The Sistine Chapel choir made its first-ever visit to Canada and St. Michael’s Cathedral on Sept. 27. Photo by Emanuel Pires

Sweet sounds of Sistine Chapel choir fill Toronto cathedral

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  • September 27, 2017

It was as if the sounds of Heaven descended upon Toronto when the Sistine Chapel choir performed at St. Michael's Cathedral Sept. 26.

A sold-out crowd of 1,200 people were treated to the delicate but dynamic sounds of Renaissance sacred music from the Sistine Chapel choir with choirmaster Msgr. Massimo Palombella.

"When we heard that they were coming, it was just palpable at the school," said St. Michael’s Choir School director Stephen Handrigan. "The boys are in awe of the legacy of the music they heard tonight."

The choir, made up of 30 boys and 22 men, performed a rich repertoire of sacred music, including Orlando di Lasso's Magnificat Primi Toni and excerpts of Gregorio Allegri's Miserere.

The St. Michael's Choir School opened the evening with their own repertoire of music, beginning with Richard Dering's Factum Est Silentium in honour of the school and the archdiocese's patron, St. Michael the Archangel.

"It's such a special performance in such a beautiful building. We were very lucky to have them here today," said Toronto deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who was among the concert attendees.

The Sistine Chapel Choir, officially known as the Coro della Cappella Musicale Pontificia, is the oldest choir still active in the world today. The choir has been active since 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV established the Sistine Chapel as the church for the celebration of all papal functions.

Today, the Sistine Chapel Choir performs all around the world. This year, the choir has performed in Germany, South Korea, Malta, several cities throughout Italy and the United States. Last week, they made stops in New York City, Washington and Detroit before coming to Toronto, the choir’s first visit to Canada in its 1,500-year history. They are performing Sept. 28 at Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral before returning to Rome.

"This music is meant to dialogue with the culture," said Palombella, who was appointed director of the Sistine Chapel Choir by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. "We have to try to present and give this music to the man of today, to the woman of today and allow them to understand the spirituality and the sense of God in this music."

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