Canterbury Cathedral Choir took part in an historic service in Rome on Wednesday (5 October 2016), singing with the Sistine Chapel Choir at a Papal Vespers in the church of San Gregorio al Cielo with Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The service included the commissioning of 19 pairs of Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops to work together in unity and mission. These bishops had been meeting in Canterbury earlier in the week.
During the service, the choirs sang music together, including a setting of the Magnificat by the 16th century composer Orlande de Lassus and the anthem ‘My soul there is a country’ by the English composer Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. Each choir sang a psalm – the men of the Sistine Chapel to plainsong and Canterbury Cathedral Choir to Anglican chant.
The congregation was led by the Sistine Chapel Choir in singing parts of the service to plainsong. The service also included two hymns from the Anglican tradition: ‘Praise my soul the king of heaven’ and ‘Virgin-born, we bow before thee’. Before and at the conclusion of the service, Canterbury Cathedral Choir sang anthems by Palestrina (Sicut cervus), Thomas Tallis (Loquebantur variis linguis), Charles Stanford (Beati quorum via) and William Harris (Faire is the heaven).
Earlier in the day the two choirs had rehearsed together in the Capella Musicale Pontificia (Pontifical Music School).
As the choirs sat side by side in the gallery of San Gregorio, bringing their own traditions and valuing each other’s, their collaboration reflected the ecumenical understanding and respect shown in the church below, as the Anglican and Catholic bishops were commissioned and greeted by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin.”
Revd Matthew Rushton, Canterbury Cathedral Precentor