalists and musicians from parishes throughout the archdiocese, including St. Mary Cathedral, Epiphany, and Little Flower in Coral Gables.

According to Zayas, the Pope’s Choir could have reached out to any number of professional groups in Miami, but instead chose a group related to the Church and part of the archdiocese.

“This is an event to spread the culture, to promote beautiful, Catholic liturgical music in a context that is not liturgical,” he said, and among people who might never attend a Catholic liturgical service. “This might be the call for some people.”

The archdiocesan Jubilee Choir will showcase a “concert-worthy” repertoire that is “beautiful and artistic,” Zayas said.

While musical etiquette prevents them from performing the same pieces as the Pope’s Choir — which range from Gregorian to Renaissance — the restriction has actually allowed them to explore modern pieces, and highlight English and American arrangements that they don’t always sing.

Rehearsals are already underway, and taking part in upcoming archdiocesan events, such as the priests’ ordination May 12, will help the choir prepare for the July concert.

Zayas, who has never heard the Pope’s Choir live, said he hopes that the group’s performances will move hearts and souls, as Pope Francis intended when he gave permission for the U.S. tour.

“It is beneficial in the eyes of the pope to share the music done at the Vatican with the world,” Zayas said. Aside from the spiritual uplift, “people might take something from this enrichment and incorporate it into their parish life.”

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