DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     June 11, 1998     vol. 9, no. 113

from a CATHOLIC perspective

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO

Vatican Choir lands in Oceanside - Historic visit opens on sweet note.

          OCEANSIDE,CA (Cecil Scaglione - NCT) - Members of the 485-year-old Vatican Choir loved the acoustics of the 200 -year-old Mission San Luis Rey from the first moment they entered it.

          Forty voices of Capella Giulia of St. Peter's Basilica, commonly called the Vatican choir, burst into impromptu musical prayer - Franz Schubert's beautifully haunting "Ave Maria" - moments after they entered the Oceanside church, following more than 21 hours of travel from Rome.

          "I heard the angels sing," said Father Ben Innes, Franciscan Guardian of the mission.

          The 20 male and 20 female voices flowed off the walls and roof of the church late Monday evening, making musical history at the mission because there were the first notes ever sung outside of Europe by the choir, established in 1513 by Pope Julius II.

          "I was crying with joy, it was so moving," said Linda Waters, a member of the bicentennial organizing committee who met the chorale at Los Angeles Airport and escorted its members through customs and on to the mission to meet their host families.

          "They had been traveling for more than 21 hours and they got here two hours later than scheduled," Waters said, "and they just all gathered around and began to sing with (choir master) Msgr. Pablo Colino directing them."

          For Innes, it was the realization of something he had not thought possible - having the renowned choir, which has been singing Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica for almost five centuries, singing a birthday Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday in the mission.

          Besides performing a Mass written by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn in the same year the mission was founded, the choir will sing at three concerts to help defray the cost of bringing it here.

          The music of Mozart will be featured at concerts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Friday tickets cost $50, $75, and $125. Tickets for Saturday night's performance cost $75. More than 200 tickets for $150 and $200 have been sold for a package that night that includes a black-tie reception before the concert and a champagne-and-dessert soiree afterward.

          At 2 p.m. Sunday, the choir's final program this side of the Atlantic will feature Faure's requiem and one of Bach's Brandenberg concertos. Tickets for this program are the same as Friday's.

          "People should know that, just because we have a great choir here, it's performances aren't sold out yet," Innes said. "The concerts are in the Serra Center, which will hold 916 people for each performance. Friday night is about three-quarters sold, and Sunday is about 80 percent sold. But we still have about 60 percent of the seats available for Saturday's concert."

          The mission will probably lose money on what is one of the largest, if not the largest, coups in its 200-year history, he said. "So consider this as our gift to the community on our 200th birthday," he said.

          The acquisition of the Vatican choir for the celebration has a history of its own. It begins with local pension consultant George Schleder, who has frequented an Orange County antique shop for years and came to know its owners, John and Cynthia Miley.

          Schleder - a member of the bicentennial planning committee formed three years ago - and the Mileys often discussed the possibility of imitating a top-quality music festival in Southern California.

          The Mileys met Brooklyn-born Maestro Gilbert Levine on an airplane several years ago. Levine, despite his obvious Jewish heritage, established links with the Vatican when he worked with a symphony orchestra in Krakow. That led to a 1994 concert with the Vatican choir to commemorate the Jewish Holocaust of World War II and, eventually, to Vatican Knighthood.

          When he visited the Mileys late last summer, they drove him to the mission and broached the subject of bringing Capella Guilia to Oceanside. The rest is history.

          "When we found out we could come, it was a big surprise to us," said choir director Colino through an interpreter.

          A major difficulty in putting together the trip was picking 40 singers from the total troupe of some 200 members. None of the Vatican performers had been to the United States before. Their visit is a dream come true for most of them, too, said Andrea Antonini, a member of the choir.

          Fellow chorister Chris Phillips, who turns 46 on Thursday, explained some of the choir's makeup. Its members come from several countries, are of several denominations, and their ages run from 16 to 66.

          Phillips, a Brit who points out "I'm not a Catholic," said the prerequisite for membership - besides having a voice that passes Colino's ear - is dedication and commitment to the time rehearsals and performances take. Some members work, others are students, and some are professional musicians.

          "Think of it as the ultimate church choir," said Levine.

          If you want a tryout, Phillips said, it's best to know someone on the choir, "like I did. I was working in Rome as an IBM technical writer, and I knew a co-worker who was a member and I got an audition."

          An audition is simply an opportunity to sing for Colino, who has been the choir director for 18 years.

          And, today's, he's part of musical history in Oceanside.

The Article above was from the North County Times and written by Cecil Scaglione, whose permission we have received to reprint it here.

June 11, 1998       volume 9, no. 113


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