Members of the Escolania de Montserrat, one of the oldest and most venerable boys' choirs in Europe, perform at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington July 2. Founded in the 13th century, the choir sings daily for pilgrims at the abbey of Santa Maria de Monserrat in Catalonia, Spain. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Boy choristers from Spain called 'messengers of peace, beauty'

  • July 15, 2017

WASHINGTON – Since the 13th century, the Escolania de Montserrat has sung daily for pilgrims at Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey in Catalonia, Spain.

This summer they brought their sacred music – some of it dating back to the Middle Ages – to New Jersey, New York, Washington and California. Their U.S. tour June 28 to July 7 included their debut on the West Coast.

The Escolania de Montserrat belongs to a Benedictine monastery one hour from Barcelona called the Abbey of Montserrat. The choir is comprised of 50 boys. They leave leave their homes between the ages of 9 and 14 and spend four or five years at Montserrat.

"Montserrat is the spiritual centre of Catalonia," said the prefect of Escolania de Montserrat, Brother Sergi d'Assis, in a July 7 email to Catholic News Service. "Every year, 2 million and a half pilgrims and visitors from all over the world come."

The visitors from around the globe come to hear the choir perform.

"The mission of the Escolania de Montserrat is to sing for the Virgin of Montserrat and for the pilgrims we receive on the mountain of Montserrat," Brother d'Assis said.

When the choir travels, they sing music that represents their culture.

"Our specialty is sacred music," Brother d'Assis said. When we visit other countries, we always sing Catalan traditional song, because it is part of our cultural identity."

The choir began its U.S. tour in New Jersey with a performance at Christ Episcopal Church in Newton, New Jersey. Afterward, the boys made their way to New York to sing at St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Washington, the boys choir performed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at a Mass and sang at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown as part of a "Serenade" for President John F. Kennedy to mark his birth 100 years ago.

The group's Washington trip continued with a performance at the Kennedy Center and finished with a performance on the Fourth of July at the U.S. Capitol.

After the tour on the East Coast, they made their way to San Francisco for a performance at Grace Episcopal Cathedral.

While in San Francisco, the boys visited the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

To finish the U.S. tour, the group performed in Pasadena, California, at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

The group enjoyed sharing its music and culture with others during its trip.

"The experience has been wonderful. The public everywhere welcomed us with open arms, and have praised our music and our way of singing," Brother d'Assis said. "We cannot do anything but be grateful.

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