The Vatican is launching a bid for the Christmas number one after Pope Francis approved the first ever studio recording of the Sistine Chapel Choir.
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The world’s oldest choir is made up of 20 adult singers and 30 boy choristers. The debut album, Cantate Domino, through Universal Music, which is home to Taylor Swift and Eminem, after receiving special permission from the Vatican.
The album includes music which was written for the Sistine Chapel Choir by Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria during the Renaissance.
It will also feature two Gregorian chants and a world-premiere recording of the original version of Alleri’s Miserere. The pieces are sung in Latin, as the composers intended.
The singers includes baritone Mark Spyropoulos, who is the first British full-time member of the choir. The album was recording by Anna Barry, a Grammy winner British producer, who set a specially constructed studio within the Chapel to capture the building’s unique acoustic properties.
The chapel is in the Apostolic Palace which is the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City, Rome. The mixing desk was set up in ante-chamber, next to the “Sala del Pianto”, where the newly elected cardinal is first dressed as Pope. Ms Barry said it was an “overwhelming privilege” to work among Michelangelo’s frescoes in the building which is home to the papal conclaves.
The album is the Vatican’s second attempt to crack the Christmas chart. Pope Benedict XVI released Alma Mater, a seasonal collection of Laurentan litanies and prayer with musical accompaniment, in 2009.
Massimo Palombella, director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, said now was the right time for a chart bid. “The Sistine Chapel was consecrated in 1483 and has been home to the papal choir ever since. After an intensive period of study and scholarship of the sacred music in the Renaissance and its aesthetic pertinence, we have arrived at the point of making the first commercial recording, in this remarkable building, with this prestigious label.” He said. “It is my hope that these masterworks will touch millions of listeners worldwide, and connect them to the historical culture and deep spirituality of the Catholic Church.”
“The music we have recorded was created for papal celebrations in the Sistine Chapel and by composers who wrote specifically for the Sistine Chapel Choir,” Monsignor Palombella added.
Mark Wilkinson, President of Deutsche Grammophon, Universal’s classical imprint, said: “This very special record has the power, the beauty, and the excellence to find a truly global audience ‒ and an audience beyond the traditional confines and boundaries of classical music.”
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