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University Choir Sings for Pope in Rome

Choir in Rome 2 Members of The Georgetown University Chapel Choir gather in Vatican City with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the background.

May 27, 2011 – The Georgetown University Chapel Choir sang for Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday morning during the group’s first choral pilgrimage to Italy.

“For the entire choir, the experience was spiritually moving, emotional, and almost surreal,” said Bobby Gregory (C’11), student director of the choir. “We were hardly a hundred feet away from the Holy Father, and were singing right to him in the middle of St. Peter’s square on a perfect May morning.”

Thirty-seven members of the 46-person group toured Rome, Assisi and Florence during the course of the trip, May 23-30.

Defining Moment

President John J. DeGioia was also present for the papal audience. DeGioia is meeting with Jesuit and Catholic leaders throughout the week as well as visiting the Sant’Egidio community, a Christian public lay association dedicated to charity.

“We were all tremendously proud to be Georgetown’s ambassadors to Vatican City and celebrate that moment together at the place where Ignatius and his first companions traveled to put themselves in service to our church,” Gregory said. “It was a defining moment for the choir, and a great day for our university.”

Russell Weismann, campus ministry's director of liturgy and music since 2007, began to plan the trip to Rome in the spring of 2009.

After two years of recruiting efforts and weekly practices, he felt the group – which comprises students, faculty, staff and alumni – was ready to make the pilgrimage.

Renaissance Music

Choir in Rome 1

Members of the Chapel Choir surround President John J. DeGioia in St. Peter's Square.

The choir sang an arrangement that Weismann created from the Gregorian chant “Tu Es Petrus,” which means “You are Peter.”

The choir will also sing on May 28, when DeGioia and alumni from all over Europe attend the Georgetown University Alumni Mass in the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuits.

“A lot of the music [they’ve learned] is the music of the Renaissance, which is music that developed in Italy, music that is most appropriate for those spaces,” Weismann said. “It’s really difficult to learn, so they’ve really worked hard.”

At Georgetown, the choir sings weekly during the academic year at the 9:30 p.m. Sunday Mass in Dahlgren Chapel.

Bringing Gifts

“I think part of the reason why [the trip] is so special is because we’ve grown together over the last few years and we’ve really bonded as part of a community,” Gregory said.

The Georgetown choir final performance in Rome will be at a 4 p.m. Mass on Sunday at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The gifts that we’re bringing are the gifts that we’ve shared here at Georgetown,” Weismann said. “To experience them in the places where this music was composed for, is really great.”

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