The Parliament Choir to hit the high note at the Vatican
This article is kindly sponsored by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult
On 29th April, the Parliament Choir will make a little piece of musical history by performing within the Holy See.
Strengthened by voices from around the country, we have been asked to perform ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ in the Papal Basilica of St Paul. This is a huge moment for the choir, which builds links with politicians and parliaments around the globe.
We have been waiting excitedly for years to deliver this unique performance, which was delayed by the Covid pandemic. It celebrates the lives and works of St John Henry Newman, who wrote the text, and Sir Edward Elgar who composed the music. Importantly, the performance will strengthen the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Vatican.
We require huge musical forces. More than 300 voices will be heard, as well as a full symphony orchestra, a semichorus and soloists. That is 400 performers in all, including MPs, peers, former parliamentarians, researchers and office staff, as well as civic-minded folk who are contributing to the work of the United Kingdom at all levels.
Alongside me, a Liberal Democrat, will be Sir Bernard Jenkin MP (Conservative) and Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Labour). There will be singers from the world of industry, including Business in the Community chief executive Mary Macleod and Katherine Bennett, the chief executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The choir has only one whip - the conductor, Simon Over. But there are four parties – sopranos, altos, tenors and basses!
The choir has been part of the fabric of the Houses of Parliament for 23 years. Our formation was the result of a conversation between Lord Filkin and Simon, who was then music director of St Margaret’s Church in Westminster. They were concerned about the difficulties music-loving peers and MPs experienced in joining a regular choir, because of their irregular hours.
The choir gave its first performance in December 2000, singing Handel’s ‘Messiah’. In our 10th anniversary year, we performed for the first time in the Palace of Westminster, singing Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ and O’Neill’s ‘Of All Person’s and Estates’. To now be asked to perform at the Vatican, shows how far our musical ambitions and talent has grown since that performance in Westminster Hall.
We don’t just create beautiful music, but mark important national events, such as the Golden Jubilee of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Parliament Choir brings together people from all parts of the Palace of Westminster and those associated with its work. They regularly rehearse in the magnificent crypt within the palace, typically on Mondays, with performances ranging from major oratorios to Christmas carols.
We have an important diplomatic, as well as a musical, role. We’re in touch with parliaments across the globe, building friendships and links well beyond our joint music making, creating lasting cross-parliamentary links. Singers from the Bundestag Choir, the Choir of the Korean Parliament, the Czech Parliament choir, and the Slovenian Kvorum Parliament Choir have performed with us over the years.
The concert is open to all. The Vatican Basilica of St Paul without the Walls can seat 4000-8000 people. Anyone who wants free tickets to attend can snap them up here.
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