As the first album ever to be recorded inside the Sistine Chapel is released, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, personal secretary of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, said the sacred music featured is not something of the past, but continues to play a role in evangelization.
“Sacred music has a past. It comes from the past, but it has a great future,” Archbishop Gaenswein, prefect of the papal household, told CNA September 29, following a presentation of the Sistine Chapel Choir’s new album Cantate Domino.
Even though some sacred music is part of the past, it’s not stuck there, he said, adding that “this is a richness.”
“It’s like the roots which you don’t see, but are very important. Sacred music is a root of the liturgy, also today. It has a great future.”
The archbishop said this style of music can also have an impact on evangelizing today’s youth, no matter how old, because “music does not have age limits.”
“Music is a means of communication, a great gift, and it would be a shame not to use it for the New Evangelization,” he said.
Created in partnership with the classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, Cantate Domino is the first album to be recorded inside the Sistine Chapel itself.
Alongside Gregorian chant, the album includes music which was written for the Sistine Chapel Choir in particular. The album is dominated by compositions of Palestrina, but also includes the work of Orlando di Lasso, Gregorio Allegri, Felice Anerio, and Tomas Luis de Victoria.
It was released September 25 by the Vatican Publishing House, and all proceeds will go to papal charities.
With special permission from the Vatican, Deutsche Grammophon created a specially-constructed studio inside the chapel in order to allow listeners to hear the music as the composers intended at the time: in Latin, and within the surroundings for which the music was written.
The mixing desk for recording was set up in an ante-chamber next to the Sala del Pianto, which is where the newly-elected Pope is first dressed as Bishop of Rome after his election.
Key figures in both the Vatican and the world of classical music were present during recording sessions, including Italian opera singer and recitalist Cecilia Bartoli, Italian choral conductor Roberto Gabbiani, and the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
Formed of 20 adults and 30 young boys, the Sistine Chapel Choir is the oldest choir in the world, and is directed by Maestro Massimo Palombella.
Also present at the September 29 presentation of the album, Palombella said that it is his hope the album “will touch millions of listeners worldwide, and connect them to the historical culture and deep spirituality of the Catholic Church.”
Mark Wilkinson, president of Deutsche Grammophon, said the album “has the power, the beauty, and the excellence to find a truly global audience, and an audience beyond the traditional confines and boundaries of classical music.”
In comments to other journalists, Archbishop Gaenswein said it is his hope that sacred music continues to be “a fertile, important and effective” tool in evangelization.