The London Philharmonic Choir joined international musical forces in the Vatican to perform a concert dedicated to the reconciliation of followers of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.
80 members of the London Philharmonic Choir flew to Rome to take part in this extraordinary concert in the presence of Pope John Paul II in the Paul VI Auditorium at the Vatican on Saturday, January 17.
The concert was given in honour of Pope John Paul's twenty-five year pontificate and celebrated his lifelong commitment to understanding between the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The American conductor, Gilbert Levine, often called 'the Pope's Maestro' though he himself is Jewish, selected the choir on the basis of his knowledge of their high musical standards. They sang Mahler's Second Symphony, the 'Resurrection', with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from the United States of America, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir from Poland and the Ankara State Polyphonic Choir of Turkey. The soloists were Ruth Ziesak, soprano, and Birgit Remmert, contralto. Levine chose the Mahler because the spiritual journey towards God expressed in the work is part of all three religions' beliefs, although they are different in doctrine.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra commissioned for the occasion a six-minute choral motet with brass accompaniment, 'Abraham', from the American composer John Harbison. It is a powerful setting of the text from Genesis containing God's promise to Abraham, 'thou shalt be the father of many nations', and opened the concert.
Guests at the concert included many leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, together with ambassadors of many countries, including the British and US Ambassadors to the Holy See.
The concert was broadcast live in Germany and Italy and can be viewed on the dedicated website: www.papal-concert-of-reconciliation.com. The site also includes interviews with a number of participants, including our Chairman, Peter Taylor. The BBC also covered the event and the reports can be read and viewed on their site.
A DVD of this event is available from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra website.