Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tu es Petrus

The dome in St. Peter's

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum. 

"You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven." — Mt 16:18

The Egg has just ended his almost two week tour of Italy with his college choral group, Pomona Glee.  They finished in Rome, singing a concert at Chiesa San Marcello and the Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi at St. Peter's Basilica. Yes, that St. Peter's, the papal basilica (which despite its iconic nature is not the mother church of Christendom, the papal basilica of St. John Lateran holds that honor).  A great way to wrap things up, but there was a moment when a last minute glitch threatened to derail their last musical outing!

I took the train in from Castel Gandolfo to Rome, walked 20 miles around Rome over 2 days (eventually ending up at the Holy Door in St. Peter's but that is a story for another day), got to hear their concert at San Marcello and enjoy a meal with him, and then went to Mass to hear them sing.

They swept into the basilica, in concert dress and in concert mode, following their director and not sightseeing, quickly and quietly settling into the choir box to the side of Bernini's altar of the Cathedra.

Glee in front of Bernini's Cathedra.
Suddenly an organist appeared, pulling stops with one hand and flipping up the music stand with the other.  He had a choir with him, and it appeared that the choir slot had been double-booked. A parish had come to walk through the Holy Door and the parish choir came with them to sing at the Mass.  Except our choir was scheduled to be here.
Much angry Italian ensued, drawing in more and more people. Eep. You could watch the students' faces to see how the argument was going. Oh, and because the mics were live, the show was being broadcast to the entire basilica.

In the end, the parish choir got set up with a mic stand on the floor, the organist firmly planted on his bench.  Glee sang the entrance antiphon. A cardinal and several concelebrants came up the aisle, along with a slightly bedraggled altar boy in a red cassock. The organist took over when Glee finished (unless you count the chord that he hit mid-stream), I had never heard angry organ before.  I was impressed that anyone could draw such emotion from the organ.  Glee sang the four pieces they'd been asked to sing (Exultate justi in Domino/Viadana; Ubi Caritas/Mealor; Ave Verum Corpus/Byrd; Tu es Petrus/Duruflé).  The parish choir sang their two hymns and the Mass parts.

The Byrd Ave Verum Corpus was so haunting, so beautiful, sung at communion.  I fully admit to crying as I went up to receive, between hearing my child sing in that space, having walked through the Holy Door myself, and to be with all the pilgrims who had done so, I was full of emotion.

The cardinal celebrating Mass had kind and politic things to say about the beautiful singing, and the choirs, plural.  He exited to Salve Regina done by the choir, and Glee went out singing a minute of glorious and perfect music, Duruflé's Tu es Petrus. The dome literally rang with their last chord.

Everyone left happy (I think), there were photos of the altars of the two choirs intermixed.


  1. A wonderful experience - though I find myself chuckling at the angry organ. Blessings to you and the choir.

    1. I was glad that everyone got to sing their music!