What makes this so unique is it will be the first time ever that the renowned Julian Choir will perform in the United States. It derives its name from its founder, Pope Julius II, the 216th successor in the line of Peter who completed the construction of the Basilica of Saint Peter, convened the eighteenth Ecumenical Council and was a great connoisseur of the arts. One of his contributions, in fact one of his final legacies before he died on February 21, 1513 was to found the Cappella Giulia ensemble with the specific purpose of providing a vehicle exclusively for Italian men to exhibit their soprano, alto, bass and other range voices in melodius harmony for the honor and glory of God. To this day they remain all-Italian and many are generational, with their ancestors having sung in the choir hundreds of years ago. Pope Julian, born in Savona, Italy, found it necessary, because of his love for the arts and his Italian roots, to foster Italian music in the face of other cultural music that was permeating the Vatican. When he began the choir, America was still a non-entity, rather a land of legend that was just reaching the ears of the Renaissance people in Italy. The Franciscans were going strong but one who would leave his mark on the California coast of this new land - Blessed Junipero Serra was still exactly 200 years from being born.
Now, 485 years after Julian's proclamation of the new choir they are finally coming to the United States. Though Blessed Serra did not actually found the San Luis Rey Mission in 1798, for he died on August 28, 1784, he had spoken often of it and planted the seeds of establishing a mission in Oceanside through his able assistant Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen on June 13, 1798 as the eighteenth established mission. It soon became known as the "King of the Missions." Serra established the first California Mission in 1769 at Mission Alcala in San Diego and passed over the site of the future San Luis Rey Mission, but the unrest among the Indians there prevented him from establishing the mission there at the time. He "bookmarked" it and traveled on to San Carlos, the second of 21 missions to be established. Over the next fifteen years he would trek up and down California establishing and revisiting missions he had established with his faithful friar Fr. Lasuen with him.
Today the mission still resembles the majestic structure Lasuen envisioned and it will be echoing with the Choir's rhythms via a Mozart Mass on June 12 and a Haydn Mass on the actual anniversary the next day. Conductor Levine, no stranger to the Holy See, claims the Vatican Choir "is the musical heart and soul of St. Peter's." He sites that the choir performs there every Sunday once during Holy Mass. Levine's paths have crossed the Holy Father's numerous times, the first in 1987 when he was appointed artistic director and principal conductor for the Polish city of John Paul II's birth - the Krakow Philharmonic. The Holy Father has kept in touch with Levine over the years, most recently sending congratulatory wishes on the occasion of his son's barmitzvah.
The concept for the Vatican Choir, which Levine had always wanted to bring to the states, evolved from a plane trip he took. There next to him was an ad exec from Orange County who talked about doing something to really promote the Mission's bicentennial. Levine knew just the ticket and the rest, as they say, will be history...bringing history to this historic mission - nearly five hundred years of history. Yes, it truly will be an historic event when this historic choir, in a historic first, belts forth in song the melodious refrains - all for His honor and glory!