Sistine Chapel Choir, oldest in the world, will visit Detroit this fall

The Sistine Chapel Choir will perform at the Detroit Opera House on Sept. 23, the historic choir’s first visit to the United States in 30 years and the first time ever the pope’s chorus will visit the Motor City.

Pope’s choir will also sing at Ste. Anne to benefit community during historic visit

Detroit — The renaissance city is set to host the renaissance choir.

Detroit is rolling out the red carpet for the Sistine Chapel Choir — the pope’s very own choir — for a one-night performance at the Detroit Opera House.

Through a partnership with Corporate Travel and the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Cappella Musicale Pontificia Sistina — as it is officially known — is returning to the United States for the first time in 30 years, and for the first time in the esteemed choir’s history will perform at the Detroit Opera House on Saturday, Sept. 23.

“Mayor Mike Duggan, Archbishop (Allen H.) Vigneron and other community leaders extended a personal invitation to the choir’s conductor, Maestro Msgr. Massimo Palombella, to come to Detroit,” John Hale, president of Corporate Travel, told The Michigan Catholic. “Msgr. Palombella was taken with the city of Detroit and the spirit of its people, the renaissance that’s happening here.”

The pope’s choir is comprised of 55 singers – 35 boys and 20 men – who will perform in New York City and Washington, D.C., before concluding their U.S. tour in Detroit.

According Joe Balistreri, archdiocesan director of music and conductor of the Archdiocesan Chorus, the papal choir’s visit to Detroit is a tremendous and unprecedented honor for the city.

“The theme for this concert is the renaissance,” Balistreri said. “The Sistine Chapel Choir became a big deal during the renaissance. The choir itself went through a rough period a couple of decades ago, but under current direction, they are experiencing a rebirth – they won the European Classical version of the Grammys (the ECHO Klassik Award) in 2016. Detroit is going through its own renaissance, so this is Detroit’s chance to show the world that this community is alive and well.”

Balistreri will conduct a collaboration choir that will perform before the Sistine Chapel Choir takes the stage. The collaboration choir will be made up of around 300 singers from around the country and locally, including many from the Archdiocesan Chorus.

“The collaboration choir will perform for about 35 minutes, with a mix of choral standards and some spiritual music, really bringing the soul of Detroit music to the performance,” Balistreri said. “It’s an incredible honor to be performing with the Sistine Chapel Choir. I’m excited that a relationship is building between the papal music community and Archbishop Vigneron’s music community.”

Tickets for the Saturday night performance at the Detroit Opera House went on sale May 30 at the Detroit Opera House box office, with prices starting at $54 and up.

The Sistine Chapel Choir, the oldest in the world dating back more than a millennium, is considered today to be at the pinnacle of classical music, Balistreri said.

“For the people that go, they will get the sensory experience of St. Peter’s Basilica, without leaving southeast Michigan,” Balistreri said. “It’ll be an intersection of the highest church music from the headquarters of Catholicism, with an infusion of a very local sound; a really great fusion between Rome and Detroit, and I imagine the energy from the two choirs is going to be electric.”

In the spirit of Pope Francis, the night before the show, the Sistine Chapel Choir will perform at historic Ste. Anne Parish in southwest Detroit for the benefit of local residents, who will see the invitation-only concert for free thanks to a partnership with the Ford Motor Company.

Hale approached Ste. Anne’s pastor, Msgr. Charles Kosanke, about the choir’s desire to offer an outreach performance to the community, setting the stage for the pope’s personal choir to visit the second-oldest parish in the United States and the birthplace of Catholicism in the city of Detroit.

“They said there was interest in providing a concert for people in the city who would not be able to afford to come to a professional concert at the Detroit Opera House,” Msgr. Kosanke said. “Ste. Anne’s Church is the second-oldest continually operating parish in the United States, the oldest in Detroit. What better place is there than historic Ste. Anne’s for the choir to come perform?”

Msgr. Kosanke said those who can’t get ahold of tickets can gather outside the church’s plaza to take in the performance.

“The concert will be an inspirational event for people who might want to pursue their dream of being a professional (musician) someday,” Msgr. Kosanke said.

During a May 24 press conference at the Detroit Opera House, a video was shown of maestro Msgr. Palombella and the Sistine Chapel Choir greeting the city of Detroit, saying they were looking forward to visiting the city.

Archbishop Vigneron welcomed news of choir’s visit with an Italian greeting, noting how Comerica Park sits across the street from the Opera House, and somebody will have to translate the meaning of America’s pastime to the Italian singers.

“It’s great we can host this choir,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “In particular for me as the Catholic archbishop to say how proud I am, we all are, that the Holy Father has agreed to the maestro’s request to come here to perform a concert.

“The maestro made a point on the renaissance, and we pride ourselves on having picked ourselves up from the ashes, resurget cineribus,” the archbishop added, quoting the city’s motto penned by Fr. Gabriel Richard. “The concert is one more sign that this spirit moves itself into the future. I believe the visit of the choir will underscore and advance our effort to build up our culture.”

Archbishop Vigneron noted the choir will also visit educational leaders and cultural spots in the city – including taking in a Tigers game at Comerica Park – and meet members of the Detroit art community.

“One of the goals of this trip is not only for the choir to give a concert, but to be engaged with scholars and educational leaders,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “As you heard them say on the video, it’s about not just the production of music, it’s about research and building a foundation for the advancement of culture, which is so essential to the human person.”

Representatives from the Detroit Opera House and the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as other event sponsors such as Comerica Bank, spoke about the tremendous honor it is to host the Sistine Chapel Choir in Detroit.

“It’s truly an understatement to say how pleased I am with the outreach of our partners in the community and the Sistine Chapel Choir in visiting Detroit,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority.

“This amazing occasion is another opportunity for the national and international spotlight to shine on Detroit,” Alexander said. “The concert will only enhance this destination, with other cities, New York and Washington, D.C., which are already culturally rich, putting us in good company. We host 19 million visitors annually, and adding the Sistine Chapel Choir will bring us into an entirely different sphere.

“These visitors will see a city undergoing a major transformation; the breathtaking church in Detroit and a devout city that is welcoming to visitors of all faiths to take in a wonderful group of performers at the historic Detroit Opera House. It will be amazing.”


Ticket prices to see the Sistine Chapel Choir at the Detroit Opera House range from $54 to $179 and can be purchased at the Opera House box office, or by calling (800) 745-3000.