Excitement builds as organizers prep for Sistine Chapel Choir concert

Boys in the Sistine Chapel choir are seen as Pope Francis leads a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 28. During the service the pope went to confession and then spent about 40 minutes hearing confessions.
CNS photo/Paul Haring (March 28, 2014) See POPE-PENANCE March 28, 2014.

Detroit — Kid Rock (Sept. 12-20) and Ed Sheeran (Sept. 27) may be bringing the hits to Detroit. But on Saturday, Sept. 23, the Sistine Chapel Choir will be bringing the hymns.

In what archdiocesan director of music Joe Balistreri called a “once-in-a-generation opportunity,” the Sistine Chapel Choir is set to perform at the Detroit Opera House, the first time the Renaissance choir will be in the Motor City.

John Hale, CEO of Corporate Travel, and his team are laying the groundwork for the choir’s arrival.

“Preparations are going very well,” Hale said. “I was in Rome the week before last, finalizing the precise itinerary and walking through the minute-by-minute schedule.”

The choir composed of 30 boys and 22 men will perform at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Sept. 16 and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 20 before arriving in Detroit on Thursday, Sept. 21.

The choir will arrive from Washington, D.C. Thursday morming,spending an evening with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, a tip of the cap to Comerica Bank, one of the major sponsors of the choir’s visit. Hale said the choir will tour the city Friday or Saturday, including stops at Belle Isle Park and the Detroit Intisitute of the Arts.

“It’s our business in organizing a tour to think of logistics and the hour by hour, with all their needs cared for,” Hale said. “The choir is very excited about visiting Detroit. We had a couple of singers, including the maestro, visit the city and the city really sold itself.”

A host of national and local sponsors are funding the choir’s stay in Detroit, including Comerica Bank and Ave Maria Mutual Funds.

“We’re excited to be involved as a sponsor,” said Bob Schwartz, vice president of Plymouth-based Ave Maria Mutual Funds. “As a sponsor, we help underwrite the expenses; it’s quite expensive to bring a choir from Rome to the United States over the course of eight days in three cities.”

The concert also is a fantastic opportunity for American singers to grace the stage before the pope’s choir sings.

Balistreri has been coordinating with singers across the country who will form a 300-voice “collaboration choir” that will perform before the Sistine Chapel Choir takes the stage.

“Each of the choirs are preparing music individually,” Balistreri said. “We have a variety of singers from parishes and schools from across the country. We’ll have choir members from University of Detroit-Jesuit High, parish choirs from a handful of suburban parishes, and some members from the Archdiocesan Chorus.”

Balistreri said the choir will rehearse together for the first time Thursday and again on Friday and Saturday before the show.

John Hale
Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic

“People are genuinely delighted at the opportunity, not only to open for the choir, but to make music with them,” Balistreri said.

Balistreri adds the Detroit Opera House will add a new, exciting challenge for the Sistine Chapel Choir.

“Everywhere they go, they’re in a church or a cathedral, where you’ll hear a lot of nuisance and detail is drowned out by the church’s acoustics,” Balistreri explained. “In an opera house, there is a blend, but isn’t echoing. A singer will have to sing longer phrases, take shorter breaths, and be conscious to sing with a full and rich sound.”

The sense of anticipation is building across the city’s southwest side, where Msgr. Charles Kosanke, pastor of Ste. Anne de Detroit Parish, as his staff are preparing for a community concert at the historic parish on Friday, Sept. 22.

“The purpose of Ste. Anne concert is to provide a performance for low-income people in the city, offering them an experience of a world-class choir performance they wouldn’t normally attend,” Msgr. Kosanke said.

Msgr. Kosanke and parish staff have invited all the Catholic parishes in the city and major Protestant churches to claim tickets for the event, along with invitations to Cristo Rey, Loyola, University of Detroit-Jesuit high schools and the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s School of Arts.

“We’ve also sent invitations to nonprofits who work with the poor in this city,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “We’re distributing 1,000 tickets, and those who accept an invitation can pick up tickets the week of the performance (doors open at 5:30 p.m., pre-concert choir performs at 6, the Sistine Chapel Choir is on at 7).

“The renaissance choir is meant to highlight the renaissance of the city, not just downtown,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “Not only is Ste. Anne historically and aesthetically pleasing, but it’s acoustically amazing as well. The significance of the choir to be at the oldest parish in the diocese and second-oldest parish in the United States; it’ll be fantastic.”