Westminster Choir in St. Peter’s Basilica

I am catching a few minutes of the rebroadcast of the Holy Father’s Mass for Sts. Peter and Paul on EWTN. I only have a few fleeting minutes.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey is there.

Is it my imagination or are the Westminster Abbey (Anglican) crew signing Palestrina in front of the Sistine Chapel Choir? Missae Papae Marcelli, I think.

Okay, they might be singing with them.

Rich irony.

And this in front of the Orthodox Patriarch.

Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Is it the choir of Westminster Abbey or the choir of Westminster Cathedral?

  2. Ioannes Andreades says:

    EWTN not streaming very well for me. Saw this great resource earlier:

  3. Centristian says:

    As I watched the liturgy on EWTN I was thinking to myself, “my word…the choir has really, really improved!” Then the announcer mentioned that the Westminster Abbey choir was guest choir for the service. “Ah.” Suddenly, it made sense of the neck ruffs worn by the choir boys. It also occurred to me that the Vatican might send the Sistine Chapel Choir to Westminster Abbey, permanently, as a return ecumenical gesture. The angelic-sounding Brits, on the other hand, ought to have be converted on the spot and compelled to remain.

    Although the announcer also mentioned that there was a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in attendance, that was not the Patriarch (Bartholomew), himself, but his delegate. Whom it may have been, precisely, I do not know, but he looked positively resplendent in his elaborate mantiya, its train borne by his attendant cleric. I thought it particularly touching that the Greek patriarch’s delegate exchanged the sign of peace at the high altar with the “Protos” of the Universal Church…as the Greek Orthodox now acknowledge the Bishop of Rome to be since Ravenna. A truly breathtaking moment.

    And was I hearing things or has the Basilica gotten a new organ? It sounded much grander and fuller than I ever recall it sounding.

  4. contrarian says:

    “As I watched the liturgy on EWTN I was thinking to myself, “my word…the choir has really, really improved!” Then the announcer mentioned that the Westminster Abbey choir was guest choir for the service. “Ah.” ”

    Ha ha! Yeah, exactly.

    The beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica speaks for itself, and Vatican City is the glory of Christendom. So it is terribly ironic and downright troubling, if you ask me, that its music scene is so…mediocre at best. And let’s face it: it’s downright cringe worthy most of the time. One of the many weird things about the modern day Church in Rome, I suppose. Frankly, I scratch my head at this aspect of the place. Perhaps those in the know know why it’s like this…

  5. anna 6 says:

    They sounded wonderful…and I am loving the addition of trumpets in recent papal liturgies. They are also using some new fancy camera work which adds to the TV transmission, and reveals the beauty of the basilica.

    And one more thing…I like the new “pope mover”. It’s more suitable than the revamped JP2 one that they began using last year.

    Overall, it was a very beautiful liturgy. Viva il Papa!

  6. Matthew78 says:

    The music and liturgy was beautiful. It was very refreshing to hear polyphony and chant sung with more of a straight tone rather than the usual out of control operatic vibrato we’re used to. Perhaps someone in the ‘know crowd’ of Vatican music has some insight as to why some people think it ideal that a Palestrina piece is ruined because the parts are muddled together by the booming voices of 50 different opera singers.

  7. The Metropolitan is the representative of the Ecumenical Throne to the EU and Bishop Ilya Katre, an Albanian American, was his assistant.

  8. Genna says:

    The director of Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell, is a Catholic. He joined the Catholic Westminster Cathedral choir straight from university and stayed there for nearly 20 years. He was choral director there for more than 10 years before transferring to the Abbey. So he’s got Catholic liturgy in his musical DNA.
    The organ did indeed sound grand for the Vatican Mass. Perhaps the organist for part of the service was O’Donnell’s deputy, Robert Quinney, a fine organist who also spent some time at Westminster Cathedral.

  9. Peter in Canberra says:


    This is exactly why we need the Anglican ordinariate – they will bring the partrimony of Church music back to the Latin Church.

  10. CatholicMD says:


    Peter – Exactly. Also I think this is an example of the need for perhaps less of an Italian influence in the Vatican/Curia/St. Peters.

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    The English truly understand choral singing. It has always been so — even back in the 14th & 15th centuries the English already had a reputation for first-class choral sound.
    The Italians do not. Instead of a good balanced 20-voice choir, you have 20 soloists all trying to outdo one another.
    Listening and adjusting to others in the choir is crucial. Huge vibrato is right out, because it destroys the pitch. What our director calls “spin” is o.k. — English choirs can sound a bit cold if the tone is absolutely straight. But better a bit cold than all that out-of-control wobbling . . . .

  12. jhayes says:

    Other places the Abbey Choir sang on the trip:

    The night before, Thursday 28th June, Westminster Abbey’s Choir and the Sistine Chapel Choir combined to give a private recital in the Sistine Chapel in the Holy See.

    Both choirs began by singing Palestrina’s Tu es Petrus and Magnificat.

    The Abbey choir then sang O Clap Your Hands (Gibbons), Hear My Prayer (Purcell), I Love The Lord (John Harvey), Hymn to the Mother of God (Tavener), and Laudibus in Sanctis (Byrd).

    The Sistine Chapel Choir sang Tu es Petrus (Mawby). This was the first piece of Anglican music the Sistine choir has ever sung and the composer, Colin Mawby, was in the audience. Both choirs then sang Palestrina’s Credo.

    The concert was attended by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who said afterwards that the concert was ‘a tangible sign of our will to walk side by side.’

    On Wednesday 27th June, the Abbey Choir performed a Concert of Sacred Choral Music in the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Over 1,000 people attended the free concert. The Abbey will hold Solemn Evensong on the Feast of St Peter tonight in Santa Maria sopra Minevra. His Eminence Cormac, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria sopra Minevra will preach.

    The Choir then travels to the Abbey of Montecassino to sing First Vespers on Saturday 30th June and Sunday Mass with the monks on 1st July.


  13. anna 6 says:

    Exactly, American Mother.
    It is as if their mothers all said to them “you have the best voice in the choir…make sure that you sing the loudest!”

    I was also amused to see the gorgeous little Italian boys with their wild hair and relaxed posture in contrast to the highly precise little Brits looking and singing like little soldiers.

    I adore an English choir…but the Italians win in the cuisine and art departments hands down!

  14. John Nolan says:

    What makes you think Mawby’s ‘Tu es Petrus’ is Anglican? Colin Mawby is a Catholic and directed the music at Westminster Cathedral for many years.

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