One Friday in late April Lynne and I headed to Rome to hear a performance of my Stabat Mater in the Vatican on the Sunday evening.
The concert was given by the original performers, The Sixteen and the Britten Sinfonia. It was premiered by them in Britain a few years ago, a commission from John Studzinski. This extraordinary man had then convinced everyone, right up to Pope Francis, that the work should be performed (with a live feed on Classic FM) in the Sistine Chapel.
There was an invited audience of about 500, mostly Brits but not all. Studzinski’s Genesis Foundation had flown out the choir, orchestra and composer and had laid on a lunch for special guests, a private tour of St Peter’s Basilica and a Mass at the very tomb of St Peter underneath.
At the rehearsal on Sunday afternoon an English member of the Sistine Chapel Choir showed me the balcony where papal choristers have sung for hundreds of years. Palestrina, Allegri and Josquin des Prez would have stood among them. The latter had even carved his signature on the wall, perhaps bored during a four-hour Vespers. I was in composer’s heaven – and pinching myself.
In the audience was my friend Cardinal Vincent Nichols (whom I am interviewing at the Boswell Book Festival on May 5), and I spotted members of the Curia, as well as members of the Upper House: Lord Heseltine, Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy (who said the event made her proud to be Scottish.
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