Diocese of Rome choir bringing Pope's music to US

By Kevin J. Jones

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Msgr. Marco Frisina and the choir singing in St. John Lateran. Credit: The Choir of the Pope's Diocese

The director of the Diocese of Rome’s choir, Msgr. Marco Frisina, describes his group’s U.S. tour as a way to bring the music of the Pope’s diocese to others and to use sacred music to bring people closer to God.

“Sacred music allows man to express the highest, best part of himself. And therefore man can get closer to God through these expressions of love, because it exalts the best part of mankind,” he told EWTN News in a May 19 interview from New York City.

He said that liturgical chant is an “integral part” of the traditional Christian rite and sung prayers are a significant component of the Catholic liturgy.

“The great tradition of the Gregorian chant and, later, polyphony, helps us enter into the mysteries of prayer,” he remarked.

Msgr. Frisina founded the Diocese of Rome’s choir, based at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, to accompany major diocesan liturgical events which are often presided over by the Pope.

He is a composer and a biblical scholar who teaches at the Pontifical Lateran University and the University of Santa Croce. In 2007 the monsignor composed the opera “The Divine Comedy,” the first musical rendition of Dante Alighieri’s poetic masterpiece.

Drawing on his background, he offered guidance on how to judge liturgical music.

Good sacred music, Msgr. Frisina said, is like “an embrace that involves everything and brings the souls of all people closer to God.” The music of the liturgy ought to “help us enter the mystery of the celebration of the Mass.”

The words and music of the performance should not be in an everyday style pertinent to secular activities, but should be selected to bring “a more spiritual meaning” to the performance.

“The choice of words and music is important,” he said. “The music itself has an impact on us, as a reflection upon our souls.”

Rock or pop music can excite listeners and some music can even incite violence because of its strong passion. There is also a kind of music that can relax the listener “almost to sleep.”

“But good sacred music is neither one of those. It’s a special combination that leads you to express love and go beyond yourself,” he said.

Msgr. Frisina emphasized the “extraordinary experience” of the choir and the friendship and communion that the tour promises to bring to the United States.

Under the monsignor’s direction, the choir will hold several public performances from June 4 to June 11 in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It will perform with New Jersey’s Livingston Symphony Orchestra.

While there are currently 250 members of the choir, only 48 are performing in the tour.

The program will feature classical sacred music, pieces specifically performed for the beatification of Pope John Paul II and other original works by Msgr. Frisina.

More information about the tour is available at http://www.thechoir.it

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