New director of the Sistine Chapel Choir

This looooong overdue.   It is hard to understand what took Pope Benedict so long to take this important step for the improvement of papal liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Fr. Massimo Palombella was appointed as the director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.   I will henceforth suspend my automatic application of the epithet “Sistine Screamers” until we have an suitable period of time to hear them improve.  We also look forward to an improvement in the choice of settings for Mass as well as the quality of the singing.

From VIS:


Il Santo Padre ha nominato Maestro Direttore della Cappella Musicale Pontificia, denominata “Cappella Sistina” il Don Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., Docente presso la Pontificia Università Salesiana, Fondatore e Direttore del Coro Interuniversitario di Roma. Don Massimo Palombella, S.D.B.

Il Don Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., [Some people think that SDB means Società Salesiana di San Giovanni Bosco.  It really means “Socio di Bertone… colleague of (Card.) Bertone”] è nato a Torino il 25 dicembre 1967. E’ stato ordinato Sacerdote per la Congregazione Salesiana il 7 settembre 1996.

Ha compiuto gli studi di filosofia e teologia, conseguendo il Dottorato di Ricerca in Teologia Dogmatica, e gli studi musicali con i Maestri Luigi Molfino, Valentín Miserachs Grau, [who has good ideas about sacred music] Gabriele Arrigo e Alessandro Ruo Rui, diplomandosi in Musica Corale e Composizione.

Fondatore e Maestro Direttore del Coro Interuniversitario di Roma, lavora nella pastorale universitaria della Diocesi di Roma dal 1995.


Last year Fr. Palombella’s inter-university choir sang for the academic year’s opening at my school, the Augustinianum. They’ve got game.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I always hold out hope that they might appoint an English choir master and draw the counter tenor, tenors and basses from the national seminaries in Rome. Choir training, especially training boys to sing is something that is in the DNA of an English Choirmaster.

  2. With all the politics involved in music in my parish, with people who aren’t even trying hard to mess with each other, I’m sure that this is a scary third rail. OTOH, given that the pope’s musical and his own brother was a capellmeister, I knew it would come.

  3. teaguytom says:

    The translation of VIS says that he oversaw the end of the Priestly vigil in St Peter’s square. This was when we heard the triumphant return of the Silveri symphony to a papal liturgy, first since the 1960’s. It was played during the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament to St Peter’s square.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    Well, this is a very pleasing development!

    The Sistine Chapel deserves better music than it’s been getting. But it will be a bit of a job for the director to remodel the choir — and, sadly, to get rid of singers who can’t or won’t adapt to the new requirements. That process can take as much as a couple of years, depending on whether Fr. Palombella is conciliatory or confrontational in his management style, and how deeply entrenched the dissenters are.

    Been there, done that, it’s not fun. The good father will need plenty of prayers and iron determination.

  5. Jayna says:


    …thus endeth my intelligent contribution to the discussion.

  6. teaguytom says:

    The translation of VIS says that he oversaw the end of the Priestly vigil in St Peter’s square. This was when we heard the triumphant return of the Silveri symphony to a papal liturgy, first since the 1960?s. It was played during the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament to St Peter’s square.

  7. Kaneohe says:

    From a Chiesa article entitle Musical Intermissions:Noises form the Sistine Chapel

    But if – as is now said – Liberto were to be succeeded by Massimo Palombella, it would be even worse for the Sistine choir.

    Fr. Palombella is a Salesian – just like his sponsor, cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone – and has no credentials other than the fact that he has spent about fifteen years directing the Interuniversity Choir of Rome, made up of students from the state, private, and religious universities of Rome. With this choir he also performs selections of Roman polyphony from the sixteenth century until today, from Palestrina to Bartolucci himself, but the quality of his conducting raises merciless criticism from many, including the one who taught him to no effect, Valentino Miserarchs Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, Bartolucci’s successor as choirmaster of the basilica of Saint Mary Major, and another prominent interpreter of the Roman school of polyphony.

    The strange thing about those who are pushing for Palombella is that they fail to consider that the reigning pope has a musical and liturgical sensibility and competence that are unrivaled in the curia.

  8. AnAmericanMother says:

    Hmmm. That’s very odd. Article never says just what it is about ‘the quality of his conducting’ that is so objectionable. Does he throw things? Have cloth ears? Can’t keep time? If the choir he directs is good, the proof of the pudding . . . .

  9. irishgirl says:

    I just watched the end of the canonizations Mass in St. Peter’s Square (yay for Saints Andre Bessette of Canada and Mary MacKillop of Australia!), and heard the Sistine Screamers at Communion time.
    The choir still sounds ‘screechy’…here’s hoping that the new director will improve the sound!

    ‘Socio Di Bertone’ for ‘SDB’-oh, that’s funny, Father Z! Love it!

  10. Dave N. says:

    Awesome! This will add years to the life of my mute button.

  11. RosaMystica says:

    Doesn’t this call for a commercial?

    “When your ears are ringing with the screeching of self-promoting sopranos; when the challenge of calming clamorous choristers seems insurmountable; restore your confidence and soothe your nerves with your very own SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD mug of freshly brewed Mystic Monk Coffee!”

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