Sacred music reveals the ‘harmonies of heaven,’ Pope says

By David Kerr

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 1, 2011 / 06:38 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI has praised sacred music as a means of prayer, following a classical concert hosted in his honor at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

Pope Benedict XVI speaks at a concert in Oct. 2010

“This evening we are immersed in sacred music, that music which in a quite special way is born from faith and can express and communicate faith,” said the Pope. In the midst of daily activities, “you have offered us a moment of meditation and prayer, making us perceive the harmonies of heaven.”

The concert featured various compositions by Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, the former director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.  The 94-year-old Italian has had a long and distinguished career as a composer of sacred music. Pope Benedict recognized this by raising him to the rank of cardinal last year.

“Faith is the light that has always guided and driven his life,” said the Pope in tribute to Cardinal Bartolucci, adding that he has “opened his heart to respond with generosity to the call of the Lord and that has also emerged in his way of composing music.”

“For you, music is a privileged language for communicating the faith of the Church and to help those who listen to his works journey in faith.”

The Pope particularly praised the cardinal for the value he placed on “the precious treasure that is Gregorian chant and the wise use of polyphony, in fidelity to tradition,” while also being “open to new sounds.”

The concert was directed by conductor Simon Baiocchi and featured sopranos Lykke Anholm and Enrica Fabbri, as well as baritone Michele Govi. They were accompanied by the Rossini Chamber Choir of Pesaro and the Marchigiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

The program itself included four pieces composed by Cardinal Bartolucci. Amongst them was his “Ave Maria” as well as a composition based upon the words of the rite of baptism entitled “Baptisma.” The highlight, though, was his “Benedictus” which was specially written for the occasion and dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI.

“This evening you caused us to turn our hearts to Mary in prayer, the most beloved prayer of Christian tradition,” concluded Pope Benedict.

“Yet you also led us back to the beginning of our journey of faith, to the liturgy of Baptism, the moment in which we became Christian: an invitation always to drink from the only water that can quench our thirst – the living God – and to commit ourselves day-after-day to rejecting evil and to renewing our faith with the affirmation ‘I believe!’”