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‘Pope’s Choir’ to hold first Detroit concert in Sept.

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — The “Pope’s Choir” is making its first visit to Detroit in September, in a move church officials are calling the next step in the city’s renaissance.

“We pride ourselves on having picked ourselves up from the ashes,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron said during a Wednesday morning announcement at the Detroit Opera House, where the choir will perform. “I believe that the concert is one more sign that this spirit moves us into the future.”

Officially known as the Cappella Musicale Pontificia Sistina, the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir is the oldest choir in the world with records dating to the 5th and 6th centuries. It is composed of 20 men and 35 boys, led by Monsignor Massimo Palombella, who sing for papal liturgies. Last year, the group won the Echo Klassik Award for classical music.

The opera house performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 23. Tickets go on sale Tuesday.

“The Sistine Chapel Choir ... is pleased and honored to return to the United States and to come to the city that today represents a cultural touchstone for the world and the culture of the Renaissance,” Palombella said in a video accepting the invitation.

At the end of the video, a group of choirboys stood before an altar with their hands raised in “thumbs up.”

“See you in Detroit,” they said in unison.

The Detroit stop will follow performances Sept. 16 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and Sept. 20 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. It is the first visit to the United States in more than 30 years for the choir.

“The other two cities, New York and Washington, are two of the most culturally rich cities already, so we’re truly in good company,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority. “We are ready to roll out the red carpet for the Sistine Chapel Choir and the visitors that will come see them.”

John Hale, president of the concert’s title sponsor Corporate Travel, drew a direct link between Detroit’s resurgence and the prestigious choir.

“It’s only fitting that the world’s oldest choir, a renaissance choir, would come here to the Renaissance City,” he said.

Vigneron echoed Palombella, saying the performance will bring together music, religion and culture.

“Religion is at the heart of building up a culture,” he said. “I believe that the visit of the choir will very much underscore and advance (Detroit’s) efforts to continue to build up our culture.”

The choir also will stop at Detroit’s historic St. Anne’s Church for a free concert Sept. 22 for around 1,000 invited community members and an overflow crowd outside.

“The idea came up in the course of planing (the opera house concert),” said Monsignor Charles Kosanke, pastor of St. Anne’s Church. “Pope Francis would want his choir to be enjoyed by people who cannot afford to travel to Rome or even to the Detroit Opera.”

Tickets will range from $54 to $179, according to organizers. Special ticket packages range from $500 to $5,000 with prime seats, a preconcert dinner and afterglow reception.

Kosanke said he will work with the archdiocese and local nonprofits to identify invitees to the free concert. The crowd will consist of people from all different faiths, races and backgrounds, he added.

“We want this to be open to everyone in the city of Detroit; to people who enjoy music,” he said. “It’s not a Catholic thing. It’s a music thing.”

Rounding out a whirlwind Detroit visit, members of the Italian choir will take in a ballgame Sept. 21 alongside the boys choir from the Detroit School of Arts, according to organizers.

“Maybe we can get the Pope’s Choir to try a few coney dogs,” Vigneron said.

Tickets to the performance go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday and will be available online, at Ticketmaster, in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 1 (800) 745-3000. Click here for information about the event.

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier