Out with the old, in with the new director of the Sistine Chapel Choir

Although not recently, I have on several occasions mentioned that with the ousting of former papal master of ceremonies Piero Marini, and the beginning of a new approach to papal liturgies with the arrival of Msgr. Guido Marini, it was only a matter of time before the director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, Msgr. Giuseppe Liberto, would also get the hook.

For reasons I cannot fathom, it took a long time, but it this too has come to pass.

I read in L’espresso of Sandro Magister that the new director of the Sistina will be Fr. Massimo Palombella, SDB… yes… yet another Salesian, the same order to which Sec. State Cardinal Bertone belongs.

With the hoisting up of all these Salesians, people in are starting to quip that SDB actually means "Socio di Bertone … or Bertone’s Club Member" rather than "Salesiani di Don Bosco".

Magister observes in his Italian article that it was clear something was on the horizon when in L’Osservatore Romano there appeared a piece in (undeserved) praise of Liberto.

Fr. Palombella has directed the Inter-university Choir of Rome for 15 years.  Not all have been favorable about the choir’s expertise or direction. 

If that is the case, he should fit right in with the Sistine Choir… or "the Sistine Screamers" as some in Rome have dubbed them.

However, I am thinking that the new director’s choices of what to sing will be more along the lines of what Papa Ratzinger and Msgr. Guido Marini think appropriate for the papal liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica.

We will have to keep an eye on this fellow as we as an ear tuned to any improvements in the Sistina.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. An American Mother says:

    “Please all, please none” was never truer than in music, particularly in choirs.

    Let’s wait and see.

  2. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Sancta Cecilia, ora pro illos.

  3. TNCath says:

    I think the Cappella Giulia, now under the direction of Father Pierre Paul, OMV, is actually much better than the Cappella Sistina.

    With this new director, I agree that the new director’s music choices will be a definite improvement, although I’m glad to hear that Tu Es Petrus is now being sung before the Introit at all Papal Masses.

    And yes, there sure are a lot of Salesians on the Vatican payroll. Hmmmm. Is this the “Salesian Invasion”?

  4. Vincent says:

    Some random thoughts:

    It seems that the Sistine Screamers could not from the present get any worse, so this Salesian must be an improvement.

    It also seems that the Sistine Chapel Choir will never be up to the level of the world’s finest choirs (mostly English) so long as Italian singing remains so heavily influenced by the operatic forms St. Pius X sought to excise from church music.

    Even if the Sistine Screamers continue to sound like 40 brash soloists rather than a true choir, it will be better to hear them doing so to the classics rather than some of the silly music they are now known to sing at Mass.

    And most importantly, let us hope this spells the end of Responsorial Psalms at Papal Masses!

  5. puma19 says:

    I just hope that the new master of the Sistine Chapel choir will bring forth some new and improved singing for all papal ceremonies. I agree totally with Fr Z about the ‘sistine screamers’. I even wrote to a cardinal about them and how there could be improvements; but it is now time for BXVI to make his stamp on the music in the vatican and bring in some great and beautiful singers, choirs, organ music, etc.
    Why is it that the vatican does not live up to its place as the centre for catholicism, and show the rich beauty of music in the liturgy,
    Brompton Oratory in london, Notre dame in Paris, both impress with their singing – the choirs are just magnificent and the organs superb for all occasions. Why cannot this be the same in Rome?
    The present young choir are always looking around when singing (just watch them on TV) and distracted. When will we have great Mozart, Beethoven music for liturgical celebrations with the supreme pontiff?
    It is time for a radical overhaul.

  6. irishgirl says:

    I was watching the Vespers service from St. Peter’s for New Year’s [via EWTN.com on my computer], and I had to wince when I heard the ‘Sistine Screamers’ doing the Te Deum….ouch…they sounded horrible!

    They’re tolerable when they sing in unison-but when they sing in parts-oy vey!

    I hope that the new director can do something about this….

  7. Padre Steve says:

    As a Salesian of Don Bosco I am all in favor of the invasion! I am biased of course!

  8. Random Friar says:

    Oh, Fr. Z, better make sure you get your own Apostolic Pardon, lest you be forced to spend your travels Heavenward through all Purgatory being followed by the singing “Sistine Screamers” as *your* (or would it be *their*) penance! :)

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