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Bring the sounds of the Sistine Chapel to your home

Sacred music from the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir used during the ceremonies surrounding the election of Pope Francis will be released for the first time, as announced by the Holy See Nov. 13.

The double CD “Habemus papam” (“We Have a Pope”) is the first historical documentation of music of a conclave, according to maestro Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., director of the choir.

“They are all live recordings, with the qualities and limits that this entails,” he said at a press conference in Vatican City. “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.”

Msgr. Palombella explained that in September an exclusive agreement was reached with classical music label, Deutsche Grammophon, and the Sistine Chapel Choir for the recording. The contract provided for two forms of production. First a series of “great ecclesial events,” that included music from conclave and papal celebrations as recorded live by Vatican Radio; and secondly, a series of studio recordings by the choir.

Specifically, the compilation includes the Mass for the election of the pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica, entry into the conclave, Mass with the cardinal electors in the Sistine Chapel, Mass for the inauguration of Pope Francis, along with the 11-minute “Habemus Papam” announcement and the first words of Pope Francis from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on the evening of his election, March 13, 2013.

The CD went on sale in Italy Nov. 11 and is expected to be available to the rest of the world after Nov. 28.

The Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir is the oldest choral institution in the world and is composed of 20 adult singers and about 30 children from fourth through eighth grade, Msgr. Palombella said. The choir normally performs at celebrations presided at by the pope, providing primarily liturgical service. Its concert activity is therefore directed exclusively towards evangelization 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 a historic trip 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,” concluded the maestro, “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.”

The director of Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, also spoke at the press conference about the experience accumulated by the radio station in the field of sound recording and broadcasting of numerous concerts in the Vatican, especially in Paul VI Hall. In addition, he expressed his “great satisfaction” on behalf of Vatican Radio about the initiative which will make the works of the Sistine Chapel Choir more available worldwide.

The “Habemus Papam” CD can be preordered online at Amazon for $19.98, and Barnes and Noble, with an anticipated ship date of Dec. 9; and is expected to be available for download on iTunes. For more information, visit www.deutschegrammophon.com.

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