The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Vatican Idol: the pope sings!

The reviews are trickling in for Pope Benedict’s new CD, Alma Mater — the first album to feature a pontiff singing.

The Holy Father may want to keep his day job.

From the Times of London:

The result is not quite an unholy mess but it comes close. Surprisingly, it is the lead vocalist, once nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler”, who impresses with a baritone that never barks and whose fatherly cadences cleave to his multilingual prayers with a gentle authority. Only when he actually sings (fleeting phrases in the Regina Coeli) do you experience that slightly distressing effect of standing in a pew next to the elderly relative who really should not be hooting along quite so loudly.


Meantime, the album got a press preview yesterday in Rome:

The CD features eight pieces. They each begin with six lines from the Marian Litany of Loreto and then segue into a new composition of classical music with the pope’s voice overlaid, usually reciting a Marian prayer or talking about Marian devotion.

The disc was co-produced by the Pauline Fathers’ Multimedia San Paolo and Geffen Records, which is part of Universal Music Group. It was scheduled for worldwide release Nov. 30.

Pauline Father Vito Fracchiolla, general director of the order’s publishing companies in Italy, said the disc “is the fruit of the convergence of many artists and of many business and church entities, a result of teamwork aimed principally at making a gift to Pope Benedict XVI” by spreading his Marian devotion and a message of hope.


Colin Barlow, president of Geffen Records UK, said, “The beauty of this record is that it celebrates the beauty of music.”

The disc features the choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome singing in St. Peter’s Basilica under the direction of Msgr. Pablo Colino and London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing under the direction of Charles Dutoit.

Geffen and the Paulines held a press conference in Rome’s City Hall Nov. 10 before inviting the media to listen to the Rome choir sing selections from the album in the Basilica of St. Mary Ara Coeli.

There’s more at the link.

Comments read comments(7)
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Stephen DeVol

posted November 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm

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NY Reader

posted November 11, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Getting back on topic re: the Holy Father’s singing voice, does it not come from God Himself? And was his singing not also praying? and if he is indeed praying as he’s singing, why are we subjecting him to a musical review? Can the record producers not treat with reverence and respect the sound of one old man praying? The man (Benedict, I mean) was praying, yes? And we are to be offended by this vocal prayer…?
Just asking. The arrogance and snootiness of this self-righteous reviewer put me in a bad mood.

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Your Name

posted November 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm

This is not a performance…it is a pious prayer from a truly humble and devout man who is without any pretentions.
God bless sweet Benedict XVI.

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posted November 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Leading his flock in prayer and praise IS his day job…and he is doing it quite beautifully.

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posted November 11, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Only when he actually sings (fleeting phrases in the Regina Coeli) do you experience that slightly distressing effect of standing in a pew next to the elderly relative who really should not be hooting along quite so loudly.
I could make some comment to the effect that it is an amazing thing that The Times can find a staffer with first hand experience of standing in a pew…
…but that would be snarky…

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Lynn Thomas

posted November 12, 2009 at 9:45 am

A beautiful speaking voice does not necessarily mean a lovely singing voice, and the reverse is also true. It was reviewed, and is being sold, as music, not as prayer. As music, a less-than-glowing review might be entirely fitting. If the disc ‘celebrates the beauty of music’, well, maybe it’s not such a great party.
As prayer, a different set of metrics would apply, but we’re not privy to them and thus have no business reviewing it as prayer, and the reviewer didn’t.

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Your Name

posted November 12, 2009 at 1:07 pm

It’s no secret that the Pope’s singing voice isn’t really full and pretty anymore, but he’s not off key or anything like that. He’s just hoarse. (He tends to soften his voice in a whispery way, and that takes its toll after a while.)
Now, if this were a folk album, and he were just Farmer Ratzinger singing snatches of old ballads, those reviewers would Eat It Up. There’s no shame in pointing out, by gutting it out, that you don’t have to be Pavarotti to sing “Regina Caeli”. It’s always been a song for everyone, and the real shame is that most Catholics never get to hear it anymore, much less learn it and sing it themselves.
But it is fair enough of a review; if people are buying an album, they should know what they’re going to get. God forbid anybody should be under the illusion that Bob Dylan or Tom Waits sounds like Pavarotti.

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