UAE: Pope’s 1,500-yr-old choir performs in ‘historic’ concert in Abu Dhabi

The choral's history is rooted in the Renaissance era, highlighting the contributions of legendary composers and musicians


Ashwani Kumar

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KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar
KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar

Published: Fri 31 May 2024, 1:55 PM

Last updated: Sat 1 Jun 2024, 8:17 AM

The renowned Sistine Chapel Choir, popularly known as the Pope’s Choir, performed a historic concert before an expectant audience at the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi on Thursday (May 30).

The legendary choir has existed for 1500 years, and is recognised as the longest-running chorale in the world.

The Pope’s personal choir, usually performing at papal functions, performed in the UAE for the first time.

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Watch below how the choir enchanted the audience with their performance:

As the choir members walked through the red carpet into the prayer hall of St Francis Church, there was a buzz as hushed voices from different benches whispered, "they are here".

Those who were seeing the choir for the first time were visibly surprised to see children, the Pueri Cantores, amid the mix of singers. After a brief introduction, the beautiful rendition started with a Gregorian chant ‘Victimae paschali laudes’.

KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar
KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar

Time stood still as the majestic voice of the young and old members of the choir echoed through the grand hall of the church. Ministers, high-ranking officials, ambassadors, bishops, nuns, and distinguished members of the community were left in awe as the choral performed classical masterpieces, lulling them into a sense of wonder. The choir sang compositions from composers like Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Giuseppe Liberto, Lorenzo Perosi, Tomás Luis de Victoria, and Domenico Bartolucci.

KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar
KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar

The audience gave the choir a standing ovation, after they performed twelve amazing pieces one after the other. The all-male choir members continued to bow and enjoyed the adulation for several minutes.

Just when the audience thought the performance was over, the choir director Monsignor Marcos Pavan announced that there was one final performance, the famous ‘Tu es petrus’, which followed an even greater response.

“This has been amazing. It’s beautiful. Our debut here,” an adult member of the choir told Khaleej Times after the performance. “We are 28 boys and 21 adults here. The adult singers are professionals. The boys are selected after a long process. It’s a prestigious thing to be part of the Pope’s Choir,” he noted.

KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar
KT Photo: Ashwani Kumar

The choir’s history, rooted in the Renaissance era, highlights the contributions of legendary composers and musicians. Hosted by Abu Dhabi Festival and The Apostolic Nunciature to UAE, the landmark event was a journey into the sacred heritage of the church.

“The event reflects the UAE’s commitment to values of peace and common coexistence, and embodies the principles outlined in the Document on Human Fraternity signed on February 4, 2019, by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Professor Ahmed Al-Tayeb," said Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), and founder and artistic director of Abu Dhabi Festival.

Archbishop El-Kassis highlighted that the concert reflected the close relations between the Holy See and the UAE. “It marks a significant historical milestone in our efforts to consolidate the principles of human fraternity. This musical event is contextualised within the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the UAE in February 2019, which holds global and local significance,” he noted.

Monsignor Marcos Pavan termed it a “historic moment” in the Middle East for the 1500-year-old Sistine Chapel Choir.

“This event embodies the UAE’s values of peaceful coexistence, promoting diversity and dialogue," he added.


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